But more importantly, McConnell, who found himself between truth clarification and riot, fell straight on the insurgent side.
Wyoming MP Liz Cheney, the only GOP Congresswoman who has clearly told the truth about Trump's "betrayal" of the nation without getting mushy, has now been the subject of a targeted revenge campaign by Trump and his henchmen. The lion's share of Cheney's time over the next two years will be spent in an existential struggle to keep her leadership position, keep a Republican elementary school for its seat, and survive.
Meanwhile, federal agents at FBI headquarters are likely making connections between at least a handful of Republican lawmakers and far-right groups in spoke-wheel analysis diagrams – a suggestion that puzzled former FBI deputy director Frank Figliuzzi at MSNBC. "To believe that the pictures of US Congressmen in an office at FBI headquarters are now on the connected dots charts is incredible to me," he said Friday. House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi this week referred to a group of radical GOP lawmakers fairly bluntly as the enemy "within" as their Democratic members advocate increased personal protection from their Republican counterparts.
But as bad as the most extreme associations of GOP officials like Paul Gosar of Arizona and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia are, it is the electoral fraud that Republican leaders continue to foment that is the greatest long-term threat to our democracy. These lies will lead to violence, mass annihilation and even systematic abuse of innocent Americans by the US government when a waiting autocrat comes to power. And many of those autocrat wannabes are waiting in the wings to benefit from the riots alongside Sens. Josh Hawley from Missouri and Ted Cruz from Texas.
As recently as this week, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who has sparked a particularly deadly response to the pandemic, refused to answer whether Biden's 2020 win was the result of a free and fair election. In November Noem claimed the election was "rigged" and she clearly wants that characterization to remain her defining explanation of Trump's loss.
And Fox News host Tucker Carlson is arming the federal government's new effort to crack down on white supremacist and domestic terrorist groups. After playing a clip from California's Rep. Adam Schiff this week saying that federal law enforcement officers should retool to combat domestic extremism "Just like we did after 9/11 to combat the threat of international terrorism," Carlson transformed the sentiment into an ad hominem attack on all GOP voters.
"Got it? You wrongly and you are a jihad," Carlson said. "You thought you were an American citizen with rights and a different point of view, but no, you are a jihad and we will treat you as we have Treated these radicals after 9/11 the way we treated bin Laden. Get in line, mate. This is a war on terror. "
No, it is not a war against Republican voters, it is a fight against right-wing groups and individuals who use violence to achieve political ends. What we now have to accept as Americans is that one of the parties in our two-party system is helping to radicalize domestic terrorists at home. In other words, it works functionally as a domestic terrorist organization or as the House of Representatives spokesman, well, by not telling Republican voters the truth about Trump's false election fraud lie or, worse, selling the dangerous notion that GOP voters are targeted only for their own ends taken from views, Republican leaders instigate a sense of helplessness that leads people to believe that their only option is to improve the system.
"When these people embrace the former president's rhetoric … when they embrace the extremist rhetoric that the democratic process has been broken and the elections stolen, they make people think that their only recourse is violence, not the political process. "stated Miles Taylor, the person who once wrote the dubious" Anonymous "in the New York Times but still has a window into domestic terrorism and the Trump administration's efforts to cover up the threat. Taylor spoke to MSNBC on Thursday and described the GOP's stance as "extremely dangerous". He added that "we have never seen anything like it in modern American times".
To be clear, our current political picture is that of democracy in retreat, and the Republican Party is actively promoting this destabilization. Violence as we saw it on Jan. 6 is only the tip of the iceberg, and the vast majority of GOP officials are either afraid that the monster will now devour their party (e.g. Ohio Senator Rob Portman retiring) or terribly trying to figure out how to use the outrage for their own political gain.
But as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted: "Democracy cannot work with a weapon. "
No i can't Any normal column would end about now, but the question is clear: what are we doing with all of this to save our democracy? And while I don't have all the answers, I'll share a few sneak picks, most of which were inspired by the Throughline podcast on the anatomy of tyranny with historian Timothy Snyder (I highly recommend hearing and watching the episode with the Russian-born journalist Masha Gessen also fell).
In short, we need a double short-term and long-term approach. In the short term, the Democrats must continue to win elections. Period. In addition, we must actually help make people's lives better and more stable by providing decent jobs, reliable health care and, right now, immediate economic relief. As Snyder noted, chaos and instability only feed the beast by making people more helpless and angry. In order for people to have the bandwidth to listen to one another in a democracy, they must have a certain degree of stability and the prospect of opportunities in their lives.
In the longer term, it is imperative that we hold Trump accountable to deter him from demigod status among the Trumpers and from establishing a shadow presidency (for which he is clearly already in the process of cementing power). The FBI must rigorously monitor and prosecute extremists, which sounds obvious. But the people who attacked the Capitol must be clearly marked as involved in a crime against the state. And more federal funding needs to be devoted to fighting domestic terrorism.
But the bigger goal here is to do whatever it takes to keep Trump's "big lie" about electoral fraud and disenfranchisement in general from going on unchallenged so that it gains momentum over a period of years. Snyder, the author of On Tyranny, told Throughline it was the kind of lie many Germans believed about Jews that Hitler fueled and then used to seize and consolidate power. Here's Snyder on a separate NPR piece:
A big lie has a unique power, says Timothy Snyder, the Levin Professor of History at Yale University Books These include studies on Hitler, Josef Stalin, the Holocaust and tyranny.
"There are lies that, if you believe in them, rearrange everything," he says.
"Hannah Arendt, the political thinker, spoke about the fabric of reality," says Snyder. "And a big lie is a lie big enough to tear the fabric of reality."
In his Cover story For the New York Times Magazine this week, Snyder calls Trump "the high priest of the great lie".
Snyder writes where big lies lead: "Post-truth is prefascism, and Trump was our president after the truth."
"When I say prefascism, when you take facts away, you open the way for something else," Snyder told NPR. "You open the way for someone to say 'I am the truth. I am your voice' to quote Mr. Trump – what fascists actually said. The three-word chants, the idea that the press is the enemy of the people: these are all fascist concepts. "
"That doesn't mean Trump is quite a fascist himself," adds Snyder. "Imagine what comes next, right? Imagine the big lie continues. Imagine someone who uses it more skillfully than he does. Then we begin to move into clearly fascist territory . "
All of this is far too big to address in one piece, but we need more real-world facts to reach people who instead turn to sources like YouTube and Facebook to selectively bolster their worldview. Part of it is that local newsrooms across the country have been decimated. Part of it also due to a lack of education and critical thinking skills. We need to make education affordable and find ways to reintegrate fact-based news into American life so that it's not only accessible to the elite.
And finally, as much as I'm not a fan of almost every Republican, we desperately need those who were at least willing to tell the truth about Trump's lie. The 10 House Republicans who voted for the indictment and the five Senate Republicans who at least voted to continue the trial can be part of the solution, although some of them have also done significant damage as part of the problem . We should definitely try to beat every Republican at the ballot box, but at least I'm willing to give these 15 Republicans a small loan. To a greater and lesser extent, some of them actually risked their lives because of the maddening of the fringes of the GOP base.
However, many of the short and long term solutions involve developing a more robust welfare state. Republicans are going to spend the next four years crowing that we just can't afford it because there is a deficit (which they haven't given any thought to in the past four years). Given our current situation, it is clear that we cannot afford not to make these investments as the cost of doing so could be democracy itself.