The premise, then, is that every single House Republican believes that Maxine Waters referring to some of the central lessons of the Civil Rights era—be visible, be peaceful, and be willing to make the powers-that-be uncomfortable and inconvenienced—is worthy of House punishment. Fomenting an actual violent insurrection by promoting hoaxes and disinformation claiming that a U.S. presidential election was “stolen” because the unpopular and incompetent Republican incumbent did not win: not worthy of House punishment. Not for praising the insurrectionist crowd. Not for declaring the day of insurrection to be the new “1776.”
No, just the one thing. The same Republicans who voted for censure here were absolutely indignant at the thought that Donald Trump might be held to account for a rally specifically premised on marching to the Capitol and thwarting the congressional counting of electoral ballots.
The best one-note example I’ve yet seen for why this latest Republican stunt is not just performative hucksterism, but performative hucksterism bordering on McConnellism, is this:
.@GOPLeader Kevin McCarthy was laying the groundwork for the attack on the Capitol for months. 11/5/2020:
“President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes… join together and let’s stop this.” pic.twitter.com/9Ys6elhUln
— Jesse Lee (@JesseCharlesLee) January 12, 2021
That was the same Kevin McCarthy leading the censure effort on Tuesday. Those remarks there were just two days after the election, and McCarthy was already urging the Republican base to “not be quiet,” and to not “allow this to happen,” and to “stop this,” where “this” was the ballot totals in an election that Dear Incompetent Hateful Lying Leader had lost. It was consistent with the Trump team’s own prior declarations that if Trump did lose the election, they would assist Typhoid Hitler in declaring the whole thing “rigged” and invalid, so none of it came as a surprise. McCarthy was following a pre-planned script, and of his own accord, in claiming that any counting of ballots that Donald Trump might end up on the losing side of was something that needed to be “stopped.”
This chant would continue for, literally, the next two months. It would never be fleshed out with anything more than the most spurious and ridiculous of supposed details. The conspiracy theory supposing a United States election to have been invisibly stolen from Dear Leader was one that not even the majority of Fox News could stomach for long, but House Republicans still insisted. It was self-evident that peddling a hoax that claimed Republicanism’s opponents invisibly “rigged” the election would absolutely produce terrorism. That would be the whole point, after all. Insisting that justice could only be done if the results of a U.S. election were nullified outright and the Republican re-installed is an attempt to paint the overthrow of government as a patriotic act, and over half of the Republican House insisted that such chicanery had taken place.
It was a fascist act. It was, and remains, a traitorous one. It was an attempt by the Republican Party to overthrow the U.S. government by so inflaming their rabid base that the base itself would rise up and demand democracy’s end. Kevin McCarthy is an evil, malevolent and anti-American sack of treason who allied himself with fictions and propaganda, the rest of his party shares the same distinction, and Every Republican Institution pushed the same hoaxes for the same reasons. To this moment Republican lawmakers are vowing to obstruct any investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection that might touch on the causes for the violence—their own rhetoric and propagandistic claims—and foam with outrage if consequences are proposed for any of the absurd coup’s most flagrant promoters.
The real outrage here, bleat insurrectionist leaders, is that Joe Biden is not giving proper deference to their demands, and that huge and public image-conscious corporations are condemning new legislation based on the same hoax premises, and that Maxine Waters said something not even a tenth as incendiary as Republican conspiracy claims pushing for broad public doubt about the very premises of our democracy.
So, we’re to respond to these claims … how, exactly? What possible reaction are House Republicans, the team that abided international extortion, defended a president who gave direct and material support to an insurrection attempt, continues to stoke conspiracies positing that their Democratic enemies, not Putin’s Russia, are to blame for Russian disinformation campaigns targeted directly at the regions’ internal Trump polling—passed to the Russians by a Trump campaign manager—identified as most critical to the Trump campaign—the lesson to be learned here is what, precisely?
That they are irredeemable? That they have legitimate contempt for the nation and all its voters? That they truly believe one Black woman represents a threat to the republic larger than a Republican-allied mob hunting Capitol hallways in search of Trump’s vice president and other public figures unwilling to topple democracy to install a strongman?
The Trump-supporting statements of House Republicans have caused violence, deaths, and terrorism. They continue. The efforts to prevent a true accounting of a party-stoked insurrection continue. The cooperative alliances with the purveyors of malevolent hoaxes against their enemies continue. The only Republican outrage over any of it is over cancelled book deals or other trivial public consequences for their acts. The wider public showing disapproval of their actions has now been dubbed “cancel culture,” and fascist hosts on fascist networks insist that it is the nixing of book deals or public appearances, not propagandizing in service to insurrection, that represents the true danger to the nation.
There’s no point in taking anything any Republican lawmaker says seriously, because the whole party uses strategic lying as foundation. Kevin McCarthy promoted a conspiracy that led to deaths and will, for certain, lead to acts of domestic terrorism in the coming two years. Jim Jordan was given a pass for enabling molestation, and was rewarded, in the party, for the aggressiveness with which he attacked his accusers. Devin Nunes was willing patsy to Russian disinformation campaigns. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert and Louie Gohmert and a dozen others are active conspiracy promoters who would be an embarrassment to the republic as town mayors, only to be elevated by a Republican base that believes farcical cartoon acts to be government, and genuine government to be conspiracy.
It’s a clown show with guns, at this point. The House Republican caucus is what would happen if you elected cocaine to high office. Not a single word uttered by a single caucus member can be taken as anything other than a lie. No supposed outrages are real. No supposed integrity exists. Over and over the members have been asked to stand up for even the most basic premises of democratic conduct and cannot muster it.
How the wider American public is supposed to react to each day’s new bleatings is, at this point, a mystery. One imagines these messages are aimed solely at the most gullible (racist, violent, conspiratorial) members of the Republican base, and the party no longer gives a damn if the rest of the nation finds their performances disgusting.
The people who voted to nullify an American election only hours after violent militia members pushed into the building to hunt down lawmakers who might not do so have opinions on what speech counts as inflammatory and what does not. Really, though, they want you to know they have sincere thoughts on that. It amounts to everything we say is good, and everything the other side says is outrageous.
You’re allowed to find them repulsive. There would be something wrong with you if you didn’t.