G.O.P. cynics have been coddling crazies for a long time.
One striking aspect of the Capitol Hill putsch was that none of the rioters’ grievances had any basis in reality.
No, the election wasn’t stolen — there is no evidence of significant electoral fraud. No, Democrats aren’t part of a satanic pedophile conspiracy. No, they aren’t radical Marxists — even the party’s progressive wing would be considered only moderately left of center in any other Western democracy.
So all the rage is based on lies. But what’s almost as striking as the fantasies of the rioters is how few leading Republicans have been willing, despite the violence and desecration, to tell the MAGA mob that their conspiracy theories are false.
Bear in mind that Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, and two-thirds of his colleagues voted against accepting the Electoral College results even after the riot. (McCarthy then shamelessly decried “division,” saying that “we must call on our better angels.”)
Or consider the behavior of leading Republicans who aren’t usually considered extremists. On Sunday Senator Rob Portman declared that we need to “restore confidence in the integrity of our electoral system.” Portman isn’t stupid; he has to know that the only reason so many people doubt the election results is that members of his party deliberately fomented that doubt. But he’s still keeping up the pretense.
And the cynicism and cowardice of leading Republicans is, I would argue, the most important cause of the nightmare now enveloping our nation.
Of course we need to understand the motives of our homegrown enemies of democracy. In general, political scientists find — not surprisingly, given America’s history — that racial antagonism is the best predictor of willingness to countenance political violence. Anecdotally, personal frustrations — often involving social interactions, not “economic anxiety” — also seem to drive many extremists.
But neither racism nor widespread attraction to conspiracy theories is new in our political life. The worldview described in Richard Hofstadter’s classic 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” is barely distinguishable from QAnon beliefs today.
So there’s only so much to be gained from interviewing red-hatted guys in diners; there have always been people like that. If there are or seem to be more such people than in the past, it probably has less to do with intensified grievances than with outside encouragement.
For the big thing that has changed since Hofstadter wrote is that one of our major political parties has become willing to tolerate and, indeed, feed right-wing political paranoia.
This coddling of the crazies was, at first, almost entirely cynical. When the G.O.P. began moving right in the 1970s its true agenda was mainly economic — what its leaders wanted, above all, were business deregulation and tax cuts for the rich. But the party needed more than plutocracy to win elections, so it began courting working-class whites with what amounted to thinly disguised racist appeals.
Not incidentally, white supremacy has always been sustained in large part through voter suppression. So it shouldn’t be surprising to see right-wingers howling about a rigged election — after all, rigging elections is what their side is accustomed to doing. And it’s not clear to what extent they actually believe that this election was rigged, as opposed to being enraged that this time the usual vote-rigging didn’t work.
But it’s not just about race. Since Ronald Reagan, the G.O.P. has been closely tied to the hard-line Christian right. Anyone shocked by the prevalence of insane conspiracy theories in 2020 should look back to “The New World Order,” published by Reagan ally Pat Robertson in 1991, which saw America menaced by an international cabal of Jewish bankers, Freemasons and occultists. Or they should check out a 1994 video promoted by Jerry Falwell Sr. called “The Clinton Chronicles,” which portrayed Bill Clinton as a drug smuggler and serial killer.
So what has changed since then? For a long time Republican elites imagined that they could exploit racism and conspiracy theorizing while remaining focused on a plutocratic agenda. But with the rise first of the Tea Party, then of Donald Trump, the cynics found that the crazies were actually in control, and that they wanted to destroy democracy, not cut tax rates on capital gains.
And Republican elites have, with few exceptions, accepted their new subservient status.
You might have hoped that a significant number of sane Republican politicians would finally say that enough is enough, and break with their extremist allies. But Trump’s party didn’t balk at his corruption and abuse of power; it stood by him when he refused to accept electoral defeat; and some of its members are responding to a violent attack on Congress by complaining about their loss of Twitter followers.
And there’s no reason to believe that the atrocities yet to come — for there will be more atrocities — will make a difference. The G.O.P. has reached the culmination of its long journey away from democracy, and it’s hard to see how it can ever be redeemed.
Republican Collaborators: They Knew Then
Nikki Haley is a liar@TedCruz knew.@RandPaul knew.@GlennBeck knew.@MikePompeo knew.@MarcoRubio knew.@NikkiHaley knew.@SusanCollins knew.@GovernorPerry knew.@KellyanneConway knew.@LindseyGrahamSC knew.
They all knew & abandoned the USA
— ☇RiotWomenn☇ (@riotwomennn) September 5, 2020
‘Ugh’: Republicans cringe after Trump’s attack on 75-year-old protester
Most GOP senators tried to deflect questions about the president’s latest controversial tweet.
If there was ever a tweet from President Donald Trump that Senate Republicans didn’t want to touch, it’s this one.
For four years, Senate Republicans have endured a regular gantlet of reporters’ questions about Trump tweets, ranging from attacks on their own colleagues to telling a handful of congresswomen of color to “go back” to the countries they came from.
Trump’s tweet Tuesday morning attacking a 75-year old protester in Buffalo — who was shoved by the police and bled from his head after falling — stunned some in a caucus that’s grown used to the president’s active Twitter feed. After examining a print-out of the tweet, Sen. Lisa Murkowski gasped: “oh lord, Ugh.”
“Why would you fan the flames?” she said of the president’s tweet. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
But though the moderate Murkowski was nearly rendered speechless, the missive mostly failed to get a rise out of Senate Republicans. Many know Trump will tweet something else soon they will be asked to respond to, even if the Buffalo tweet seemed a new frontier for Trump’s insult-laden social media persona.
“It’s a serious accusation, which should only be made with facts and evidence. And I haven’t seen any,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) “Most of us up here would rather not be political commentators on the president’s tweets. That’s a daily exercise that is something you all have to cover… Saw the tweet. Saw the video. It’s a serious accusation.”
But those senators were the rare ones speaking out. Even Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who marched with Black Lives Matters protesters and voted to oust Trump from office in the impeachment trial, seemed exasperated.
“I saw the tweet,” Romney said. “It was a shocking thing to say and I won’t dignify it with any further comment.”
Many GOP senators declined Tuesday to respond to Trump’s tweet suggesting Martin Gugino, the Buffalo protester, “could be an ANTIFA provocateur.’ The president added, without evidence, that Gugino may have been trying to “set up” the police officers who hurt him. The tweet did not come up at the Republicans’ weekly lunch, according to an attendee.
Republican senators have a well-worn playbook by now if they don’t want to wade into the latest tweet-fueled controversy by saying they hadn’t seen Trump’s latest comments. Still, even when provided paper copies of the president’s tweet on Tuesday, many declined to view them.
Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) declined to comment on the tweet, saying they hadn’t read it. When asked whether they wanted to see the tweet, both showed little interest. Sen Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he had “no information about that man or who he is.”
Other senators said they’ve stopped paying attention to Trump’s tweets altogether. Citing what he called a longstanding policy about Trump, Sen Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said: “I don’t comment on the tweets.”
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who read a reporter’s printout of the tweet, said he knows “nothing of the episode,” which occurred last week and prompted widespread outrage. The Buffalo police department later suspended the two police officers involved without pay, and the Erie County District Attorney charged the officers with assault. Both pleaded not guilty and were released without bail.
But Cramer suggested he’s long accepted the president’s communication style.
“I don’t think Donald Trump is going to change his behavior,” Cramer said. “I’ll say this: I worry more about the country itself than I do about what President Trump tweets.”
Trump’s tweets questioning Gugino’s credibility come amid a nationwide reckoning about police brutality in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Senate Republicans have urged the president to take on a more unifying tone but so far Trump has proven resistant.
Last week, peaceful protesters were cleared outside of the White House with tear gas so that the president could pose for a photo outside of a church, prompting a rare Republican rebuke.
The president’s latest attack on Gugino highlights the complicated prospects of Congress getting anything done when it comes to police reform. Democrats unveiled a sweeping police reform package Monday that would ban chokeholds and limit “qualified immunity” for police officers, among other provisions. Romney said Monday that he’s planning to introduce his own police reform bill and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is also working on a proposal.
While Republicans have offered criticism of Trump’s handling of the protests, GOP senators see little upside in getting into a public argument with the president these days.
When asked about Trump’s tweet, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine.) merely replied: “I think it would best if the president did not comment on issues that are before the courts.”