In lieu of any better argument or possible defense of President Donald Trump’s and their own actions, Republicans have settled on a patently ludicrous call for unity.
And that’s put Democrats in the surreal position of having to remind their suddenly kumbaya Republican colleagues that it was their statements inflaming and amplifying election conspiracy theories that the Capitol mob was acting on, and the leader of their party who egged the crowd on and gave them the final push to invade the building.
“Biden has a historic opportunity to unify America behind the sentiment that our political divisions have gone too far,” intoned Sen. Mark Rubio (R-FL) in a Friday video, a representative example in which he blamed everything from social media censorship to state election officials — but somehow not Trump — for the country’s current volatility.
“Those calling for impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment in response to President Trump’s rhetoric this week are themselves engaging in intemperate and inflammatory language and calling for action that is equally irresponsible and could well incite further violence,” tweeted Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) on Saturday.
“Continued calls to impeach the President or remove him from office using the 25th Amendment I don’t think are healthy for our nation,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in his usual shirtsleeves and with unusual mildness during a teleconference Rules Committee hearing Monday. “Rushing this resolution to the floor will do nothing to unify or heal the country.”
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), chairman of the Rules Committee that was running the hearing, was incredulous.
“All it took for you to call for unity and healing was for our freedom and our democracy to be attacked,” he told Jordan, his snark muffled by his mask. “But for the last several months, the gentleman from Ohio and others have given oxygen to the President’s conspiracy theories.”
“And I just,” he continued haltingly. “And we all want healing, but in order to get to healing, we need truth and we need accountability.”
The “unity” defense against removing Trump comes with a sinister undercurrent. By using it to bat away Democratic remedies like impeachment, it implicitly threatens the unsaid: disunity.
In this case, last week, that disunity was manifested in the form of a violent mob clutching lead pipes and zip ties, scouring the Capitol for the office where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) can usually be found.
The defense amounts to either unknowing submission to the mob or actively using its capacity for harm as a cudgel to achieve the lawmakers’ own political ends.
Those political ends for most Republicans, of course, involve not angering Trump and his supporters by green-lighting his second impeachment.
For most Republican lawmakers, pushing to absolve the President is also about pushing to absolve themselves. Forgetting the troubles of the past and coming together as a country means forgetting that the Republican Party instigated and amplified the delusional anger that the mob felt.
Most Republican lawmakers used their megaphones and status to cast doubt on the election, to refuse calling Joe Biden the President-Elect, to somehow feed their supporters hope that Trump still had a chance.
Dan Judy, Vice President of North Star Opinion Research, a consultancy for Republican candidates, told TPM that the “unity” pushers can be put in two categories. The first, Republicans who opposed Trump’s rhetoric on election fraud and voted to uphold the Electoral College certification, have at least a “credible and morally consistent argument” when they say that an impeachment would further rip apart the country, he said.
Not so for the other Republicans, those that fed into and amplified Trump’s conspiracy theories, he added.
“Calls for unity from them with no acknowledgement of the President’s part in this simply have no credibility beyond the hardest-core Trump base,” he said.