‘Its Own Domestic Army’: How the G.O.P. Allied Itself With Militants
As the Senate on Tuesday begins the impeachment trial of Mr. Trump on charges of inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol rioting, what happened in Michigan helps explain how, under his influence, party leaders aligned themselves with a culture of militancy to pursue political goals.
Michigan has a long tradition of tolerating self-described private militias, which are unusually common in the state. But it is also a critical electoral battleground that draws close attention from top party leaders, and the Republican alliance with paramilitary groups shows how difficult it may be for the national party to extricate itself from the shadow of the former president and his appeal to this aggressive segment of its base.
“We knew there would be violence,” said Representative Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan Democrat, about the Jan. 6 assault. Endorsing tactics like militiamen with assault rifles frightening state lawmakers “normalizes violence,” she told journalists last week, “and Michigan, unfortunately, has seen quite a bit of that.”
Analysis: A race war evident long before the Capitol siege
For a very long time, civil rights leaders, historians and experts on extremism say, many white Americans and elected leaders have failed to acknowledge that this war of white aggression was real, even as the bodies of innocent people piled up.
Racist notions about people of color, immigrants and politicians have been given mainstream media platforms, are represented in statues and symbols to slaveholders and segregationists, and helped demagogues win elections to high office.
The result? A critical mass of white people fears that multiculturalism, progressive politics and the equitable distribution of power spell their obsolescence, erasure and subjugation. And that fear, often exploited by those in power, has proven again and again to be among the most lethal threats to nonwhite Americans, according to racial justice advocates.
So how does the nation begin addressing the war of white aggression after countless missed opportunities?
Perry Bacon Jr/FiveThirtyEight:
In America’s ‘Uncivil War,’ Republicans Are The Aggressors
Biden didn’t explicitly say that the extremism, domestic terrorism and white supremacy is largely coming from one side of the uncivil war. But that’s the reality. In America’s uncivil war, both sides may hate the other, but one side — conservatives and Republicans — is more hostile and aggressive, increasingly willing to engage in anti-democratic and even violent attacks on their perceived enemies.
The Jan. 6 insurrection and the run-up to it is perhaps the clearest illustration that Republicans are being more hostile and anti-democratic than Democrats in this uncivil war. Biden pledged to concede defeat if he lost the presidential election fair and square, while Trump never made such a pledge; many elected officials in the GOP joined Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results; and finally, Trump supporters arrived at the Capitol to claim victory by force. But there are numerous other examples of conservatives and Republicans going overboard in their attempts to dominate liberals and Democrats:
Jill Lawrence/USA Today:
Trump legacy: Personal responsibility is for suckers and GOP means ‘Grievances On Parade’
Trump’s Senate impeachment trial and fake victims Josh Hawley and Marjorie Taylor Greene symbolize the Republican descent into whiny entitlement.
Not that there’s much suspense, given the GOP path since it embraced Trump and, in the memorable phrase from the late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, defined deviancy down. Moynihan was talking about mental health, family structure and crime. Trump has spearheaded the downward redefinition of personal responsibility. The expectation is that bad behavior will carry no consequences, and if there are some, that’s liberals trying to cancel conservatives.
Trump’s trial matters more than you think
Thomas Paine, hero of the American Revolution, wrote that those “holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.” Trust in government depends on accountability, and so do liberty and democracy. Otherwise, elected officials, especially presidents, could upend our government and rights with impunity.
That is why the Senate trial of Donald Trump matters, both to determine his guilt for trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power and to maintain freedom.
Freedom of Speech Doesn’t Mean What Trump’s Lawyers Want It to Mean
The First Amendment does not limit the removal and disqualification powers conferred on Congress by the Constitution.
Front and center in former President Donald Trump’s defense this week will be the argument that convicting him and disqualifying him from holding future office would violate his First Amendment rights—that it would essentially amount to punishing him for speaking his mind. His new lawyer, David Schoen, has warned that convicting Trump “is putting at risk any passionate political speaker, which is against everything we believe in in this country.”
That is wrong. Even if the First Amendment protected Trump from criminal and tort liability for his January 6 exhortation to the crowd that later stormed the Capitol, it has no bearing on whether Congress can convict and disqualify a president for misconduct that consisted, in part, of odious speech that rapidly and foreseeably resulted in deadly violence.
Above are staunch conservatives.
Why Republicans haven’t abandoned Trumpism
Parties can and do change. But these four barriers stand between the Republican Party and moderation.
Most congressional Republicans continue to embrace Trumpism, despite some wavering after the deadly Capitol riot. The GOP has backtracked on impeachment, with most Senate Republicans voting against holding an impeachment trial. State parties have punished Republicans such as Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), who spoke and voted in favor of impeachment, rather than members such as Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Josh Hawley (Mo.), who supported the falsehood that the presidential election had been stolen. House Republicans did not sanction Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), despite her past endorsements of wild conspiracy theories.
But the notion that the GOP would suddenly abandon Trumpism once Donald Trump left the White House has the basic story upside down. Trump wasn’t the cause of authoritarian populism; his success was the consequence of deeper underlying forces.
Here is today’s musical interlude: