Reprinted with permission from Press Run
Following a day of gut-wrenching surveillance videos depicting a violent, deadly mob teeming into the U.S. Capitol on January 6, some journalists covering Trump's impeachment trial expressed bewilderment at how Republican senators serving as jurors would be able to vote to dismiss the charges.
"How will they justify acquitting the man who sent a mob for them to stop the counting of electoral votes?" asked CNN, wondering if, "Republican senators will find their conscience changed, or vote the way Trump wants them to"?
On NBC, Chuck Todd stressed that Republicans faced a difficult choice because, "History is not going to look kindly on this acquittal vote." Specifically, he mentioned how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was an traditionalist who cares "about these institutions," and that he's "keeping an open mind" about impeachment.
This is GOP mythology. McConnell has already voted twice to stop the impeachment trial. The idea the Beltway press keeps pushing that he might suddenly turn on Trump with a dramatic flurry and vote to convict seems like pure fantasy. And McConnell supposedly cares so much about "institutions" that he rammed through a U.S. Supreme Court nominee days before the 2020 election, four years after refusing to even hold hearings on President Barack Obama's Court nominee, Merrick Garland.
McConnell is reportedly telling his GOP colleagues that the decision to convict or not should be a vote of conscience. But what if there's little or no conscience left inside the Republican caucus? How does the press adequately relate that defining feature in its impeachment news coverage?
Republicans who vote to acquit a remorseless Trump will sleep just fine at night. These are the same group of Republicans who advanced the Big Lie all winter that Trump may have won the election, after having lost by seven million votes. It's the same collection that stood by while the White House unleashed the most vicious and sustained attack on U.S. election integrity in the last century, and who said nothing while Trump demanded his political enemies be jailed, as well as pressured Georgia elections officials in January to go "find" him enough votes (11,780) to swing that state's election tally.
Why on earth do D.C. journalists think that voting "No" on impeachment would change the equation and create an ethical dilemma for Republicans? Why are reporters so committed to the myth that a GOP tipping point exists?
The wayward assumption continues to be, that of course Republicans support free and fair elections. Of course they oppose white supremacy. And of course they want to help families that have been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Those claims have no basis in fact today. Yet that remains the Beltway media's starting point. Specifically, that the GOP has been torn apart by Trump and there's a burning desire to "move on" from his erratic and hateful ways. That a "reckoning" awaits.
That's the story the Beltway press likes to tell. It's just not true.
I'm with Esquire's Charles Pierce: "The other state of being for which I no longer have time is mystification. As in, "How can Republicans still essentially vote in favor of the mob that came after the Congress with blood in its eyes?""
CNN reported this week, "For most Republican senators, Wednesday's presentation did not seem to affect how they'll vote." But why? Why after seeing intangible proof that the Trump mob set out to murder members of Congress, including Republicans, why are Republican senators overwhelmingly going to sign off on acquittal? In other words, what is wrong with the Republican Party? That's the simple, central question that does not get asked. Instead, we see punditry about how Trump still maintains political control over the party, and GOP members are concerned about a backlash.
Analyzing why Republican Florida senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott can't be swayed, Politico noted, "Rubio is on a clear path for re-election, but he would invite a GOP challenger if he doesn't stand with the former president…Scott, now running the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, remains on a track that could make him a contender in 2024."
That's how the GOP's radical, unethical nature continues to be normalized — empowering Trump's lawbreaking is presented as simply being smart politics.
When Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) did surprise the GOP this week by becoming the sixth member to vote in favor of the impeachment trial continuing, the New York Times headline read, "A Louisiana Senator's Turn Towards the Political Middle." That suggests that only players in the political middle (and on the left) are concerned by Trump's inciting of a mob. That framing absolves those on the right, despite the fact that anyone with a conscience ought to be concerned.
Remember that this is the same press corps that slow-walked Trump's months-long attempted coup, until it broke out into horrific violence on January 6, catching the media completely off guard.
Instead of accurately describing his post-election, authoritarian attempt to steal an election by invalidating millions of votes, for weeks and months we saw news updates about Trump's "tactics," his vague "moves" and "chicanery"; his legal "strategy" and "power play" while "sulking" and "brooding" inside the White House. Early on, Politico dismissed Trump's ongoing rampage as nothing more than "performance art" and "bad sportsmanship."
The Republican Party under Trump has morphed into something sinister and dangerous. The model that the press used for decades to cover the GOP is now clearly obsolete.