The GOP Is Rapidly Making Its Way to Embrace of the Insurrection

Supporters of President Donald Trump stand next to media equipment they destroyed during their insurrection on January 6, 2021 outside the Capitol in Washington, DC. (Photo by AGNES BUN/AFP via Getty Images)
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January 29, 2021 12:39 p.m.

What we see most clearly today is the GOP moving quickly to align itself with the instigators of the January 6 insurrection and the coup plotters who laid the groundwork for it. This may seem like hyperbole, but it is not. Kevin McCarthy, who earlier this month was saying President Trump bore responsibility for instigating the assault, is now making his pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to meet with the disgraced former President and secure his blessing. The only Republicans who stood clearly against the insurrection – like Liz Cheney – are being purged from the party. Trumpist luminaries like Tucker Carlson are already mocking the fears of representatives who feared they’d be murdered on January 6. (That’s right out of the rightist troll culture where you’re blamed for the predation against you for “not getting it.”) Senators like Ted Cruz say it’s time to move on from this violent assault that happened a mere three weeks ago and was instigated by a President who left office one week ago.

The GOP has had a series of decision points over recent months, the most recent of which was after the January 6 insurrection. The shock of actually being the targets of the assault in many cases created a moment of hesitation. But that wore off quickly. Axios is now serving as the channel for what amounts to threats of new insurrections and mass violence over the results of the election. Axios quotes Tucker Carlson saying the current situation is “not a sustainable moment” and “something will break.” As Axios (albeit somewhat validating the GOP complaints) puts it aptly: “The calls for calm and rethinking [after the insurrection] among some GOP leaders grew fast into claims of grievance and revolution.”

Each decision not to draw a line on the path of political extremism exerts a concomitant force pulling the GOP still deeper into the politics of extremism and threatened violence. This ratcheting effect is too little appreciated. Each episode of enabling and deflecting draws the institutional GOP deeper into the clutches of insurrectionist politics.

This is the reality that we’re operating with. After early efforts to deflect blame or even blame Antifa for the Capitol insurrection, Republicans are shifting to the view that it was understandable, even justified and may need to happen again to secure Republican ends.

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