The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: capitol riot denial

The Capitol Riot Aftermath Bodes Ill For Democracy

Someday, the past year or so may be remembered as a bout of temporary insanity among a large share of the American people. This group refused to take basic precautions against a devastating pandemic, swallowed the lies of a president who had lost an election, and excused a violent mob that attacked the Capitol to prevent Congress from doing its constitutional duty.

Or maybe not. Maybe it will come to seem perfectly normal. Maybe this period will be known as the time when we lost our bearings for good, dooming us to a catastrophic national unravelling.

The rise in insanity is hard to overstate. A recent poll found that 20 percent of Americans — including half of those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 — believe the inoculation implants a microchip that the government can use to track them. Nearly half of Republicans don't plan to get vaccinated.

Even as the Delta variant fuels a surge in infection, governors in some red states have rejected mask requirements in public schools, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowing to "provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely."

Right-wing politicians and their media allies have spread the preposterous claim that massive fraud deprived Donald Trump of reelection. A May Reuters-Ipsos poll showed that 61 percent of Republicans believe it. An April Reuters-Ipsos poll found that a majority of them agree that "the January 6 riot at the Capitol was led by violent left-wing protestors trying to make Trump look bad."

It gets worse. A poll sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute found that the lunatic QAnon movement has gained a significant following, with 23 percent of Republicans affirming that "the government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation." GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado have praised QAnon.

This week's hearings on the Capitol insurrection were another reminder of the alarming radicalization of the Republican Party, something exploited and encouraged by Trump.

The mob set up a gallows, chanted "Hang Mike Pence," forced both Republican and Democratic members to flee for their lives and savagely beat police officers. But congressional Republicans now want to move on, treating it as a minor incident grossly exaggerated by Democrats and the media — rather than an extremist effort to block a legitimate transfer of power.

GOP senators blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the attack. House Republicans tried in vain to stock a House committee with Trump henchmen who could be counted on to disrupt the inquiry.

Many Republican politicians are too infatuated with Trump — or too afraid of him — to admit the terrifying scope of the danger the insurrection represents. The party's elected officials have become a coalition of crazies and cowards.

It fell to a lonely pair of GOP conservatives, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, to join the House investigative committee and decry the events of January 6 as a horrific attack on the nation and the Constitution.

Kinzinger did something else, debunking the pernicious claim that the Capitol attack was not as bad as the riots that erupted in cities last summer over the police murder of George Floyd.

"I was called on to serve during the summer riots as an Air National Guardsman," he said. "I condemned those riots and the destruction of property that resulted. But not once did I ever feel that the future of self-government was threatened like I did on January 6. There is a difference between breaking the law and rejecting the rule of law, between a crime — even grave crimes — and a coup."

In Tuesday's hearing, Kinzinger struck a hopeful note: "Democracies are not defined by our bad days. We're defined by how we come back from bad days."

But the response of Republicans to the attack is even more ominous than the attack itself. The aftermath offered a moment for them to confront the cancer that has embedded itself in the party and act to cut it out. They refused.

The majority of GOP voters have insisted on rationalizing or defending the insurrection while staying loyal to the defeated president who did so much to incite it. By indulging them, Republican leaders are inviting more of the same — and worse.

What kind of democracy is defined by its bad days? A dying one.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

Was The Insurrection Just Another Day In America?

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

Is America getting a thirst for blood?

It's a question I ask after hearing too many Republicans dismiss the January 6 attack on the Capitol by a violent pro-Trump mob trying to halt the counting of American citizens' votes as a "normal tourist visit," in the words of Georgia Rep. Andrew S. Clyde, the same Clyde seen — mouth open and terrified — helping to barricade the besieged doors that day.

When I was a Baltimore schoolgirl, we often visited Washington, D.C., to tour the monuments. It was an easy and informative field trip, barely an hour away by bus. Now kids can occasionally be unruly, and the nuns had to raise their voices once or twice. But I don't recall ever erecting gallows on the Capitol lawn, breaking windows or pummeling police officers with batons and their own shields. In fact, I'm sure it would have made the front pages if a bunch of Black grade schoolers from St. Pius V Elementary ventured a foot beyond the velvet ropes, let alone desecrated the beautiful marble floors of a government building by using them as a toilet.

Have things changed that much for Clyde and all the others asking Americans and the world not to believe their lying eyes?

The list includes Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who said it "didn't look like an armed insurrection to me" and insisted he had no fear of the mob shouting "Hang Mike Pence" because they weren't, you know, Black Lives Matter protesters.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) called the rioters "peaceful patriots" and derided law enforcement tracking them down.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said on the House floor that "the people that breached the Capitol on January 6 are being abused," with the cognitive dissonance that has become her trademark.

They are all taking their cues from the former president and current leader of the GOP, Donald Trump, who has described January 6 as a veritable love fest, with insurrectionists "hugging and kissing the police and the guards."

That's an awful lot of gaslighting — not the word that immediately comes to mind but one I believe those nuns would prefer I use.

A Different Time

On 9/11, the world saw the planes hit the buildings. But there were still so many questions: Who planned it? How did security fail? What needed to be done so it could never happen again? There was an immediate call for a bipartisan, independent commission, just as there was after January 6. But 20 years ago, perhaps because it was a foreign enemy, leaders of both parties could agree and make it happen.

Now the monster is inside the house. And the horrific thing is, a lot of folks love this monster.

It's only logical for Republicans who once castigated Trump for sending his amped-up crowd on the march and refusing to quickly step in to halt the chaos to now back away from any reflection, even though the commission rules were negotiated in part by one of their own, New York Rep. John Katko. The House members who fell in line and most Senate Republicans would rather downplay a stunning act of domestic terrorism that tried to bring down democracy, and instead concentrate on consolidating power in elections to come. The 2022 midterms are approaching, and there is so much on the party's plate — so many voting restrictions to enact and 2020 results to audit, over and over again.

What scares me most, though, is the realization that all that obfuscation and all the excuses that GOP leaders such as Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell are offering for opposition to the commission are not really necessary. For way too many Americans, the violence is the cost of doing business, if the business is maintaining a government of the (right) people, by the (right) people, for the (right) people, to grotesquely twist the words of famous Republican Abraham Lincoln.

Greene has been rewarded for her belligerence — be it the creepy and years-long stalking of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), or her confronting a teen survivor of a school shooting. The donations roll in to this representative without a committee assignment, who seems to spend most of her time in a calculated state of rage, the "angry white woman" of nightmares.

An American Perspectives Survey from January found that more than 1 in 3 Americans (36 percent) agreed with the statement: "The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it." That's a minority, to be sure, but still too close for comfort. A majority of Republicans (56 percent) supported the use of force, with independents at 35 percent and Democrats at 22 percent.

Nearly 3 in 10 Americans (29 percent) completely or somewhat agreed with the statement: "If elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves even if it requires taking violent actions." According to the survey: "The use of violence finds somewhat more support among Republicans than Democrats, although most Republicans oppose it. Roughly four in 10 (39 percent) Republicans support Americans taking violent actions if elected leaders fail to act. … Thirty-one percent of independents and 17 percent of Democrats also support taking violent actions if elected leaders do not defend the country."

And They're Armed

When you link those numbers with the fact that a majority of Republicans believe the "big lie" that the 2020 election was stolen, that's a frightening number of aggrieved Americans, and a lot of them carry guns. Remember, in Trump we had a president who rather than disavow a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, trolled her with insults before, during, and after the plan was revealed.

More states are following the example of Texas, primed to enact a law that permits Texans to carry handguns without license or training, making it easier to shoot to kill than vote in the state, one that saw a massacre by a racist hunting Mexican Americans in El Paso.

It doesn't escape my notice that while the predominantly white crowd of Capitol rioters wanted to disqualify the votes of American citizens in cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Detroit — voters who looked like me — they worshipped Second Amendment protections that often don't extend to African Americans, to Philando Castile, a Minnesotan with a permit he was shot reaching for, or Tamir Rice and John Crawford, shot immediately by law enforcement in the open-carry state of Ohio while they were holding guns that weren't real.

In none of these cases did the usually vocal NRA spin a good-guy-with-a-gun narrative.

Inequality, delusions of a country slipping away, and armed citizens willing to do something about it equals a true recipe for violent disaster.

We've been here before. As a reminder of just how incendiary it can get, note that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when white citizens, abetted and assisted by law enforcement, torched and bombed "Black Wall Street," the homes and businesses of Black Oklahomans, and murdered hundreds of their fellow Tulsans. It happened because a lot of "ordinary" Americans were OK with it, and hid evidence of the crime.

It's not just that an insurrection is being "disappeared." It's that my fellow Americans, especially the ones who lead, apparently think it was just another day in America.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.