It is no surprise that several Republican state elected officials have been identified as having participated in Wednesday’s riot. The Associated Press reports: “[West Virginia] State Del. Derrick Evans was among lawmakers from at least seven states who traveled to Washington, D.C., for demonstrations rooted in the baseless conspiracy theory that Democrat Joe Biden stole the presidential election. Wearing a helmet, Evans ultimately joined a screaming mob as it pushed its way into the Capitol building, and livestreamed himself joyfully strolling inside.”
There’s more. The Louisiana Illuminator reports: “Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry belongs to an association that helped lead, finance and organize the right-wing rally on behalf of President Donald Trump that ended with a violent attack at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday.”
The involvement of so many elected Republicans not simply in perpetuating the lie of a stolen election but in participating in a deadly event in which anti-Semitic, pro-Confederate thugs roamed the halls of Congress is horrifying, but predictable. The rioters on Capitol Hill — even before committing a slew of crimes — were decked in neo-Nazi and racist regalia. They refused to allow democracy to take its course. This was the band elected officials joined or supported.
Robert P. Jones, head of the Public Religion Research Institute, writes:
There were crosses, “Jesus Saves” signs and “Jesus 2020” flags that mimicked the design of the Trump flags. . . .Comfortably intermingled with Christian rhetoric and these Christian icons were explicit symbols of white supremacy. Outside the Capitol, Trump supporters erected a large wooden gallows with a bright orange noose ominously dangling from the center. These Trump supporters managed to do something the Confederate army was never able to accomplish — fly the Confederate battle flag inside the U.S. Capitol. One widely shared image showed a rioter with the Confederate flag strolling past a portrait of William H. Seward, an anti-slavery advocate and Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state, who was seriously wounded as part of the broad assassination plot in 1865 that killed Lincoln.At least one protester sported a “Camp Auschwitz” hoodie, a reference to a concentration camp where over 1 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, even as others made outlandish comparisons between Christians as victims of American society and European Jews in the Third Reich.
This is Trump’s Republican Party. It is also the party for and of evangelical Christians, whose worldview, Jones writes, is intertwined with racism. “This seditious mob was motivated not just by loyalty to Trump, but by an unholy amalgamation of white supremacy and Christianity that has plagued our nation since its inception and is still with us today. As I show in my book ‘White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity,’ there remains a disturbingly strong link between holding racist attitudes and identifying as a white Christian.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) raised his fist in solidarity with this crowd. Fox News and right-wing radio catered to this crowd, filling its participants with conspiracies and outright lies. (Disclaimer: I am an MSNBC contributor.) Republican House and Senate members similarly peddled the lie that the election was marred by fraud. The notion that the Republican Party can be separated from the mob is nonsensical. The mob is the party’s base.
Republicans, including House and Senate members, have a choice: Associate and co-exist with this Republican Party, or leave. When 147 House members object to electoral college votes, it is impossible to excise the threat. The threat is the majority of the House Republicans. The option is to stay or leave.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) sounded as if that was what she was contemplating. Her home state newspaper reports that she thinks “Trump should resign the presidency immediately and if the Republican Party cannot separate itself from Trump, she isn’t sure she has a future with the party.” She describes Trump’s fiery oration outside the White House as “an order from the president” to his followers. “They came up and they fought and people were harmed, and injured and died,” Murkowski said. She later denied she was considering leaving the party. She might want consider some more.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) should roll out the welcome mat for Murkowski and any other Republicans who can no longer tolerate to be in a party with insurrectionists and those who cheer them on, including Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). Murkowski hit the nail on the head: A party that harbors those characters is no place for her.
Murkowski, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and others in what we might call the “Sanity Caucus” should applaud the call from Sens. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) for ringleaders Hawley and Cruz to resign. The Sanity Caucus should be grateful for the opportunity to divorce themselves from the Trump apologists and enablers. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) both should reach out to such Republicans.
For ordinary Republicans, it’s time to leave if you are repulsed by a party that:
- Supports a president despite overwhelming evidence of impeachable conduct;
- Refuses to demand Trump’s removal even after inciting insurrection;
- Fails to discipline or expel seditious members who sought to overthrow the election results;
- Refuses to accept objective reality;
- Harbors elected leaders who physically joined the mob;
- Tolerates — and embraces, in some cases! — the symbols and views of insurrectionists.
The party isn’t going to change, so it might be time for some Republicans to head for the exits. They might find a whole lot of familiar faces on the way out.