On January 6th Republican representatives within the government voted to reject the will of the people, while a Republican mob from without tried to overthrow the government. Does this day signal the future of the Republican Party and the conservative right or will it be regarded as an anomaly in a fractured landscape of media noise?
Inspired by the President’s speech on January 6th a mob took to Capitol Hill aiming to overthrow the legitimately elected U.S. government. The mob’s actions turned much of President Trump’s messaging on its head. While some members of the mob toted Blue Lives Matters flags, others were beating to death a member of law enforcement. Brian Sicknick was a Capitol Hill police officer, military veteran and Trump supporter. He was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher.
Members of the attempted coup, and their fellow travelers, also called for the hanging of Vice President Mike Pence. Pence stated he was not in a position to overturn the legal election of Joe Biden. It was an unpardonable sin.
Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell has carried much of President Trump’s water for the last four years and was to the right of the President on fiscal issues. He enthusiastically supported President’s Trump’s legal challenges to the November election after the votes were counted multiple times and results were audited.
Yet on January 6th, even he decided enough was enough. He explained that voting against the certification of the electoral college would “damage our Republic forever.” He explained, “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We’d never see the nation accept an election again.”
Beneath the Trump messaging about the rule of law and the constitution was a burning rage ready to steamroller anything that didn’t bend to its immediate will. By legal and illegal means the Trump supporters insisted on their right to break the U.S. system of representative democracy.
What impact will these actions have on the Republican Party and conservatives more broadly? Some members of the mob will spend many years in prison. Many of them deserve it and most of them are poor and working-class folks who cannot afford an aggressive defense. President Trump as a man of wealth and position, will likely avoid this fate.
But what of Trumpism and its impact on the conservative movement? Within the government a majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to reject the electorate’s vote in the Presidential race, even after the riots, recounts and audits. Therefore, it’s not just the right-wing radio hosts, coup plotters and internet trolls who have embraced a post-truth worldview. It is nationally elected Republicans.
Those who objected to the voters will in the Presidential race included U.S. Senator Rick Scott and nearly every Republican from Florida in the House (12 of 15). With a Trumpist Governor and the current President now claiming Florida residency, the state appears ground zero for the Trump vision of the Republican Party. This case was made by my colleague Kartik Krishnaiyer, in, “An Insurrection Long Cooked in the Sunshine State.”
Although it may be based in Florida, it is a national phenomenon. One hundred and thirty eight Republicans out of two hundred and thirteen in the House voted against certifying the results of November’s election. Due to current gerrymandering, the members who rejected the voters may be around the longest. Moreover, even in the wake of the attempted coup, more than seventy percent of Republicans approve of the job Trump is doing and eighteen percent approve of the attempted coup.
The dynamics at the top are changing with McConnell and Pence on the outs with the core Trumpists. With their devotion to QAnon and hostility toward immigrants and Muslims, the movement resembles the Know-Nothing Party of the 1850s. As it appears the Trumpists and Trump himself will continue to play a large role in the party, how will their beliefs, messaging and actions impact the brand of the Republicans?
Put another way, if a majority of the Republican Party and the conservative movement embrace Trumpism as their north star will they become the party of “Chaos, Carnage and the Coup?” Will they become the new Know-Nothing Party?