If ever there was a day that defined the reckless incompetence of President Donald Trump and the anti-democratic tendencies of the Republican Party, it was January 6. The word “unprecedented” has been used so often with regard to this president’s abuses of power that it’s too weak and pale in this context. The fact is, Trump and his congressional supporters have been involved in a continuous attack on our democracy for the past four years, which culminated in an insurrection at the Capitol complex last week.
There is something profoundly sad and deeply disturbing when we see Americans storming the Capitol and rampaging through the halls of Congress, the people’s house, with some actually defecating on the floors. Many were simply vicious thugs, beating, and in one case murdering, a Capitol policeman. This happens in a third world country, not the United States.
As soon as the building was secured, eight GOP senators and 139 Republican House members attempted to keep Trump in office by objecting to Arizona’s and Pennsylvania’s certified electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden. Among those were Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his second in command Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the Republican leaders in the House.
Evidently, they weren’t fazed by being put in fear for their lives by Trump supporters or that the president called these murderous criminals “very special” and said he “loved” them. Neither, I suppose, were they concerned that the mob threatened to lynch their colleague, Vice President Pence. These Republican legislators persisted in attempting to subvert the presidential election, choosing to undermine the people’s vote – the most sacred right our Constitution provides – rather than suffer the wrath of Trump’s base. This should not be surprising, however, it totally fits the cowardly pattern of the GOP over the past four years or more.
Still, if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP leadership, had stood firm against Trump’s abuses of power in the beginning of his term, they might have contained him. The longer they let him smash norm after norm and snub the separation of powers, however, the bolder and more authoritarian the president became. Republican coddling of Trump was always just a selfish political calculation though and when everything becomes political, even human life and the Constitution are no longer sacred.
But that’s in the past and Trump made history yesterday by being the only president that has been impeached twice. He is being charged with inciting an insurrection, about the most serious crime a president could commit short of treason. Still, 197 House Republicans voted against holding the president accountable and turned their backs on democracy. The 10 who voted with the Democrats will no doubt receive death threats from Trump supporters and could be punished by their party.
There’s no question, the GOP is deeply divided and in trouble. On one side corporations that donate to Republicans are closing their wallets because the president attempted to undermine the 2020 election and his supporters mounted an attack on the Capitol. On the other side is Trump’s Frankenstein monster of a base, which will try to destroy any Republican politician who opposes their president.
The 9/11-styled commission that will be established to thoroughly investigate how the attack on the Capitol happened – who caused it, why law enforcement wasn’t prepared to repel it and why the government response to it was totally inadequate – won’t help the GOP either. Trump must be held accountable, as do the insurrectionists, but some Republican representatives may have been involved.
Yesterday we learned that members of Congress, including Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), led tours of the would-be rioters through the halls of Congress on January 5, in what appears to have been reconnaissance missions in preparation for the attack on the following day and there’s a picture to prove it. Boebert has been asked to resign because she tweeted information about Speaker Nancy Pelosi – a target of the attackers – as the insurrection unfolded.
Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Ala), Andy Biggs (R-Az.) and Paul Gosar (R-Az.) have also been implicated in a plot to help the rioters. If true, these representatives and any others who aided and abetted the insurrectionists must be expelled from Congress and indicted for any crimes they committed.
Longer term, however, here’s what I believe voters should never forget. Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate failed miserably to protect this nation from the deadly coronavirus that will likely kill over 400,000 Americans, even politicizing the wearing of protective masks. They baulked at legislation that might have helped federal agencies repel a massive Russian cyberattack that went undiscovered for months. And a Republican-controlled federal government mostly stood by as the most sacred building in the nation’s capital was ravaged by an angry right-wing mob. In time, many Republicans will attempt to blame Trump for these catastrophes but his willing accomplice was the Republican Party that rolled over like an obedient dog at his command.
We elect a president and members of Congress to be leaders, to set examples, to shield the people they serve from harm and to always protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. No doubt, this nation needs a viable GOP for our two-party system. But I believe the current edition of the Republican Party has failed in every duty they were elected to fulfill and are therefore unfit to govern.