Unexpectedly, it has fallen to Mark Meadows, of all people, to confirm this with great clarity. The former White House chief of staff’s Monday night appearance on Fox News stands as another signpost on the GOP’s path into authoritarianism.
But Meadows knows Fox is always available as a safe space to pre-spin a highly propagandized story about Jan. 6 and Trump’s role in it, and so obviously Fox is preferable as a venue.
Meadows and host Laura Ingraham had a strange exchange about Fiona Hill, the former U.S. diplomat. Hill flatly declared on Sunday that the “main threats” to democracy come from right-wing actors who are deliberately undermining faith in the “integrity of the election system” and “calling for violence against fellow Americans.”
Meadows and Ingraham sneered at this idea, whereupon Meadows cast Hill’s diagnosis of the threat to democracy as the Democratic position.
“Hill has already shown her colors out there in who she sided with,” Meadows scoffed. Ludicrously, he cast this as politically protective of President Biden.
Meadows also dismissed the Jan. 6 committee’s core mission. He claimed voters are asking him: “Why did we go through an impeachment of Donald Trump on this very issue, and now we’re holding hearings?”
As it happens, it actually is exclusively the Democratic position that the right wing and the movement behind Trump are our primary threats to democratic stability, and that reforms are urgently needed to safeguard against them in the future.
But this is because Republicans have broadly renounced any obligation of any kind to hold actors on their side accountable for the effort to overturn U.S. democracy, first through corrupt and possibly illegal procedural means and then through mob violence. It’s because Republicans have embraced the party-wide mission of whitewashing, memory-holing and otherwise rewriting that history entirely.
We really are now at the point where it is only the position of Democrats that the full truth about all this should be told and that it requires a national reckoning and response.
What is it that Meadows doesn’t want us to find out? We know Meadows personally pressured the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s lies about election fraud. Getting the department to lend such lies validity would provide a pretext for a scheme like the one in the Trump coup memo.
The Jan. 6 committee wants to know more about that, and also wants to know about Meadows’s involvement in planning the effort to subvert the electoral count and any communications between Trump and others on or around Jan. 6.
So Meadows apparently doesn’t want us to learn more about the full insurrectionist intentions of Trump and other co-conspirators — which likely include Republican lawmakers — or about the degree to which Meadows himself might have been one of those co-conspirators.
Needless to say, a party this deeply committed to the absolute exoneration of Trump by definition does not see this effort to overthrow U.S. democracy as worthy of any national reckoning. The party won’t support any reforms — such as fixing ambiguities in the Electoral Count Act — to prevent it from happening again.
Meanwhile, Republicans are increasingly running for office on an open vow to subvert future election losses. Others tout support for Trump’s 2020 lies as a qualification for positions of control over election machinery.
All this is exacerbated by the dynamic identified by Dan Pfeiffer. One party benefits from a full-time propaganda network, relieving it of any need to communicate to voters through the mainstream media, which protects itself against accusations of liberal bias by treating even the most lopsided asymmetries as conventional political skirmishes with two equivalently legitimate sides.
This is how you get Fox News airing whitewashing propaganda about Jan. 6 even as mainstream news stories ask whether it will be a destructive breach of norms if Biden sides against Trump’s executive privilege claims and allows the committee access to executive branch documents. This, when what stands to be illuminated is an effort to destroy democracy at its very foundation.
Meadows inadvertently captured an essential truth: The notion that a sustained effort to overthrow U.S. democracy requires a real reckoning and response has indeed become exclusively the Democratic Party position. But what does that say about the GOP?