The events of Jan. 6, 2021, have been a topic of Republican revisionist history, willing ignorance and delusional falsehoods for over a year now. Leaders of the Republican Party have gone from blaming former President Donald Trump at least in part for the insurrection, to absolving him of all responsibility. Those who were once labeled domestic terrorists are now being labeled political prisoners, with Trump and his fiercest allies now floating pardons for the insurrectionists, claiming that they would mend alleged atrocities being committed by federal prosecutors.
Republican members of Congress all are but guaranteed to dodge any question regarding the day, and conveniently somehow never seem to have heard about the barrage of asinine comments from their fellow colleagues. Yet, through all of this, Republicans continue to claim they aren’t saying what they are, and don’t believe what they do.
In the span of a little under a week, this attitude finally changed with the leader of the Republican Party and the party’s official committee both finally admitting what political observers have long noted. The Republican Party at large believes that the insurrection was just and normal, a mere moment of political protest and discussion, and Donald Trump wanted former Vice President Mike Pence to single-handedly overturn the election.
The first of the two admissions of guilt came from Trump himself when he went the furthest he ever has in his criticism of Mike Pence, this time outright saying that Pence alone could have overturned the will of over 80 million voters. Though Trump has long critiqued Pence for his failure to reject electoral votes from battleground states — something he had no right to do — he has tried to phrase his critiques in such a way that he simply is asking for more time to consider supposed irregularities. Trump likewise posits that state legislatures merely ought to have had more time to debate newly found evidence of fraud, that of which did not exist.
The statement was riddled with his usual gripes, claiming fraud and “many other irregularities” and slamming Susan Collins as a “wacky” RINO (Republican in name only). He also claimed that pending legislation, that would make it clear the vice president has no power to change the outcome, would take the power away from the vice president, something that is not accurate. Ignoring the immense hypocrisy of this position – how would he feel about Vice President Harris overturning election results and giving Biden a second term? This statement betrays the deep-rooted contempt that the former president and his backers have for democracy and the peaceful transfer of power.
This was so abhorrent that even Pence directly called him out, disputing his claim and outright saying “President Trump is wrong.”
Even putting aside the fact that Trump is painfully wrong in regards to a vice president’s capacity, the idea of a president endeavoring to so blatantly, tactlessly and short-sightedly disrupt the will of a majority of American voters is eye-opening, even for a man with a record like Trump’s.
Not to be outdone, Republican officials also made waves at the Republican National Committee’s winter summit in Salt Lake City, Utah. A censure resolution, led in part by RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, sought to condemn Representatives Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. and Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. for their roles on the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack.
Republicans have long tried to dismiss the committee, claiming it is a partisan, Pelosi-led sham meant solely to hurt Donald Trump and his accomplices. That is a false claim, as the committee features the aforementioned two House Republicans, with Cheney as a co-chair of the committee. Additionally, House Republicans shot down an attempt to have an evenly partisan split investigation into the events of Jan. 6, one in which Republicans would have had subpoena power of their own, negotiated by a Republican representative that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy himself had assigned to the negotiations.
The resolution said that the RNC should “immediately cease any and all support” of the two Republicans, that the pair “support Democrat efforts to destroy President Trump” and have engaged in acts “not befitting” Republican members of Congress. While all parts of the statement are insane in their own right, one sentence stands out in particular: “They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse.” The statement, which McDaniel later tried to backtrack, was a stunning admission.
It shows that prominent Republicans believe that an insurrection meant to thwart the democratic process, which led to the deaths of at least seven people, injured hundreds, defaced the capitol building and forced the vice president and others into hiding, was nothing more than ordinary citizens taking part in everyday political discussion. The claim, however egregious it is, is less surprising in itself than the fact that the official party committee was willing to admit such a disgusting belief.
The GOP has now tied themselves to this malicious lie; the lie that the most severe attack on the United States Capitol since 1814 was just citizens using their voice. A voice, according to them, that Kinzinger and Cheney are now maliciously silencing. According to the GOP, the fault lies with these two honest representatives, not the insurrectionists or those who necessitated their intervention.
That Trump and the RNC are now willing to be so forthright about their despicable actions and beliefs is a sign that things are getting worse, not better. Though they have both felt these ways for a while — with their continuous push for less protections for voters and more discretion for states to determine gerrymandered congressional maps — the fact that they now feel comfortable outright claiming these authoritarian ideas outright is just another dangerous step towards the dismantling of our fragile democracy. The midterm elections are now less than eight months away, and Republicans have been told by their leaders that political violence is no big deal, that election losses, no matter how legitimate, are not to be accepted and that violence is acceptable in an attempt to overturn an election. It is yet another ominous sign of what’s to come, and a potential pretext for something worse to happen the next time Republicans lose an important election.
Devon Hesano is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.