Americans of all stripes must agree that what happened that day was a historic and clarifying tragedy, and a deal breaker for many of Trump’s political allies. For some, even apparently Senator Mitch McConnell, it was an extremely late dose of reality that knocked the political posturing briefly out of their repertoire. (Not to give McConnell even an iota of credit for doing the bare minimum.)
For others, however, the insurrection didn’t even deter them from objecting to Joe Biden’s electoral votes when it finally came time to count them. For seven Republican senators and over 120 representatives, including one who was recorded at a rally on Wednesday declaring what Hitler was right about, the day’s events weren’t enough to drop a curtain on the political theater.
Some of those politicians even adopted Trump’s tactic of throwing out wild, demonstrably false conspiracy theories to evade any accountability for his actions—in Florida representative Matt Gaetz’s case, claiming that the coup was perpetuated by Antifa. (The attorney general of Texas agrees and told his followers as much.)
Recognizing the gravity of this failed insurrection also means unilaterally condemning Trumpian politicians such as Gaetz, who are either as susceptible to disinformation as Trump is, or who cynically wield it to score points with their fringe base, as Trump also does.
Even more important than appreciating the momentousness of this coup attempt is confirming that it was not an anomaly, but rather the apotheosis of Trumpism. The storming of Capitol Hill contained all the usual tropes of a Trump rally—QAnon, white nationalism, etc.—just with actual violence rather than mere allusion and dog-whistling innuendo.
That’s why Don Jr. and his cohort are desperately trying to deflect responsibility by pitching the coup as an aberration, rather than a logical conclusion. But this wasn’t the fringe of Trumpism: This is what Trump is.
It’s obvious, considering how unbothered Trump is by what happened, and how many Republicans are still taking their cues from him. The point is made even clearer by Trump’s actions. Rather than condemn his supporters who carried out the insurrection, he fired acting Department of Homeland Security secretary Josh Wolf on Thursday after Wolf asked Trump to condemn them.
If Trump isn’t sufficiently stigmatized, his apparent loyalists such as Senators Hawley and Cruz will walk around with their heads held high, feeling hunky-dory about their part in the deadly coup attempt. It will mean that Trumpism has potential future successors in politics, and that when Republicans lose elections henceforth, they can always cry foul about a supposed steal. (Fox News already laid the groundwork for this idea during the Georgia Senate runoff races.)
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