Republicans in Congress are playing a dangerous game, again, this time trying to dodge responsibility for having incited the violent mob attack on the U.S. Capitol, rather than address the ongoing threat head-on.
Their new posture is premised on the notion that what happened last Wednesday was a one-off protest that got out of hand. This is false.
That attack was merely part of—note, not “the terminus of”—an ongoing, multi-pronged assault on the foundation of our democratic system by hostile actors.
It is an assault that nearly all members of the Republican congressional caucus have taken part in; some as witting pro-insurrection cultists, and others as cowardly, cowering coddlers.
Where do we go from here?
1) An FBI bulletin reports that “Armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the U.S. Capitol from 17 January through 20 January.”
2) Militia members are plotting a January 19 action in Washington, D.C.
3) TheDonald.Win forum members are calling for political executions.
4) The president who incited the insurrection is set to speak today in Alamo, Texas. This symbolism is not lost on his supporters.
5) After the insurrection, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell—who has sponsored and funded the “news outlets” that fomented it—put a video on Instagram saying that the effort to overturn the election is not over; that this is “the biggest crime in election history”; that Biden’s inauguration should be delayed if Trump does not stay in power; and that keeping Trump in power will “prevent civil war.” As of yesterday, Lindell was not backing down from his continued claims of fraud.
6) Since the insurrection many of the “news” outlets that fomented it are completely unchastened, and their propaganda is continuing to be shared by Republican elected officials.
Now consider how Republicans in government are continuing to try to derail the transfer of power:
1) The FBI, DOJ, and DHS have all been silent about the attack, avoiding any public briefing for fear of offending the president who perpetrated it. (Though it should be said that the FBI seems to be doing a fair job of tracking down and arresting suspects.)
2) Administration officials who are ostensibly in charge of homeland security are resigning rather than engaging in crisis management.
3) The Senate isn’t even in session. Mitch McConnell cited their vacation as an excuse for not holding a Trump impeachment trial. There have been no hearings about the sacking of the Capitol.
4) For the first time in the last ten transitions, the GOP Senate is not confirming Biden cabinet members prior to the inauguration. That’s right: There will be no Homeland Security secretary, attorney general, secretary of State, or secretary of Health and Human Services when Joe Biden takes office in the wake of a domestic terror attack during a pandemic which has killed nearly 400,000 Americans.
5) Republican officials continue to call for investigations into imaginary fraud in order to appease the insurrectionists.
6) Several Republican officials have threatened the possibility of more violence if Trump is held to account for his actions.
Take all of these data points together and what you have is an active, ongoing threat to our democratic system from forces both inside and outside the government.
A responsible government—and let’s be frank here, a responsible political party—would be acting in concert to stamp out this threat using every tool necessary and making the transition to a stable successor government as smooth as possible.
Instead what we have is the Republican party doing everything in its power to avoid addressing the threat, making the succession to the Biden administration as challenging as possible, and desperately trying to protect Donald Trump from consequences under the insane rubric of “national unity.”
Rob Portman, who is the incoming top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is both slow-rolling the confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas—despite the fact that Trump’s acting head of Homeland Security has resigned—and proposing a “blue-ribbon” commission on fabricated voter fraud. Both of which are pretend gestures meant to appease Trump supporters even though they are compounding real-life catastrophes that are actually happening and ongoing.
This is a dangerous moment. For months Republicans told the country that they were just “humoring” the president. That there was nothing to worry about. That was a lie, a wish that they were hoping to get away with, since they were too timorous to tackle the threat that was bubbling up before our eyes.
They are running the same play again, right now: Asking that America turn the page, hope for the best, and run out the clock of the Trump presidency. And pray that nothing else bad happens.
If we haven’t learned what a terrible “strategy” this is by now, then we never will.
The attacks on our country that Donald Trump has agitated for are ongoing. And democracy doesn’t just defend itself.
Correction: 1/12/21, 10:15AM – Rob Portman is the incoming Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee ranking member, not chairman.