For the party that extolls personal responsibility, Republicans sure hate taking their own advice — especially when it comes to Wednesday’s assault on the halls of Congress.
The insurrection was shocking in its specifics, but not that surprising in the broader sense. It was just a matter of time before the president said the right words to inspire his hordes of white nationalist followers to do something like this. Four years’ worth of racist agitating and paranoid conspiracy-mongering doesn’t just dissipate because an election happened: all it needed was a well-timed push to spill into an undulating mass of bigoted hostility, drunk off the power and persuasion of a shared sense of violent purpose.
Despite the frustrating sense of inevitability surrounding this explosion of violence and chaos, the conservatives who helped paved this particular road to hell with their own selfish intentions are now hoping the public won’t remember them as the instigators and presidential sycophants that made what happened on Wednesday possible. Instead, some of the very architects behind the violent resentment and racism that fueled the Capitol siege are suddenly trying to position themselves as the voices of reason.
Here’s a tweet from Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley’s office.
Hawley, you might remember, is the rising conservative star who who had no compunction about lying about “antifa scumbags” who held a quiet vigil outside his home earlier this week. The “job” Hawley is referring to in his tweet is his quixotic attempt to overturn Donald Trump’s electoral victory — the very same issue the president used to animate his shock troops ahead of Wednesday’s assault. For Hawley, the president ordering the federal officers to teargas social justice protesters isn’t an “abuse of power,” it’s simply business as usual. But when Trump-addled MAGA fanatics take the president’s assault on progressives as tacit approval for their own attack on Hawley’s place of business? Well then: “everyone chill out, so I can finish my work, okay?”
Just hours after cheering on the gathered masses of insurrectionists in the moments before they breached the Capitol, Hawley ended his Wednesday with a Senate floor speech championing the very same same lost cause which energized the MAGA militia, framing it as the right and virtuous thing to do for the sake of democracy, even as he decried the violence he clearly helped inspire.
And here’s Texas Sen. Ted Cruz crying foul at the mere suggestion that he might share some responsibility for what was happening around him.
Like Hawley, Cruz has also fully subscribed to Trump’s stolen election narrative. And like Hawley, Cruz has been instrumental in enabling, embracing, and utilizing the racist resentment Trump has cultivated for his own personal political aspirations. But suddenly, faced with the very real consequences of his actions, he decided that it was a good time to proselytize for the sort of kumbaya togetherness he once mocked.
Even Georga Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who staked her short political career on embracing the worst, most violent, unhinged fringes of the Trumpian galaxy of crazies, tried to play the chastised healer on Wednesday, by conspicuously withdrawing the very objection to Georgia’s electoral count she’d submitted as a last-minute Hail Mary in her own doomed campaign.
Then there’s Rep. Louie Gohmert, arguably the stupidest man in Washington, who thought he can pivot from actively encouraging violence in the streets to decrying it in less than a week, and that people either wouldn’t notice, or wouldn’t care.
The ignominious list of Trump allies and enablers who were suddenly shocked — shocked! — at what transpired went on and on.
Rudy Giuliani’s many attempts to distance himself from Wednesday’s carnage are particularly pathetic, considering the fact that just hours before the Trump insurrectionists rampaged through the Capitol, he’d stood before them huffing and wheezing about his eagerness for “trial by combat.”
“I can’t stay here, not after yesterday,” special envoy to Northern Ireland and former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney whined to CNBC on Thursday. “You can’t look at that yesterday and say I want to be a part of that in any way shape or form.”
Excuse me? Mick “I loved working for Donald Trump so much I was his chief of staff, and his OMB director AND his CFPB director at the same time” Mulvaney? If there were a gold medal for Trump enabling, Mulvaney would get it, melt it down, recast it in the shape of a boot, and lick it every day for the rest of his life.
It’s a dead giveaway that these people think you’ll buy their last-minute lip service to peace and love. It means they’re worried. They suddenly understand that the monster has escaped from the lab and are desperate to convince you that they’re not the ones who helped put it there in the first place. Don’t buy it. Each of them is a Dr. Frankenstein responsible for stitching slabs of necrotic racism, paranoia, and violence into a creature that’s since gone wild.
Whether it was their own manifestations of those same dark impulses, or a coarser, more craven attempt to simply amass and retain political power at any cost these newly self-proclaimed pacifists did as much to open the door to Trump’s inevitable violence as the Capitol Hill Police did to the actual militiamen and women who trashed the place. The role each of them played in what’s happened — and what’s sure to come — should be the first line of their eventual obituary. It should be the only line on their tombstone. They don’t get to take the high road here. They don’t get to play the “if we only knew!” card. They did this. In the worst way possible, it’s the only thing of consequence any of them have ever actually done.