It didn’t take long after the MAGA-hat-wearing, Confederate-flag toting rioters were shooed out of the Senate Chamber for their suit-wearing counterparts with congressional pins to take their place and resume the conspiracy-fueled push to overthrow American democracy.
When Congress reconvened a little after 8 p.m., six Republican senators held strong in the siege on democracy. Same goes for over 120 Republican members of the House of Representatives. They were justified, they said. It was in the Constitution. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), one of the ring leaders of the effort, stared directly at the camera as he preached about how “violence is never warranted” and that the Senate floor is the only appropriate forum to try to overturn the results of a presidential election, and that he will continue to do so. He later told CNN’s Manu Raju that he didn’t “think urging people to come to the Capitol was a good idea” and that “responsibility of violent criminal acts is with violent criminals.”
This is bullshit. The responsibility does not just lie with the “violent criminals.” It lies with Trump, who has been egging them on for four years and whom Hawley was trying to protect with his comments to Raju. It also lies with Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and all of the other Republicans who have legitimized the president and his delusions to his supporters. They don’t get to have it both ways. They don’t get to cheer on an unruly mob they’ve spent the past few weeks lathering up by supporting Trump’s false claims, and then condemn it for taking these claims to heart.
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The responsibility also lies with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and the other representatives who supported overturning the election — before changing their minds after Wednesday’s insurrection led them to realize that doing so might carry political consequences. Lankford, who was in the process of arguing in favor of contesting the certification of Arizona’s electoral votes when the mob of Trump supporters first breached the Capitol, was the first to speak when the Senate reconvened. “Rioters and thugs don’t run the Capitol,” he said in conceding that Joe Biden would be certified the winner of the election. “We’re the United States of America.”
This idea, that we’re America and we’re better than this, was a theme of the post-insurrection addresses by the Republicans who helped the president inspire that very insurrection. But part of America being America — maybe the biggest part of it! — is its adherence to the democratic process. Though Lankford and others back-peddled, about half of the Republicans elected to Congress are still actively trying to subvert this process, mostly through a bad-faith citation of a 150-year-old “precedent” that has little to do with what this is all about: placating a delusional, power-mad president who wants to stay in office despite losing his bid for reelection by a wide margin.
If America is “better” than an unruly mob storming the Capitol at the behest of the president these senators have supported despite four years of deliberately turning the nation against itself, then it’s also better than the twin anti-democratic scheme the mob’s partners in Congress are trying to pull off to score political points with Trump’s base. The two efforts are one and the same, and any rebukes of this violence from the senators contesting the certification of the election should ring as hollow as their consciences. It’s too late. People are dead. There is blood on all of their hands. The members of Congress who have enabled Trump for four years are just as complicit as Trump himself, and just as complicit — if not more so — as the president’s supporters who took the Capitol by force on Wednesday.
Many of the rebukes aren’t even real rebukes. Trump even said he “loves” the mob before Twitter that the insurrection was justified. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) tried to shield Trump supporters from responsibility by lying that the violence was the result of left-wing extremists. “Some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters,” Gaetz said in defending his decision to continue to object to the election results. “They were masquerading as Trump supporters and in fact were members of the violent terrorist group antifa.”
“I don’t know if the reporters are true,” he said before referencing his source for the claim, which has since been easily debunked.
This type of disinformation is part of what led to this moment. Trump and his henchmen in Congress like Gaetz have been spewing it order to divide the country for four years now. What happened on Wednesday was a predictable result of demonizing the media, casting those who don’t share the same views as enemies of America, and repeatedly winking and nodding toward the idea of inciting violence. When Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)’s lawsuit to overturn the election was dismissed earlier this week, he described it as “a call to go to the streets and be violent.” Minutes before Trump urged his supporters to march to the Capitol to take the country back on Wednesday, his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told them to engage in “trial by combat.”
Gaetz, Gohmert, Giuliani, and the other Republicans are dismissing what happened on Wednesday and continuing their effort to overturn the election because they know they can simply lie about whatever reflects poorly on them, like people dying. They know they can blame liberal “thugs” and that enough people will believe them. Gohmert called for “no violence” days after saying suggesting it was warranted. Giuliani said “violence is rejected, condemned and counter productive” hours after doing the same. Both echoed Gaetz’s baseless claim that their political opponents were somehow responsible. “Antifa involvement is no excuse,” Giuliani said. “It contradicts our values.”
This, too, is a delusion. These are American values. This is what America is precisely this because this is precisely what is happening in America right now. It’s not that complicated. It’s what Trump has wanted all along. It’s what his lackeys in Congress have enabled. It’s what his supporters in MAGA hats carried out to a horrifying degree on Wednesday.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Trump’s aides believe he was “pleased” as he watched it all unfold on TV.
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