Saturday, January 09, 2021
Winds of change did not blow through a luxury seaside resort here as top Republicans huddled Friday to chart their party's future. . . . . Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman Trump installed four years ago as the titular head of the GOP, was reelected unanimously without a challenger. She lavishly praised Trump for attracting new voters in his losing campaign while thanking him for choosing her for the post.
Other enablers consisted of those who joined the Trump/Pence administration and further Trump's policies, including the horrific separation of families at the nation's southern border and his war against civil rights for non-whites and LGBT Americans. Just as Hitler could not have implemented his horrors without lieutenants and underlings, Trump war on the truth and democracy could only happen with a cast of thousands. As a column in the Washington Post argues ALL of these people must suffer consequences for their roles if the damage is to be undone and an example made to prevent future actors from following a similar pattern. Here are column excerpts:
Poor Josh Hawley. The first senator to announce that he would object to the certification of the 2020 election results, Hawley fed the delusion that Joe Biden’s victory over President Trump could be overturned. He set himself up as one of the “strong" Republicans Trump praised at his rally Wednesday before urging his supporters to march to the Capitol and to inspire “weak Republicans” to “the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.” And unlike his colleagues who returned to their senses after the Capitol was trashed, Hawley continued to object to the certification of Biden’s win. After all that, Hawley lost his book contract with Simon & Schuster and then promptly cast himself as a free speech martyr, pledging to “fight this cancel culture with everything I have.”
It’s reasonable to debate which ideas fall outside the spectrum of acceptable public opinion: . . . But we should all agree that there are some views and behavior that must be met with social, professional and moral sanction. Or, to borrow Hawley’s own words: “It’s community that helps us find moral purpose.”
Inciting, enabling or participating in an attempted insurrection aimed at overturning the results of a free and fair election should fall into that category. Everyone else who played a role in Wednesday’s disgraceful spectacle deserves far more than the annoyance of losing a prestigious publisher and being forced to hunt for a down-market conservative alternative.
But if an event truly is uniquely horrible, and if it should not be repeated, the only response to such an occasion can’t be to say so and move on. The people who participated in that event on every level have to be held responsible. Our collective horror at their actions has to be made clear, over and over again, for as long as it takes a norm that has been broken to be restored.
The law has an obvious role to play here: The people who killed Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, planted pipe bombs at the headquarters of the Democratic and Republican national committees and rampaged through the Capitol must be identified, arrested and prosecuted.
But the law has limits: Encouraging the fantasy that the election could be overturned is not illegal, just disgusting. We shouldn’t forfeit the moral tools we have to express that disgust.
If the prospect of canceling a book on an unrelated subject in response to the attack on the Capitol raises First Amendment-adjacent concerns for you, recent days offer some creative suggestions for how to reestablish the moral guardrails that were plowed down during the Trump era.
Randall Lane, the editor of Forbes magazine, has announced that if private companies hire Trump press officials who lied to the public, “Forbes will assume that everything your company or firm talks about is a lie.” Publishers can certainly hold authors who peddled lies about the 2020 election to a more rigorous fact-checking standard than currently is the norm.
It’s possible to believe in someone’s right to speak without helping them to make money doing so. And certainly, high-profile institutions can opt to not offer paid speaking opportunities, board seats or prestigious appointments to people who have demonstrated themselves self-interested to the point of recklessness or worse.
Voters and professional associations have a role to play, too.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall heads the Republican Attorneys General Association’s nonprofit Rule of Law Defense Fund, which participated in organizing Wednesday’s gathering, including through robocalls saying that “we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal.” He should be voted out of office.
Some lawyers are pressing for ethics investigations and possible disbarments of lawyers who participated in efforts to get the courts to reverse the outcome of the election.
Five people are dead because of the mendacity Josh Hawley legitimized, and he’s the victim? He, and everyone else who made Wednesday possible, should be beside themselves with shame. The rest of us should help them feel it, for as long as it takes.
For anyone with eyes not blinded by tribalism or ears deafened by denial, what happened in Washington this week was always going to happen.
Trump’s character and profound psychological deformation always, always meant he would not relinquish power without an almighty struggle. We elected an instinctual tyrant, preternaturally incapable of understanding the give and take of democratic politics, for whom losing in any contest threatens the core of his very being, and who has no effective control over the roiling emotions that course through his thickened arteries.
Some of us were ridiculed for saying from the very beginning that there would have to be some kind of violence to remove him, if he were to lose the next election. We still are. We’re called victims of TDS, or Trump Derangement Syndrome, as if this were not the only sane position when a delusional, malignant, tyrant-wannabe has an entire political party in his grip, aided and abetted by tribal media tools. For myself, from the very beginning, having examined Trump’s past and observed his plain-as-day pathology, I just couldn’t envision how this figure could psychologically, voluntarily ever leave the Oval Office. Every single day of his presidency has confirmed this. He has blown through every guardrail against presidential abuse that exists.
Trump is now and always has been delusional. He lives in an imaginary world. His insistence that he won the last election in a “landslide” is psychologically indistinguishable from his declaration on his first day that his Inaugural crowd was larger than his predecessor’s. For four years, the actual evidence did not matter. It still doesn’t. . . . For four years as president, any advisor who told him the truth, rather than perpetuating his delusions, had an immediate expiration date. For four years, an army of volunteer propagandists knowingly disseminated his insane, cascading torrent of lies.
And Trump really believes these fantasies. He is not a calculating man. He is a creature of total impulse. As I wrote almost five years ago now, quoting Plato, a tyrant is a man “not having control of himself [who] attempts to rule others”; a man flooded with fear and love and passion, while having little or no ability to restrain or moderate them; a “real slave to the greatest fawning,” a man who “throughout his entire life ... is full of fear, overflowing with convulsions and pains.” For the ancients, a tyrant represented the human whose appetites and fantasies had no form of rational control.
This is dangerous in normal times. In an emergency like Covid19, it turned catastrophic. For Trump, the virus could not exist or would disappear all of a sudden because it might threaten his re-election. Anything in the press that did not reflect his own reality was, in his mind, invented. Dozens of lawsuits that failed to prove any fraud in the election were simply proof that the conspiracy against him was even bigger. His own propaganda channel, Fox News, broadcast Trump’s delusions as if they were true for five long years. But as soon as their off-camera nerds reported actual election results, Fox too had to be anathematized as fake. His vice-president, the most shameless lackey of them all, eventually could not force himself to do something that was feasible only in Trump’s imagination — and so, he too became a traitor in the bitter, bunker end.
The storming of the Capitol this week to stymie, prevent or postpone the certification of the election results, was therefore, in some ways, a metaphor for the entire four years. It was both absurd and terrifying. It was a violent insurrection against democracy, but it was also a scene from a bad dream about Burning Man. Wild-eyed men wandered around carrying the Confederate flag; crazed fanatics talked of how to execute Mike Pence for treason; a Q-Anon crazy, dressed in furs and Viking horns, with a painted face, commanded the floor of the House. It was sedition as some form of cosplay. It was deadly, but also performative.
The pièce de resistance was captured, as so often, by Olivia Nuzzi, who reported that Trump, after cheering the mob on, telling them he would join them, refusing to tell them to call it off, and trying to hold off the National Guard, eventually soured on the rioters as “low class.” He didn’t mind the insurrection; he just objected to the aesthetics!
He is out of his mind. There has been no change in five years, except a faster version of the decline of sanity in anyone wielding that amount of power for that long. The hostage video he put out last night — which some of his followers, of course, believed was a deep fake — was obviously an insincere attempt to prevent legal liability for the insurrection he had just incited. Today, however, he is back to normal, repeating his claims of fraud . . .
The people finally acknowledging that they have been enabling a madman for years deserve our gratitude for their late recognition, but can never be free of the shame they will carry for the rest of their lives.
There is a temptation to believe that this is finally over. But for as long as this man exercises the powers of the presidency, it isn’t. He has used the power of the pardon these past few years to obstruct justice, to prevent vital testimony in a legitimate investigation, and to reward friends and relatives. In recent weeks, we’ve been told, he has also discussed the possibility of a proactive pardon for himself and his own family that will only cement his legacy of a presidency beyond the reach of any checks and balances. The next ten days, as he is cornered, are among the most dangerous. He could do anything.
This is where we are.
It pains me to say it, but this week was, in many ways, the essence of American “conservatism” in 2021. It has morphed from a politics to a theological movement to a personality cult. It is a threat to the very foundations of liberal democracy. It is nihilist, performative, incoherent and bristling with the certainty of fundamentalists and the corruption of grifters. It has destroyed this country’s fiscal standing, wrecked this country’s international reputation, trashed the norms and practices of liberal democracy, perverted the rule of law, accelerated climate change, and now physically vandalized the most sacred civil place in America.
And for what? Ratings? Soaring and destabilizing inequality? A national debt previously unthinkable in peacetime? Thousands and thousands of viral deaths that might have been prevented by the simple act of a president wearing a mask in public and urging others to do the same? The eradication of a shared concept of truth?
The last two Republican presidents have ended their terms with the country in ruins. We cannot afford another one until the GOP is razed and rebuilt as a viable, democratic party.
“Remember this day!” Trump declared even after the disgrace had happened. And we will, we will. It exposed the GOP for what it is. These were not fringe loonies. Even after the sacking of the Capitol, a majority of House Republicans voted to endorse the insane conspiracy theories of the seditionists and not to certify a legitimate and fair election. In a snap YouGov poll, a plurality of Republicans backed a violent assault to reverse an election result. A party that does this is not fit to exist in a liberal democracy.
My hope is that those who knowingly enabled mass delusion, insurrection and Constitutional chaos — like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley and Lindsey Graham — have no serious careers ahead of them; that those who served and enabled this president retreat from public life in the ignominy they so thoroughly deserve. My hope is that a Republican party emerges that is built on the anathematization of the last four years, a party that can address the deeper issues that Trump viciously exploited, and build a multi-racial coalition around actual conservative principles to address the clear needs of all Americans.
I can’t see this happening without a split, or an open internecine struggle. If the result is a deeper commitment to an ideology of stab-in-the-back neo-fascism inspired by a seditionist president-in-exile, then the GOP needs to be burned to the ground.
Friday, January 08, 2021
What ever happened to the “personal responsibility” we’ve so often heard Republicans prattle on about?
Republican Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Ted Cruz (Tex.) and others aided and abetted our authoritarian president, amplifying his lies about voter fraud. White House officials and their confederates in right-wing media have thoroughly brain-poisoned the GOP base, claiming that shadowy forces stole the 2020 election. In so doing, these quislings all helped foment the insurrectionist storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
They should man up and own it.
And yet for their role in Wednesday’s seditious acts, not a whit of personal responsibility is anywhere to be found. In a video released Thursday evening, President Trump claimed to be “outraged” by the mob he himself had beset upon the Capitol. “It is not your fault. It is their fault” came the appalling apologia of Fox News host Tucker Carlson, with the ambiguous “their” seemingly referring to Democrats. Cruz more explicitly blamed random Democrats. Other right-wing personalities and Republican leaders claim the attempted coup was really the work of far-left antifa, even though Capitol rioters were on camera chanting “Trump” and “Stop the Steal” and carrying the Confederate flag.
Nearly half (45 percent) of Republican survey respondents said they approve of the storming of the Capitol, a YouGov snap poll found. Yet this same poll found that most Republicans also blame President-elect Joe Biden for this (totally acceptable and good!) American carnage.
Let’s review the tape.
Donald Trump warned his fellow partisans that he would try to hold on to the presidency by force if necessary. In the months before Election Day, he repeatedly declined to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, instead pledging “there won’t be a transfer.”
Some, such as former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), shrugged off such openly banana-republican remarks, insisting that although Trump “says crazy stuff,” the president would of course concede gracefully if he lost. Sometimes allies, such as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), pivoted to talking about judges. Sometimes they even egged Trump on: The day after the president said there wouldn’t be a transfer of power, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) tweeted: “In the spring, stores sold out of hand sanitizer and toilet paper. This fall, they sold out of ammo.”
When, in December, Post reporters asked all 249 sitting Republican lawmakers who had won the presidential election, 220 refused to answer.
Things soon devolved. As it became clearer that the base had bought into Trump’s conspiracy theories, and believed the election had been “stolen,” Republicans transitioned from merely ignoring this mass paranoia to fanning the flames.
Republican officials claimed they were merely asking questions about the election system’s integrity. There’s so much distrust that they had to investigate now! Never mind that Trump and other GOP cranks had sown the distrust themselves. No matter that dozens of court cases about these “questions” had been thrown out — including by Trump-appointed judges.
They announced plans to object to election results in states Biden had won. Some even explicitly advocated use of force, with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) saying after an unfavorable court ruling that “violence in the streets” might be the only option left to prevent Biden’s inauguration.
Not all of their followers understood these cosplay coup attempts to be purely performative.
Then on Wednesday, politicians cheered on the bloodthirsty D.C. crowds who might someday donate to their 2024 campaigns. Trump was already fundraising oodles off his “Stop the Steal” grift; why shouldn’t they, as well? Indeed, just as insurrectionists were storming the Capitol, both Cruz and Hawley campaigns sent out fundraising texts.
These arrogant demagogues thought they were merely playing to the mob, as they’ve been doing for the past four years. It apparently never occurred to them that the mob might someday come for them, too.
And now they have the gall to blame antifa, Democrats, Biden? Take some responsibility for what you’ve done.
If Republicans will not voluntarily accept accountability, then the ballot box must force it upon them. Name, shame and eject all these traitors from office.
Thursday, January 07, 2021
Remember what yesterday’s attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol was like. Very soon, someone might try to convince you that it was different. Maybe someone already has.
This has been a leitmotif of the Trump administration: Donald Trump does something outrageous and inappropriate, maybe even illegal. Immediately, there are horrified reactions from across the political spectrum, but pretty quickly, the anger fades. Republican officials test the political winds and decide to keep their heads down. Maybe they even say that what Trump did was just fine. Democratic officials rage but shrug and say there’s just not much they can do.
Don’t let the events of January 6 get memory-holed or excused in the same way. The health of the republic depends both on what swift consequences come—for Trump and for others—and also on how people remember the participants’ actions later on.
As horrifying as the insurrection was, the immediate response was heartening. Republicans who have consistently criticized Trump, such as Senator Mitt Romney and Representative Adam Kinzinger, were quick to pin responsibility on the president. But so were others who are usually more quiescent, like Senator Richard Burr. Several outlets reported that Cabinet-level officials were discussing the prospect of using the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to remove Trump from office.
But already, the moment to act could be slipping away. After all, Congress certified Joe Biden as president-elect early this morning. Trump even issued a statement—through aide Dan Scavino on Twitter, after the president’s own account was locked—promising “an orderly transition on January 20th.”
We’ve heard rumblings about the Twenty-Fifth Amendment before, and they’ve never resulted in anything.
As I wrote earlier this week, even before violence erupted, the Senate’s failure to convict Trump and remove him from office after his impeachment last year paved the way for [Trump]
the presidentto try to overturn the 2020 election. If the nation moves on without punishing Trump, he will have two more weeks to act with impunity.
Nothing indicates that Trump is chastened by yesterday’s experience. He published both a video and a tweet yesterday in which he called on the mob to go home peacefully, but he did not condemn its actions, and he repeated the incitements that drove it to riot in the first place.
Meanwhile, the least scrupulous Trump allies, like Representatives Matt Gaetz and Mo Brooks, are already trying to shift the blame for the riot, claiming that it was the work of left-wing provocateurs. This is preposterous—as the journalist Molly Ball points out, “Trump literally summoned these people to DC, spoke at their event, offered to walk them over to the Capitol and then praised them afterward.”
Others, like Senator Ted Cruz, are trying to split the baby. “The attack at the Capitol was a despicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system,” he said in a statement. . . . If Cruz were serious, he might be calling for prosecution of the president and also himself—after all, as the mob approached the Capitol, Cruz was inside offering frivolous objections to the certification, after weeks of spreading the false rumors that incited the crowd. Cruz is, as usual, not serious.
Democratic leaders are already flinching, too. There’s a clear course of action for Congress, as Representative Ilhan Omar understands: impeachment. Instead, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote a letter calling on Mike Pence to invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment—trying to get someone else to deal with the problem using an unproven and dubious solution. (This places House Democratic leaders to the right of anti-Trump conservative commentators at publications such as National Review and The Bulwark.)
That doesn’t absolve members of the administration of their own responsibility to act. If they truly believe that Trump has “lost it,” as one told the New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, they should do something about that, not wait a few days for things to blow over and hope he finds “it.” (Hint: He never had “it.”) The nation is now in the surreal position of having a president whom Twitter deems too dangerous to send messages, but who still is commander in chief and controls the nuclear codes.
Over and over again, we’ve seen political leaders downgrade the most horrifying episodes of Trump’s political career from crises to wacky and unfortunate moments.
The same pattern manifested after a white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Trump initially declined to condemn the marchers—after all, they supported him! When he finally did condemn the violence, he did so on both sides, and he said, “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” Republicans were horrified by his coddling of neo-Nazis. But within a few days, most of the controversy died down. It’s now common to hear people insist that Trump said something other than what he said.
Without real work to remember and focus on what happened yesterday, that could all happen again. If Trump is not impeached and barred from serving, he could run (and win) again in 2024. He’s already hinted that he might do so.
As for his aides, the administration resignations are too little and far too late. What happened yesterday was not a sudden anomaly—it was a natural and even likely capstone to Trump’s presidency, as Peter Wehner writes. Resigning now should not absolve anyone serving in the administration. Should they attempt to exercise moral authority, whether now or later, remember that they served a president who incited a violent insurrection.
Both Cruz and Senator Josh Hawley, another ringleader of objections to certifications, are younger men with great ambitions. When they run for president, remember that they worked for weeks to sow false doubts about the 2020 election, doing so not out of principled objection but out of opportunistic political maneuvering. They did so even after seeing an armed mob take over the Capitol.
It was an attempted coup, incited, encouraged, and condoned by the president of the United States. Don’t forget it.
Former White House chief of staff John Kelly said Thursday that if he were a member of
PresidentDonald Trump's Cabinet he would support using the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove [Trump] the Presidentfrom office following a deadly riot at the US Capitol.
"Yes, I would," Kelly told CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead" when asked if he would be in support of invoking the amendment if he had a vote.
The comments from Kelly, who left the White House under contentious circumstances in January 2019, come as a growing list of Democratic and Republican members of Congress are calling for Trump to be removed from office either through impeachment or the 25th Amendment after a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday.
They also represent one of the strongest rebukes of Trump from a former member of his White House amid the fallout from Wednesday's riot. Invoking the 25th Amendment would require Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of the Cabinet to vote to remove Trump from office due to his inability to "discharge the powers and duties of his office" -- an unprecedented step.
"I think that the Cabinet should meet and have a discussion. I don't think that it'll happen, but I think the Cabinet should meet and discuss this because the behavior yesterday and in the weeks and months before that has just been outrageous from the President," said Kelly, who has occasionally criticized Trump since leaving his post.
"What happened on Capitol Hill yesterday is a direct result of his poisoning the minds of people with the lies and the frauds," he added.
Frankly, the President's actions and words didn't surprise me at all, but I was very, very surprised that those people would assault the people's house, do the damage they did and embarrass us all," he said, referring to the pro-Trump mob.
Kelly also pushed back on comments made by his successor, Mick Mulvaney, who resigned on Wednesday from a diplomatic post he had in the administration, saying Trump is not the same as he was several months ago.
"I don't think he's changed one little bit," Kelly said when asked about the comments. "Of course, he is enraged because he's lost an election. He is a laughingstock now and he is striking it up. But again, someone needs to help, you know, manage him."
In addition to Mulvaney, several other officials have resigned from the administration in protest of Wednesday's riot and Trump's reaction to it, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, one of the longest-serving members of Trump's Cabinet who will officially leave her post on Monday.
Trump's deputy national security adviser, Matt Pottinger, is also among the people who have left the government, as is the first lady's chief of staff Stephanie Grisham, a press aide and the White House social secretary.
It wasn’t hard to see, when it began, that it would end exactly the way it has. Donald Trump is America’s willful arsonist, the man who lit the match under the fabric of our constitutional republic.
The duty of the House of Representatives and the Senate, once they certify Joe Biden’s election, is to reconvene, Wednesday night if possible, to impeach the president and then remove him from office and bar him from ever holding office again.
To allow Trump to serve out his term, however brief it may be, puts the nation’s safety at risk, leaves our reputation as a democracy in tatters and evades the inescapable truth that the assault on Congress was an act of violent sedition aided and abetted by a lawless, immoral and terrifying president.
From the moment Trump became the G.O.P. front-runner in 2015, it was obvious who he was and where, if given the chance, he would take America. He was a malignant narcissist in his person. A fraudster in his businesses. A bully in his relationships. And a demagogue in his politics.
All this was obvious — but was not enough to stop him. America in 2015 had many problems, many of which had gone too long ignored and were ripe for populist exploitation. But by far the biggest problem of that year was that a major political party capitulated to a thug. And the biggest problem of every subsequent year has been that more and more of that party has excused, ignored, forgiven, colluded in and celebrated his thuggery.
The Republican Party is now walking to the edge of moral irredeemability. I say this as someone who, until 2016, had always voted the straight Republican ticket and who, until this week, had hoped that Republicans would hold the Senate as a way of tilting the Biden administration to the center. I say this also of the party generally, and not of the courageous individual Republicans — Brad Raffensperger, Mitt Romney, Denver Riggleman, Larry Hogan, Ben Sasse (the list is depressingly short) — who have preserved their principles, maintained their honor and kept their heads these past five years.
But there is no getting away from the extent to which leading party members and their cheerleaders in the right-wing media are complicit in creating the political atmosphere in which this Visigothic sacking of the Capitol took place.
The legal hucksters, from Rudy Giuliani to Mark Levin, who promoted demonstrably debunkable claims about electoral fraud, are complicit. All of those supposedly sober-minded conservatives who encouraged the president to “pursue his legal options” (knowing full well they were bunk, but with the assurance that they would settle doubts about the validity of the vote) are complicit. The 126 House Republicans who signed on to the preposterous brief supporting the Texas lawsuit to overturn the election — flicked away in a single paragraph by the Supreme Court — are complicit. Ted Cruz, whom I once described as a “serpent covered in Vaseline” but who turns out to be considerably worse, is complicit. Josh Hawley and the rest of the Senate cynics, who tried to obstruct Biden’s election certification in a transparent bid to corner the market on Trumpian craziness, are complicit. Mike Pence, who cravenly humored Trump’s fantasies right till the moment of constitutional truth, is complicit.
Some of these charlatans are now trying to disavow Wednesday’s violence in carefully phrased tweets. But Cruz, Hawley, Pence and the other Bitter-Enders have done far more lasting damage to Congress than the mob that — merely by following their lead — physically trashed it. Broken doors can be fixed. Broken parties cannot.
Above all there is the president, not complicit but wholly, undeniably and unforgivably responsible.
For five years, Republicans let him degrade political culture by normalizing his behavior. For five years, they let him wage war on democratic norms and institutions. For five years, they treated his nonstop mendacity as a quirk of character, not a disqualification for office. For five years, they treated his rallies as carnivals of democracy, not as training grounds for mob rule. . . . their chickens came home to roost.
Every decent society depends for its survival on its ability to be shocked — and stay shocked — by genuinely shocking behavior. Donald Trump’s entire presidency has been an assault on that idea.
There is only one prescription for it now. Impeach the president and remove him from office now. Ban him forever from office now. Let every American know that, in the age of Trump, there are some things that can never be allowed to stand, most of all Trump himself.
Wednesday, January 06, 2021
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) thinks that he is quite clever. He built his political reputation on combating the Republican establishment, on being a thorn in their side who, despite his educational and career pedigree, stood with the far-right wing of his party. His strategy was clear: leverage the energy of the Republican fringe to earn a presidential nomination.
In 2016, he gave it a shot — only to see Donald Trump emerge from the world of celebrity to more effectively speak to Cruz’s intended voters.
As the Trump presidency unfolded, Cruz largely stood by him. After all, someone, at some point, would inherit that base of political support. Why not him? So over and over, Cruz has leveraged his college-debate-champ savvy on behalf of the president he once described as a “sniveling coward.”
After Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, Cruz stood with Trump as the president repeatedly misled his supporters about alleged voter fraud. As weeks went on and no evidence of said fraud emerged, Cruz and other Republicans on Capitol Hill were silent, betting that it was politically safer to stick with Trump than to stand with reality. When Trump’s efforts to seize a second consecutive term by subverting the will of the voters narrowed down to an effort to obstruct the formal counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, Cruz jumped to the front of the line to promote the effort in the Senate.
On Wednesday, the time came for Cruz to make his case for why the transfer of power mandated by the Constitution should not occur.
“Mr. President,” he began, referring to the president of the Senate, “we gather together at a moment of great division, at a moment of great passion.”
“We have seen and no doubt will continue to see a great deal of moralizing from both sides of the aisle,” he continued. “But I would urge to both sides, perhaps a bit less certitude and a bit more recognition that we are gathered at a time when democracy is in crisis.”
How? Not because the president of the United States was lying to the public to seize power. No. Because the president’s supporters believed him.
“Recent polling shows that 39 percent of Americans believe the election that just occurred, quote, was rigged,” Cruz said. “You may not agree with that assessment. But it is nonetheless a reality for nearly half the country.”
“Even if you do not share that conviction, it is the responsibility, I believe, of this office to acknowledge that it is a profound threat to this country and to the legitimacy of any administrations that will come in the future,” he said.
All of this, from start to finish, is dishonest opportunism. Trump — and through omission, Cruz — misled the public in service of their own power. It’s no more complicated than that. Trump and Cruz made obviously untrue claims to an aggravated electorate, knowing that the claims were inaccurate, so that they could maintain power (in Trump’s case) or soon gain it (in Cruz’s). Even as temperatures rose and even as Trump encouraged massive protests at the Capitol in an effort to pressure legislators, Cruz did nothing more than nod along.
This was not Cruz’s first attempt to slyly thread the needle between what the far-right base wanted to hear and what was considered within the bounds of proper senatorial activity. But it was the first such attempt that took place against the backdrop of looming violence, of far-right protesters who had been actively discussing an armed insurrection making their way to Washington. Cruz, like Trump, figured he had a way to endear himself to the viper, to use it for his own advantage.
Within an hour of Cruz’s speech, a violent pro-Trump mob broke through a police line and forced their way into the Senate chamber itself. As of writing, the Capitol remains out of law enforcement’s control.
Cruz’s effort to walk the line failed. The viper devoured him. His speech Tuesday — a cynical effort to undermine democracy, some of the last words to echo in the chamber before he and his colleagues had to flee — will be one of his primary legacies.
This is a moment of shame and grief.
If we are not very careful, it will also be a terrible moment of opportunity for
PresidentDonald Trump. The violence Trump incited could be his pretext for further abuses of presidential power.
As so often with Trump, he has indicated the plan in advance: Use the Insurrection Act to somehow interfere with the transition of power. He could try it this very day.
In institutional self-defense, Trump must be impeached again and this time removed. That needs to happen immediately, before he can declare martial law, so that Vice President Mike Pence can oversee the constitutional transition of power, the first time since the Civil War that such a transition can no longer be described as “peaceful.”
What’s needed, this time, is for a saving remnant of Republican senators to emulate the integrity that was embodied last time around only by Senator Mitt Romney. The leaders of Trump’s own party have to do the job of protecting the country from Trump’s violent lawlessness. Last time, the other senators refused. Now they need to feel real pressure.
All through this day, Republican pundits have expressed shock and puzzlement that it could come to this. “We don’t know who these people are,” the radio host Mark Levin tweeted. That’s the same Mark Levin who wrote an article urging Congress to challenge the results of the 2020 election, an article approvingly tweeted by Trump on December 30. In fact, we know “who these people are.” They are the monsters incubated, birthed, nurtured, fed, trained, and now loosed by Trump and by his enablers in politics and the media.
This is not who we are,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted this afternoon, although earlier today he had been doing plenty of incitement of his own. As the whole world now sees, this is exactly who the Trumps are and who his most loyal supporters are. But it does not have to be the enduring legacy of all Republicans and all conservatives.
Everybody connected in any way to Trumpism must instantly put as many miles of distance as possible between themselves and this president and the mob that he raised and unleashed. There is still hope that the word Republican can be wrenched back from the thugs and insurrectionists.
Schedule an impeachment vote for this very night. Stay ’til dawn. Do whatever is necessary. Avert any potential for martial law. Deny Trump command of the military; withdraw the nuclear codes. Don’t wait until the next crossed red line, until the next smashed barrier, until the next putsch attempt. Install Mike Pence right away as the 46th president and work with him to manage the transition on January 20 to Joe Biden as the 47th. Bar Trump from ever again holding office—and get ready to prosecute him for his crimes on January 21.
Act now. And everyone who acts now—even those who were most in the wrong until now—can share the credit and recognition as a protector of the Constitution. There is no time for delay.
Remove this treasonous president. Invite his own party to join the effort to remove him now, or to share now and forever Trump’s guilt.
On Wednesday, thousands of Trump supporters flocked to Washington to protest and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. They listened to their president say he would never concede, that American elections were no longer free or fair. Then he [Trump]implored his audience to march on the Capitol building. Moments later, Trump supporters chanting, “This is our house” broke past police lines at the Capitol.
For close observers of the pro-Trump and far-right extremist movements, this dark moment has felt almost inevitable. You can draw a straight line from the message-board fever swamps to Mr. Trump’s rallies to Charlottesville to “Stand back and stand by” to this. It is a desperate attempt to overthrow the democratic process. It is also the crash of a universe of toxic conspiracies against the rocks of human reality.
“The way I am seeing it is as a crescendo,” Marc-André Argentino, a researcher who studies the QAnon movement, told me earlier this week referring to the planned protest. . . . . “There is the sense that in some circles all hope for a Trump win will be lost,” Mr. Argentino said. “For others it’s the end of a Trump era, when they had free rein. For some it’s frustration at upcoming liberal governance and lockdown measures.”
As Wednesday’s siege of the Capitol demonstrates, we’re entering a volatile moment. Those who’ve been cocooned in Facebook groups and fed a steady diet of lies from election-denial outlets like Newsmax and One America News are coming to a realization that there is no grand plan for Mr. Trump to magically retain office. In forums like The_Donald, die-hard supporters are furious, not only at congressional Republicans who’ve refused to deny the election results, but also at Mr. Trump himself.
For Trump supporters and QAnon believers, the cognitive dissonance in this moment is frightening to behold. . . . That is just one example of the long-term effects of an endless stream of propaganda, conspiracy and lies. But there are so many. Here’s a short list from just the past few weeks:
· A group of at least 13 Republican senators and more than 100 Republican House members said they would refuse to accept President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
· The president of the United States was caught on tape for over an hour angrily spouting QAnon conspiracy theories about voter fraud in an attempt to pressure Georgia state officials to overturn the election results.
· In Nashville, federal investigators announced they are looking into evidence that suggests the Christmas bombing suspect believed in lizard people and other far-fetched conspiracy theories.
Each example is concerning on its own. Taken together, these events show a country in crisis. As a reluctant chronicler of our poisoned information ecosystem, to me none of this is very surprising. It is the culmination of more than five years of hatred, trolling, violent harassment and conspiracy theorizing that has moved from the internet’s underbelly to the White House and back again.
For years now, professional grifters, trolls, true believers and political opportunists have sowed conspiratorial lies, creating intricate and dangerous alternate realities. We are now witnessing the reaping. It is likely to get worse.
There’s no easy solution to our current crisis, in part because there’s no one culprit. Donald Trump’s half-decade assault on the truth has played an outsize role. So have social media platforms and pro-Trump outlets like Fox News. The mainstream press has also struggled, especially earlier in the Trump era, to counter disinformation and not amplify lies and conspiracies.
But what is perhaps most frightening is that the alternate reality that many Trump supporters and anti-vaxxers and QAnon believers cling to doesn’t exist — a fact that sooner or later will avail itself to many true believers. And it is at that moment of cognitive dissonance — the moment the bubble begins to burst — that the plausible danger that experts have been warning about for years becomes real.
Everyone from Trump on down who have trafficked in knowing, deliberate lies - think Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley for starters - needs to be held accountable and, when possible, punished.
The New Testament asks us in Mark 8:36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”
Senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson and all their fellow G.O.P. coup plotters clearly have forgotten that verse — if they ever knew it — for they are ready to sacrifice their souls, the soul of their party and the soul of America — our tradition of free and fair elections as the means for peacefully transferring power — so that Donald Trump can remain president and one of these sleazebags can eventually replace him.
The governing “philosophy” of these unprincipled Trump-cult Republicans is unmistakably clear: “Democracy is fine for us as long as it is a mechanism for us to be in control. If we can’t hold power, then to hell with rules and to hell with the system. Power doesn’t flow from the will of the people — it flows from our will and our leader’s will.”
For America to be healthy again, decent Republicans — in office and in business — need to break away from this unprincipled Trump-cult G.O.P. and start their own principled conservative party. It is urgent.
Even if only a small group of principled, center-right lawmakers — and the business leaders who fund them — broke away and formed their own conservative coalition, they would become hugely influential in today’s closely divided Senate. They could be a critical swing faction helping to decide which Biden legislation passes, is moderated or fails.
Meanwhile, the Trump-rump G.O.P. cult would become what it needs to become for America to grow together again — a discredited, powerless minority of crackpots waiting around for Trump’s latest tweet to tell them what to do, say and believe.
I know that fracturing an established party is not easy (or likely). But the principled Republicans, those who have courageously and dutifully defended Joe Biden’s electoral victory, have to ask themselves: “In a few days, when all of this is over, are we going to just go back to business as usual with people who are, in effect, attempting the first legislative coup d’état in American history?”
Because when this episode is over, Trump will be doing or saying something else outrageous to undermine Biden and to make collaboration impossible, and the Trump lap dogs, like Cruz, Hawley, Johnson and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, will be demanding the party go along to serve their political interests, putting the principled Republicans in a daily bind. Every week there will be a new loyalty test.
There is simply no equivalence now between our two major parties. In the primaries, an overwhelming majority of Democrats, led by moderate African-Americans, chose to go with the center-left Biden, not the far-left defund-the-police-democratic-socialist wing.
Across the aisle, Trump’s G.O.P. became such a cult that it decided at its convention that it would offer no party platform. Its platform would be whatever its Dear Leader wanted on any given day. When any party stops thinking — and stops drawing any redlines around a leader as unethical as Trump — he’ll keep taking it deeper and deeper into the abyss, right up to the gates of Hell. Where it’s now arrived.
We saw that this weekend with Trump’s Mafia-like effort to squeeze Georgia’s secretary of state to just “find” him 11,780 votes and declare him the state’s winner by one vote over Biden. And we will see it in an even uglier version in Wednesday’s session in Congress. The Trump cultists will try to transform a ceremony designed exclusively to confirm the Electoral College votes submitted by each state — Biden 306 and Trump 232 — into an attempt to get Congress to nullify the electoral votes of swing states that Trump lost.
If I were the editor of this newspaper, I’d print all of their pictures on a full page, under the headline: “Never Forget These Faces: These Lawmakers Had a Choice Between Loyalty to Our Constitution and to Trump, and They Chose Trump.”
If you have any doubts that these people are engaged in seditious behavior, their more principled Republican colleagues do not. . . . the coup-plotter caucus will fail. But ask yourself this: What if Trump’s allies controlled the House, the Senate and the Supreme Court and got their way — actually used some 11th-hour legislative maneuver and nullified Biden’s victory?
Hawley, Cruz, Johnson and their ilk even more despicable. They have so little self-respect that they’re ready to lick the shine off of Donald Trump’s boots down to his last second in office, in hopes of inheriting his followers — should he not run again in 2024. And they are counting on a majority of their more principled colleagues voting to certify Biden’s election — to make sure their effort fails.
That way, they’ll get the best of all worlds — credit with Trump voters for pursuing his Big Lie — his fraudulent allegation that the elections were a fraud — without plunging us into civil war. But the long-term price will still be profound — diminishing the confidence of many Americans in the integrity of our free and fair elections as the basis for peacefully transferring power.
Can you imagine anything more cynical?
Shareholders of every major U.S. corporation should make sure that these companies’ political action committees are barred from making campaign contributions to anyone who participates in Wednesday’s coup attempt.
At the same time, “we the people” need fight the Trump cult’s Big Lie with the Big Truth. I hope every news organization, and every citizen, refers to Hawley, Cruz, Johnson and their friends now and forever more as “coup plotters.”
Make all those who have propagated this Big Lie about election fraud to justify voting with Trump and against our Constitution carry the title — “coup plotter” — forever.
It won’t be sufficient to fix what ails us — we still need a new conservative party for that — but it sure is necessary to give others pause about trying this again.