In the wake of the unprecedented storming of the Capitol building and the disruption of the electoral college vote certification by a mob of rabid Trumpers, there has been a growing chorus of voices demanding accountability and for once, some kind of punishment for the perpetually outrageous behavior of our Republican legislators.
A significant part of the Republican body politic — including over 100 representatives, a dozen or so Senators, and the President himself — either helped incite the mob in the first place and laid down the powder for the attack with their militant rhetoric and promotion of baseless conspiracy theories alleging that the 2020 election had been stolen from Donald Trump, including signing on to efforts to dispute the vote integrity in Congress itself.
This puts the Republicans in a rather uncomfortable position, which is why a slew of them immediately rushed out to the media to make insultingly insincere and cynical demands for “healing and unity” in a preemptive effort to whitewash their roles in encouraging the mob. Some, like Rep. Mo Brooks, even defended them!
“Unity and healing” doesn’t happen with cancel culture and impeachment.
— Rep. Jim Jordan (@Jim_Jordan) January 9, 2021
Completely agree with @senatemajldr’s analysis that the Senate cannot process the impeachment being contemplated by the House before January 20. I firmly believe impeachment would further destroy our ability to heal and start over. https://t.co/fZUC8El2ND
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 9, 2021
Really sad. At a time of deep national division, President-elect Biden’s choice to call his political opponents literal Nazis does nothing to bring us together or promote healing.
This kind of vicious partisan rhetoric only tears our country apart. https://t.co/YMMepv1OhV
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 8, 2021
Please, don’t be like #FakeNewsMedia, don’t rush to judgment on assault on Capitol. Wait for investigation. All may not be (and likely is not) what appears. Evidence growing that fascist ANTIFA orchestrated Capitol attack with clever mob control tactics.
— Mo Brooks (@RepMoBrooks) January 7, 2021
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) wasted no time before calling out these frankly offensive insinuations that demanding accountability for a deliberately incited mob attack on the Senate while a crucial part of the peaceful transfer of power was being conducted are somehow “divisive.”
Let’s be very clear.
The officials urging for no serious consequences after Wednesday’s attack on our country – including the impeachment, removal, expulsion, and/or indictment of officials who aided, abetted, or incited the attack – are opening the door for it to happen again.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 9, 2021
Since it appears GOP leaders need a reminder:
There is no “healing” from this without accountability.
And there is no “unity” with white supremacists.
You know the President’s state has devolved dangerously. If you’re too weak to do anything about it, you’re too weak to serve.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 9, 2021
She is absolutely right. President Trump, his family, his lawyers, and his cronies in Congress and the media posted false conspiracies about “election fraud” over 200 times since Election Day on Twitter and racked up over 12 million engagements. They have filed over 50 legal motions on behalf of Trump’s vile campaign to discredit the integrity of the 2020 election. The right-wing media machine, from OANN to FOX News to talk radio, has spent nearly every waking moment from November 3rd until Tuesday screaming and howling about how the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and how someone needs to do something about it.
Just before the mob kicked off, Rep. Mo Brooks was urging Trump fans to “start kicking ass” while Sen. Josh Hawley, who spearheaded the disastrous effort to dispute the electoral college results within the Senate itself, egged them on with a raised fist.
Rep. Mo Brooks was the first speaker at the Trump rally on Wednesday just before the mob attack on the Capitol. He urged Trump supporters to start “kicking ass.” pic.twitter.com/hduaCMYcRd
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 9, 2021
A photographer and a fist pump. The story behind the image that will haunt Josh Hawley https://t.co/wbKSsSwAGT
— The Kansas City Star (@KCStar) January 8, 2021
With such enthusiastic encouragement from prominent political figures at every level, it was only a matter of time before spark hit powder and the frustrated delusions of Trump’s supporters turned into action.
While it’s likely nobody expected that the mob would successfully despoil the halls of Congress, Trump and all his right-wing cronies knew exactly what they were doing. Inherently disdainful and disrespectful to our democracy whenever it doesn’t work in their favor, they have been cultivating authoritarian impulses in Trump fans for years upon years, knowingly playing with fire to advance their own selfish ambitions.
If they don’t get burned, how will they ever learn?
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.