Why a little insurrection is no big deal to Republicans
If their true scam is admitted, the GOP could wander in the wilderness for two generations
It seems inexplicable.
A group of Americans invaded the US Capitol with a plan to kidnap and kill the Vice President and the Speaker of the House, hoping that would throw the Electoral College vote to the US House, where Republicans would declare Donald Trump the winner.
It was a naked conspiracy to overturn the election in which Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by about 7 million votes, and Trump and his allies were pretty much open that this was their goal.
They wanted to “Stop the Steal,” that is to say, they wanted to stop the Electoral College votes certified by the states from being counted, and wanted to replace them with a vote by the US House that would keep Trump in office for another four years.
But none of that is what’s inexplicable — it can all be easily explained based on current evidence available for anybody with a browser and search engine to find. You can read about it in The New York Times and the Washington Post.
What’s inexplicable is that nobody in the media appears to be using the correct frame to describe what happened a week later, on January 13th, when Donald Trump was impeached for a second time by the House of Representatives.
Fully 197 members of the US House of Representatives said, essentially, “Yeah, we get it that he incited a mob to come to the US Capitol to find and kill some Democrats, but that’s just fine with us. No accountability necessary.”
Who does that? Who says that a man whipping a crowd into a lynch-mob frenzy that leads to the death of five people is okay? What possible justification is there for that vote?
Why would they vote that way?
Trump, of course, has most Republican members of Congress terrified that they might piss him off enough that he’ll go out of his way to destroy their political careers, just like he did to Jeff Flake, Bob Corker and Justin Amash. And he’s been outspoken with his threats to do just that to any Republican who dares defy him.
But is that enough to justify provoking a mob to kill five people? Trump, after all, is a passing phase. He’s in his 70s and won’t even be a factor in American politics within a decade. That can’t be it.
So why would 197 Republicans vote to protect him?
The answer is found in a phrase none of those 197 Republicans are willing to say out loud: “The election was not stolen.” And it has to do with the survival of the modern Republican Party.
At a House Rules Committee hearing on January 11th, Democrat after Democrat begged their Republican colleagues, one by one, to simply say that the election wasn’t stolen from Trump. None would do so.
They’d weasel-word around it, saying things like, “Biden ‘won’ the election and will be inaugurated as President on January 20th.” It almost became a mantra for them. But not one was willing to say that the “win” was clean and not a steal.
And for good reason.
The GOP has a huge vested interest in keeping alive the myth of “voter fraud,” and that very same myth was at the core of Trump’s argument his “landslide victory” was “stolen” from him “by voter fraud.”
There is, of course, so little voter fraud in the US — people voting twice, non-citizens voting, or people voting as if they’re somebody else (particularly a dead relative) — that it’s meaningless.
The most comprehensive investigation of the period between 2000 and 2014 found, out of over a billion votes cast, 31 cases of illegal votes being cast, and almost all were felons who didn’t know they’d lost their right to vote.
George W. Bush was so anxious to find voter fraud that he fired seven US Attorneys when they balked at dropping everything and finding fraudulent votes in their districts. They knew there’s no meaningful amount of voter fraud in the US and never has been; Bush, after a 5-year multi-million-dollar investigation, was forced to admit it wasn’t a factor in any American election.
But despite taking years and spending tens of millions of dollars, examining over a billion votes over a decade, Bush’s army of federal prosecutors were only able to find 86 cases of people who’d voted illegally. And the majority of them were simply ex-felons in states that bar ex-felons from voting but didn’t realize that was the law in their state.
Nonetheless, the GOP must keep the fraudulent voter myth alive to justify their decades of draconian measures to stop young people, Black and Hispanic people, and those on Social Security from voting.
They’ve used it in state after state for 40 years to suppress the vote and get or keep Republicans into positions of power, from the US Senate to the House to governor’s mansions to state legislatures.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the foundation of Republican power in America today rests on US voters putting up with increasing levels of difficulty to vote, because voters are convinced those time-and-money-consuming steps are there to prevent all that terrible voter fraud that’s infected our nation.
If they don’t keep the voter fraud myth alive, the entire Republican edifice will come tumbling down. Forty years of electoral victories in close races will be revealed as the product of a scam. For the next forty years the GOP will wander in the political wilderness.
And preventing that, to their way of seeing things, is worth saying that 5 deaths, some property damage, and a little insurrection is no big deal.