I don’t disagree with any of the particulars of the National Review’s editorial about January 6:
There is no defense for what the mob did that day. None. The people have a right to form loud, angry crowds to petition and protest their government. They need not do so in ways that are pleasant or polite. The “Stop the Steal” protesters who listened to the speeches and went home were exercising their rights as citizens.
But ours is a government of laws, not of men. A rule-of-law system has no place for physical intimidation or mobs obstructing the peaceful, constitutional transfer of power. The Founding Fathers feared few things more than mob rule. They created a federal district to avoid a repeat of a 1783 riot around the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
Donald Trump, his lieutenants (especially Sidney Powell and the tragically-fallen Rudy Giuliani), and Trump’s personality cult, did something that doesn’t, and can’t, play well with small-“d” democracy: it put the person ahead of the process:
There is also no defense of what Donald Trump did to summon the crowd, tell it that there remained any option but counting Biden’s electoral victory, and urge the assemblage to march on the Capitol because “if we allow this group of people to illegally take over our country . . . you’re not going to have a country anymore.” Trump’s recklessness disgraced the office of the presidency.
Additionally, there is no defense of Trump’s pressuring Pence to take unilateral, unlawful action against the counting of electoral votes, then telling the crowd that Pence might do so, knowing full well that they would discover when they reached the Capitol that Pence would not. Some of them, entering the Capitol, chanted, “Hang Mike Pence.” It was Trump who led them to believe that his own vice president was allowing their country to be stolen.
Let’s be honest about what that explosion of personality cult over process actually did:
What happened at the Capitol that day is best understood as a riot that was particularly dangerous because of its setting and context. It was not a purely peaceful protest, or a cartoonish costume party with a little bit of trespassing. The Secret Service had to rush Pence to safety. Members of Congress emptied the chamber and fled for cover. The vote-counting process was interrupted for five and a half hours. The Capitol itself was wreathed in smoke. This is the stuff of a banana republic.
When the subject of banana republics pop up, Democrats perk their ears up, being wannabe Generalissimos in their own ways. Republicans, even Trump supporters, are correct in pointing out that Democrats were trashing the democratic process since before Donald Trump was a reality TV star, much less President:
For two decades, prominent Democrats have attacked the legitimacy of American elections. They claimed that the 2000 election was stolen from Al Gore. They indulged ridiculous fantasies about Ohio being stolen in 2004, resulting in dozens of Democratic members of Congress objecting to counting its electoral votes. Many of those Democrats are now powerful committee chairs, including the chair of the committee investigating January 6. Violent protests marred Trump’s inauguration, and leading Democrats denounced him as illegitimate. Polls showed that supermajorities of Democratic voters believed that Russian hackers stole the 2016 election from Hillary Clinton, and she has given every indication that she shares that view. In 2018, Stacey Abrams was anointed a hero by her party for refusing to accept the legitimacy of her loss of a governor’s race. It would have been wrong for Trump to emulate this behavior; but he went well beyond what even the most reckless Democrat has done in contesting an election.
Left-wing mobs have targeted the workings of government, for example overwhelming the Wisconsin state capitol in 2011 to protest Scott Walker’s union-dues bill. Republican legislators had to be evacuated by police, as Democratic legislators egged on the mob. In 2018, protesters repeatedly disrupted the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, chased Republican senators down hallways and into elevators, accosted them in restaurants, and broke through Capitol barricades, resulting in hundreds of arrests. Law enforcement was unduly lax in punishing these offenses against democratic self-government.
It’s true. But it’s no excuse – any more than January 6 will be a legitimate excuse for more Democrat violence and tyranny-mongering. That is, in fact, something that Republicans of good conscience need to stomp on, hard. Because it dismisses nothing to note that January 6 was an attack on the Constitutional process different from others only in its perps:
The New York Times editorializes that “Every Day Is Jan. 6 Now,” and one of its columnists argues that Democrats should “Wave the ‘Bloody Shirt’ of Jan. 6” as Republicans did against Democrats after the Civil War — as if this compares to a four-year war in which 3 million Americans served and 750,000 died. Other opportunists (including Joe Biden) call the riot the “worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War” or say it is comparable to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. CNN and other cable news obsessives plan wall-to-wall coverage of the anniversary in order to inflate its importance and help Democrats wave that bloody shirt.
This is a loss of perspective. In 1915, a former Harvard professor set off a bomb at the Capitol and shot J. P. Morgan. In 1954, five congressmen were shot by Puerto Rican nationalists in the House chamber. In the early 1970s, the left-wing Weather Underground set off bombs at the Capitol, the Pentagon, and the State Department. In 1983–84, the Communist group M19 bombed the Capitol, an FBI office, and Fort McNair and the Navy Yard in D.C. In 2001, 3,000 people died on 9/11, air travel was grounded across the country, the president was shuttled to a secure location, and a wing of the Pentagon was destroyed. In 2017, a gun-toting Bernie Sanders supporter attempted to massacre Republican congressmen at a baseball practice, gravely wounding Steve Scalise, the Republican House whip.
I say “Republicans of good conscience” because there are Republicans who have joined the personality cult, and many who’ve prospered, politically and financially, greatly from it.
And some Republicans have reacted by washing their hands of the GOP – some for reasons I can respect (Ed Morrissey), others I can not (the Lincoln Project), many in between. Some “Never-Trumpers” yip and bark at the party like bitter ex-spouses.
Others presume the GOP’s reckoning rates a generation in the minority – as Kevin Williamson says in his otherwise worthy piece on the subject, again, I agree with in most particulars – except for its conclusion:
It is my view that none of the Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 results should ever hold office again, and that no candidate who is unwilling to forthrightly condemn both the violence of January 6 and the lies that inspired that violence ought to enjoy the support of any conservative, any organ of the Republican Party, or, indeed, any American who calls himself a patriot. No candidate who cannot give a simple yes or no answer — and give the correct one — to the question of whether the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump ought to hold office. If that puts the Republican Party into the minority for a generation, then the Republican Party deserves it, having become a menace not only to the conservative principles and governance it purports to cherish but to the political structure of the nation and the Constitution itself. Those who have no use for caudillos and mobs, and who hope to see our constitutional order endure, should seriously consider separating themselves from the Republican Party unless and until it proves capable of reforming itself.
Well, no. The party “reforms itself” when those who show up decide it shall be reformed.
Our democracy – and the Constitutional process Williamson rightly extols elsewhere – won’t survive a generation of one-party government by today’s Democrat party. The Democrat party of the Watergate era, led by Ernie Hollings and Scoop Jackson and Daniel Inouye, people who believe in America whatever their political differences, didn’t see power as the means to the end. They weren’t the generation of “progressives” that gave us San Francisco, Chicago, Baltimore and Minneapolis, or for that matter California and Illinois, as they are today; those are the inevitable consequences of one-party rule, at least by this Democrat party at this time in its history.
A packed Senate.
More promotion of the administrative state to circumvent the legislative and judicial processes that can’t be won in elections.
Those are the consequences of a “generation of minority status” for the opposition.
That’s not acceptable.
The GOP will have to “reform itself” by good people showing up and reforming it.
Not by sitting splendidly above it all listening to Bulwark podcasts and heckling.
Not by waiting for some third-party to spring into place.
Not by waiting for the Reform Fairy.
Not, for that matter, by waiting for someone else to reform it. With all due respect to those who stormed out in a cloud of principled righteousness in 2015, 2017 and 2020, starting next month, your opinions are duly noted, and will no longer be of any relevance.
No. It happens by reforming the GOP.
More on that next week.