It is no wonder that Republican leaders in the House do not want to convene a truth and reconciliation commission to scrutinize the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The more attention drawn to the events of that day, the more their party has to lose.
The drop signaled that Republicans would have to pay a price for the Trump-inspired insurrection, the violent spirit of which was captured vividly by Peter Baker and Sabrina Tavernise of The Times:
The pure savagery of the mob that rampaged through the Capitol that day was breathtaking, as cataloged by the injuries inflicted on those who tried to guard the nation’s elected lawmakers. One police officer lost an eye, another the tip of his finger. Still another was shocked so many times with a Taser gun that he had a heart attack. They suffered cracked ribs, two smashed spinal disks and multiple concussions. At least 81 members of the Capitol force and 65 members of the Metropolitan Police Department were injured.
Republican revulsion toward the riot was, however, short-lived.
Arceneaux and Truex, in their paper “Donald Trump and the Lie,” point out that Republican voter identification with Trump had “rebounded to pre-election levels” by Jan. 13. . . . . The same pattern emerged in the Republican Party’s favorability ratings, which dropped by 13 points between the beginning and the end of January, but gained 11 points back by April, according to surveys by the NBC/Wall Street Journal.
While this mass amnesia seem incomprehensible to some, an August 2019 paper, “Tribalism is Human Nature,” by Cory Jane Clark, executive director the Adversarial Collaboration Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and three fellow psychologists, provides fundamental insight into the evanescing impact of Jan. 6 on the electorate and on Republicans in particular: Selective pressures have consistently sculpted human minds to be “tribal,” and group loyalty and concomitant cognitive biases likely exist in all groups. Modern politics is one of the most salient forms of modern coalitional conflict and elicits substantial cognitive biases.
[R]ising influence of “tribalism” in politics results in part from the growing “clarity and homogeneity of the Democrat and Republican coalitions,” with the result that “people are better able to find their people, sort into their ideological bubbles, find their preferred news sources, identify their preferred political elites and follow them, and signal their political allegiance to fellow group members (and attain friends and status that way).”
Sarah Binder, a political scientist at George Washington University, adds some detail:
My sense is that the move by Republican office holders to muddy the waters over what happened at the Capitol (and Trump’s role instigating the events) likely contributes to the waning of G.O.P. voters’ concerns. We heard a burst of these efforts to rewrite the history this past week during the House oversight hearing, but keep in mind that those efforts came on the heels of earlier efforts to downplay the violence, whitewash Trump’s role, and to cast doubt on the identities of the insurrectionists. No doubt, House G.O.P. leaders’ stalling of Democrats’ effort to create a “9/11 type” commission to investigate the events of Jan. 6 has also helped to diffuse G.O.P. interest and to keep the issue out of the headlines. No bipartisan inquiry, no media spotlight to keep the issue alive.
A UMass April 21-23 national survey asked voters to identify the person or group “you hold most responsible for the violence that occurred at the Capitol building.” 45 percent identified Trump, 6 percent the Republican Party and 11 percent white nationalists. The surprising finding was the percentage that blamed the left, broadly construed: 16 percent for the Democratic Party, 4 percent for Joe Biden and 11 percent for “antifa,” for a total of 31 percent.
The refusal of Republicans to explore the takeover of the Capitol reflects a form of biased reasoning that is not limited to the right or the left, but may be more dangerous on the right.
There is convincing evidence that cultural conservatives are reliably more open to authoritarian and democracy-degrading action than cultural liberals within Western democracies, including the United States. Because the Democratic Party is the party of American cultural liberals, I believe it would be far more difficult for a Democratic politician who favors overtly anti-democratic action, like nullifying elections, to have political success.
These differences are “transforming the Republican Party into an anti-democratic institution,” according to Malka:
What we are seeing in the Republican Party is that mass partisan opinion is making it politically devastating for Republican elites to try to uphold democracy. I think that an underappreciated factor in this is that the Republican Party is the home of cultural conservatives, and cultural conservatives are disproportionately open to authoritarian governance.
Westerners with a broad culturally conservative worldview are especially open to authoritarian governance. For what is likely a variety of reasons, a worldview encompassing traditional sexual morality, religiosity, traditional gender roles, and resistance to multicultural diversity is associated with low or flexible commitment to democracy and amenability to authoritarian alternatives.
The challenge facing Democrats goes beyond winning office. They confront an adversary willing to lie about past election outcomes, setting the stage for Republican legislatures to overturn future election returns; an opponent willing to nurture an insurrection if the wrong people win; a political party moving steadily from democracy to authoritarianism; a party that despite its liabilities is more likely than not to regain control of the House and possibly even the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.
The advent of Trump Republicans poses an unprecedented strategic quandary for Democrats, a quandary they have not resolved and that may not lend itself to resolution.
Be very, very afraid. Today's GOP would happily overthrow the U.S. Constitution to remain in power. Sadly, they are just as shortsighted as many in the Roman Senate 2000 years ago who aided in the overthrow the Roman Republic thinking they could control the autocrat seizing power. Trump's conduct in the White House should make it clear that, should he ever achieve autocratic powers, he would quickly turn on his Republican enablers who might find their very lives forfeit.