Violent rioters, egged on by the president of the United States, breached the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, causing members and staff to flee or barricade themselves inside the chamber.
Vice President Mike Pence was escorted to a safe location as President Donald Trump continued to berate him on Twitter. Lawless thugs attacked Capitol Police. Tear gas wafted through the Capitol.
This is the natural result of Trump’s weeks-long effort to delegitimize the election and overthrow our democracy. He lit the match when he called for “wild” protests in the nation’s capital.
The violence is also the natural result of Republicans’ refusal to confront – and when they had a chance, remove – a president who lived up to the worst fears of his opponents. The events preceding the chaos highlighted the role of congressional Republicans in triggering this unprecedented spasm of authoritarian-inspired violence.
As Trump’s rioting mob attacked police outside the Capitol building – a poignant example of the right’s hypocritical claim to be the “law and order” party – Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on the House floor attempted to substitute their will for that of the American people. They sought to challenge the votes of Gosar’s home state, an act of betrayal that in less serious circumstances would be comical.
Even more shamefully, a large portion of the House Republicans rose to give an ovation to the insurrection.
Once the Senate reconvened in its own chamber, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rose to defend the right of the people to determine our elections. He correctly warned: “We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids. The voters, the courts and the states have all spoken ... If we overrule them, it will damage our Republic forever.”
He should have stopped while he was ahead. Instead, he deplored a political universe in which we “keep drifting apart into two separate tribes with a separate set of facts and separate realities” and insisted democracy requires adherence to the truth. He deplored a political environment in which we are at war with one another and seek to undermine our institutions.
Coming from the man who defended Trump for four years; who refused to uphold his oath by ignoring replete facts of impeachable conduct; who abused the institution of the Senate to deny Merrick Garland a hearing on his Supreme Court nomination and then jammed through Amy Coney Barrett’s; who declared that desperately needed aid to fight the pandemic was a “blue state bailout;” and who refused to roundly condemn Trump’s calls to violence, this was galling. Tribalism and compulsive lying have defined the Republican Party over these past four years, aided and abetted by McConnell.
And as if to prove how lacking in credibility he is, McConnell bizarrely tried to accuse Democrats of attacking institutions and refusing to recognize the results of elections. This is a lie. Democrats never objected to electoral college votes for Trump. They never said he was not the elected president. They pursued ample evidence of Trump’s illegality and unconstitutional behavior. There is a world of difference.
McConnell deserves little praise for coming to his senses (sort of) after apparently losing the Senate majority in Georgia’s Senate runoff elections. He and his colleagues, aside from Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, should examine their consciences.
If there was a positive aspect to the events on Wednesday, it is that we saw Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, blow up his career and future presidential ambitions on the floor of the Senate. His essential argument was that people are now suspicious of the election results – because of his and Trump’s baseless conspiracies! – and so we must investigate. As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said, this is nothing more than an insurrection.
Between the right-wing rioters outside the Capitol to the insurrectionists inside, the Republican Party departs the Trump era in tatters and in disgrace. If the Republicans now arguing against the coup have an ounce of integrity, they should kick Cruz and his co-conspirators out of the caucus, deny them committee seats and run primary challengers against them. Their “colleagues” who wish to overthrow the government have rejected democracy. Now those in the GOP who claim to protect it should reject them.
Jennifer Rubin is a columnist for The Washington Post.