Are you sitting down? Hold on to your chair, with both feet firmly on the floor. A survey of Republicans found that 45% of them thought the attacks on the Capitol were “justified.”[i]
If you thought it was just a lunatic fringe that launched that attack, and the vast majority of Republicans would deplore the violence and death that resulted, you would be wrong. If that survey is correct, almost half of all Republicans, or about a quarter of the US adult population, approved of that horror.
Let that sink in.
They continue to claim that Democrats “stole” the election. Where did they get that idea? What evidence were they basing that opinion on? We know the answer. They were basing their opinion on what their leader has been saying since before the election, when the polls all showed him losing by a lot. Turns out the polls were wrong. The election was closer than the polls predicted, but Biden still won convincingly. Anybody who has followed the story of the recounts and the 64 lawsuits that have been thrown out of court knows that. So how can these people still believe this fervently enough to condone an attack on our government?
I think the reason is clear. Those who approved of the attacks do not believe in democracy, where government leaders are chosen by the people. They pay lip service to the idea, but deep down in their autocratic little hearts, they really want an authority figure to run the country. How else can you explain their approval of an attack on our government intended to subvert an election?
The relentless attacks on voting rights in (mostly) southern states show that Republicans really don’t want minorities to vote. Gerrymandering and voter ID laws are designed to implement that. Although many Republicans regularly vote by absentee ballot, the adamant opposition by virtually all Republican politicians to mail-in voting in the last election shows that they feared it would increase voter participation. Trump and Congressional Republicans were counting on the pandemic to deter people from standing in the long lines at the few polling places that were grudgingly kept open in the minority areas of red states. Trump himself has said that if everybody who is eligible to vote actually voted, no Republican would ever be elected.[ii] But he isn’t the only one to voice that idea. Many other Republicans have made similar statements. They do not want government by the people. They want government by their people. And they are willing to do whatever it takes to stay in power, including violence, intimidation, vandalism and breaking any law to achieve their ends.
And then, their worst nightmare happened. Huge voter turnout! Most of the Trump supporters might have protested, but would have eventually accepted the results when they were verified. But Trump made sure they wouldn’t, with a constant barrage of incendiary statements and claims about voter fraud, and when recounts proved that wrong, he shifted to claims about hacked voting machines. But some states did hand recounts that agreed with the machine count. When that too was debunked, he tried to strongarm voting authorities in some states to ignore the election results and pick electors who would vote for him. That clumsy attempt should have been enough for his followers to see that they were being duped.
That should have been the end of it, but Trump didn’t quit. He continued with more and more strident accusations, and the right-wing media happily spread his nonsense. It was what his followers wanted to hear, of course, and they bought it. When all his other challenges failed, it was clear what his final stand would be. He incited an insurrection. Maybe he didn’t intend for it to get as violent as it did, but if he has any misgivings, he is not voicing them. In fact, he’s doubling down, and even though he says the transition will be peaceful on January 20, I doubt it. And this time his mob will be heavily armed. A lot more people may die before this is over.
Many of the rioters were wearing or carrying American flags, and shouting that God was on their side. Some of them have been identified as evangelical Christians. All good, patriotic citizens, right?
No patriot would approve of a mob attacking and vandalizing our Capitol with the clear intention of threatening, possibly kidnapping and even killing members of Congress. But almost half of Republicans in that poll thought it was just fine.
They are not patriots. They are enemies of our government and its democratic processes. They will apparently condone anything to keep their leader in power, including government by force of arms instead of votes.
It is up to us, the majority of citizens; Republicans, Democrats and Independents. We are the real patriots who must save our nation. It will not be an easy or quick process. I hope President Biden and the sensible members of Congress can help us get that process started.
[ii] In an interview with Fox News on March 30, 2020, explaining why he opposed Democratic efforts to include an expansion of mail voting in the coronavirus relief legislation. “They had levels of voting, that if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump said.