And yet, hours before this predictable defeat, 20 more Republican members of Congress joined in this doomed attempt to overturn the will of the voters. The latecomers were led — take note — by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R.-Calif.). He thus joined the number two Republican leader, Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), and the number four leader, Rep. Gary Palmer (Ala.), who had already signed onto this craziness. The only member of the House GOP leadership who displayed any loyalty to the Constitution was third-ranking Liz Cheney (Wyo.).
In all, 64 percent of the House Republican caucus showed that defeating Democrats matters more to them than preserving U.S. democracy. What made this suit all the more risible is that some of these lawmakers hail from the very states whose votes they were trying to overturn. None of them, needless to say, claimed that their own victories were tainted by fraud.
Why did McCarthy finally sign on? His office explained his initial omission as a “clerical error.” Maybe it was, but it seems more likely that his endorsement represented a belated realization that by not signing on, he would expose himself to nasty tweets from Trump and retribution from Trump’s rabid base.
McCarthy has given no indication that he believes in the right-wing fantasy that Trump, who lost by more than 7 million votes, actually won in a landslide. He is simply too cowardly to acknowledge reality. Asked on CNBC whether Biden had prevailed, he refused to say.He pretended that Trump is merely trying “to make sure that every legal vote is counted,” when, in fact, Trump and his lawyers are trying to throw out legal votes by any means possible.
In the 1950s, the United States was terrorized by Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.) with his irresponsible accusations of disloyalty and communist infiltration. Today, we are threatened by a new McCarthyism — Kevin McCarthyism. This consists of Republicans indulging and even promoting insane conspiracy theories and anti-democratic actions to placate the Trumpists who now dominate their party.
Although there are many differences between the two McCarthyisms, there is also a lot of continuity. In the 1950s, most Republican leaders were too cowardly to challenge what Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine) a lone profile in courage, called the “Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear.” Today, most Republican leaders are too cowardly to stand up not only to those four ills but also to Trump’s attempts to destroy our democracy — something that not even Joe McCarthy dared to do.
Republican leaders are once again reaping what they sowed. By indulging in extremism for political advantage, they have radicalized their own electorate and left themselves as hostages of the mob. The Republican majority leader of the Pennsylvania Senate explained to the New York Times why she signed a letter asking the state’s congressional delegation to reject its electoral votes: “If I would say to you, ‘I don’t want to do it,’ I’d get my house bombed tonight.”
The creed of today’s Republicans comes from the French politician who reportedly said: “There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.” And where is the mob leading them? The “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on Saturday is a troubling indicator.
Alex Jones, the radio host most famous for denying that the Sandy Hook massacre took place, adopted the terminology of QAnon to attack President-elect Biden. “We will never back down to the Satanic pedophile, globalist New World Order and their walking-dead reanimated corpse Joe Biden, and we will never recognize him," he said. In what sounded like a threat, he added that Biden "will be removed one way or another.”
Another speaker — MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell — accused Fox News, on which his company is a major advertiser, of being part of the election fraud. “I’m serious, they had to be in on it!" he said. “They should all go to prison when they are found out.” In attendance were Proud Boys who later that night went on a rampage in D.C. Four people were stabbed, and dozens arrested in the resulting melee.
The Republican Party has a long, ignominious history of indulging extremists such as Joe McCarthy, but it also has a proud history of ignoring and restraining extremists such as the John Birch Society. Most of its presidential nominees over the past 80 years — from Wendell Willkie to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) — regularly clashed with the far right. Now Trump has become the leader of the extremists, and the party is following him over the precipice into madness and sedition. The new McCarthyism is turning out to be even more virulent than the old.