“On the morning of January 6, first-term Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican chiefly notable for her support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, tweeted that the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results amounted to a new American Revolution.
“Today is 1776,” she wrote.
It turned out that describing Wednesday as a violent revolution was more apt than Boebert may have intended. Several hours later, on the heels of a speech by the president decrying the 2020 election as stolen, a pro-Trump mob descended on the US Capitol, overwhelming Capitol Police and storming the building. Trump supporters waved Confederate flags and seized control of the Senate chambers; police drew their guns. At least four people died as a result of the chaos.
Blaming President Trump for this violence is, at this point, stating the obvious. He has been inciting his supporters for weeks, telling them that the election has been stolen and they need to stand up to save freedom. If you really believe that — took what the president said seriously — why wouldn’t you take dramatic action?
But the blame needs to go beyond Trump and land squarely on the Republican Party itself — an institution that, for decades, employed a political strategy that sowed the seeds of an uprising against the American state.
The animating force of modern Republicanism is this: Democratic Party rule is an existential threat to America and is by definition illegitimate. It is a belief that explains much of what we’ve seen from the GOP in the past few decades, the glue that binds together Republicans ranging from shitposters in the QAnon fever swamps to much of the GOP congressional caucus.”
“their delegitimizing rhetoric has been the fuel of the conservative movement for many, many years now. Trump’s presidency, and the violence with which it is ending, represents the logical next step for the modern GOP — and where it goes from here will determine our future as a democracy.”
“In 2010, during the height of Tea Party fervor, then-Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R-NV) told talk radio host Lars Larson that she believed Americans might need to take up arms against the tyranny of Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress”
“Angle’s story is illuminating. Initially, she ran as an insurgent, casting herself as the rock-ribbed alternative to a weak, corrupt Republican establishment. The party actually tried to stop her, but she was embraced by the GOP once she won the Republican primary in Nevada. The party held a glitzy fundraiser in Washington for Angle several months after the “Second Amendment remedies” comment.
Hardly a relic of the Tea Party era, it’s a story that’s emblematic of the contemporary GOP. The party leadership has created an institution where people like Angle can win primaries; though leaders may resist extremists at times, they end up admitting them as members in good standing when it becomes clear that the choice in a given election is either a right-wing radical or a Democrat. As a result, there’s a one-way ratchet toward an increasingly extreme party, one that has convinced itself over time that Democratic rule is so dangerous that getting in bed with anti-democratic radicals is preferable.
There are at least three critical features of the GOP as an institution that have allowed this process to go on as it has.
First, there is the argument, offered by mainstream Republicans at the highest levels, that freedom itself is on the ballot: that the Democratic agenda is so catastrophic that it might spell the end of America as we know it.”
“This rhetoric might not be so bad if it weren’t for the second prong of the problem: the alternative conservative media ecosystem that disseminates those messages.
From practically the inception of the modern conservative movement in the 1950s, a central tenet has been that the mainstream media is irredeemably biased against them — an agent of liberalism, not to be trusted. The conservative response has been to relentlessly delegitimize the media in their public discourse and to construct alternative media institutions for its base to consume.
This created space for extreme voices who, out of sincere belief or rank opportunism, chose to peddle dangerous falsehoods.”
“If you are a rank-and-file Republican, the kind of person who listens to your party’s elected officials and friendly media outlets, you have been marinating in anti-democratic beliefs for years: that Democrats are fundamentally hostile to the American way of life, that people telling you otherwise cannot be trusted, that you have an obligation to fight against tyranny on your own.
In a 2020 survey, 51 percent of Republicans agreed with the claim that “the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.””
“The day after President Trump incited a mob to attack the Capitol, he called in to a Republican National Committee winter meeting. The assembled Republicans did not greet the president with horror or anger; instead, he was met with cheers.
Of course, not every Republican is as corrupted as the ones on that call. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted for Trump’s impeachment and has gone after him in the day since the attack on Capitol Hill. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has called for a second impeachment after the mob.
But even the “responsible” leaders have often been complicit. Lest we forget, Romney courted Trump’s endorsement during his 2012 presidential run — while Trump was in the midst of his birther crusade against Obama. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), famous for his thumbs-down vote on Trump’s Obamacare repeal proposal, is the man who unleashed Palin on the world by making her his vice presidential pick in 2008.”
“They knew who they were enabling. In 2016, Ted Cruz called Trump “utterly amoral” and a “pathological liar.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) described him as a “race-baiting xenophobic religious bigot.” And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), in comments that proved prescient, describes him as someone who was inciting violence among his supporters”
“The dangers of Trump were obvious to these men. But they chose to enable him after his victory anyway, much in the way their party chose to embrace Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle and Glenn Beck and all the other extremists who have proven useful to it. The Republican establishment created the conditions for Wednesday’s violence and chaos, and these conditions will persist even if Trump is removed prematurely. QAnon supporters are now sitting in Congress; Newsmax, a more unhinged version of Fox, has only grown in recent months; Trump was greeted by applause by House Republicans Thursday morning.
Just hours after her 1776 tweet, Rep. Boebert tweeted fearfully about the attack on Congress. “We were locked in the House chambers,” she said, as if the chickens weren’t coming home to roost.
But the fact that they don’t really want a violent uprising doesn’t mean their most committed supporters feel the same way. Republicans — not just Donald Trump, but the entire political movement — own that mob. If they do not change course, they will own the next one, too.”