The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Republican ‘law and order’ hypocrisy is off the charts

Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, left, reacts during a House select committee hearing on July 27 on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Republicans used to be the party of “law and order,” denouncing Democrats for being weak on crime. They now demonstrate on a near-daily basis their indifference to law enforcement and contempt for those who enforce laws against their political allies.

Right-wing talk-show louts insulted the four brave officers who battled to protect the U.S. Capitol and preserve our constitutional system, accusing them of acting while they delivered emotional testimony about the attack before the Jan. 6 select committee last week. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) gave the cowardly excuse that he had not watched the hearing and therefore had no comment.

The GOP has conveyed martyr status on Ashli Babbitt, who was killed as she charged the police and the House chamber with the rest of the violent mob. Republicans lionize her — not the police who were willing to sacrifice their lives to protect them.

Nor can Republicans be bothered to express remorse when real heroes from Jan. 6 die after the fact. The number of officers who died by suicide in the wake of the attack rose to four this week with the announcement of the deaths of officers Kyle DeFreytag and Gunther Hashida. Democrats issued eloquent statements expressing sorrow and admiration for their service. Republican Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) issued their own moving statements. McCarthy? As of late Tuesday, he had said nothing. The police aren’t on McCarthy’s “side” — the side of reactionary, violent thugs who tried to overthrow the election results.

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Criticize the disgraced former president for attempting to force the Justice Department to declare the election results fraudulent? Republicans would never dream of it. Fund the Internal Revenue Service to enforce tax laws? Forget it. But pardon two White mansion-dwellers who brandished weapons at peaceful Black protesters last year? Republican Gov. Mike Parson of Missouri is on the case!

When New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a report on Tuesday detailing the voluminous mound of evidence and 11 complainants’ accounts regarding allegations that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, had sexually harassed his employees, Republican senators were quick to jump on the bandwagon demanding he resign. (Cuomo continues to deny the allegations, saying on Tuesday that “That’s not who I am.”) But Republicans have yet to part company with the former president, who has had more than a dozen credible claims of sexual harassment or assault leveled against him, including the alleged rape of E. Jean Carroll (which the former president denies). Unlike Democrats who demand harassers be held accountable regardless of party, Republicans’ ire is reserved for accused Democrats only.

Moreover, the right-wing now assumes that the president should micromanage the Justice Department, as the former president did to ensnare designated targets. Fox News serial provocateur Peter Doocy on Tuesday demanded to know whether the Justice Department would be going after Cuomo. (Disclosure: I am an MSNBC contributor.) White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied tersely: “We do something new here that feels foreign from the last four years and allow the Justice Department to act independently on investigations.”

Law and order. Respect for the police. Reverence for the impartial administration of justice. Enforcement of the law against the rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless. These are the attributes of a constitutional democracy. That’s not what Republicans want these days. They pine for a strongman who can wield the power of the state against the MAGA base’s political foes and who would deploy the police to coddle and even harbor white supremacists. In other words, they want a tin-pot dictatorship, not a constitutional system that may enforce the law against them and their MAGA tribe.

Right-wing authoritarians who praise current despots such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban and dead fascists such as Portugal’s António Salazar naturally choose as their leader someone who gleefully uproots the rule of law, savages democracy and regards law enforcement as worthwhile only if it acts in their favor. Ever obedient to Trump, McCarthy and his fellow Trump sycophants display the same disdain for impartial justice that the twice-impeached former president does.

It is unfathomable that a party that disdains those who defend democracy should be entrusted with power. We know precisely what they will do if they ever control the executive or legislative branch. They aren’t bothering to hide the ball.