Opinion: McConnell and McCarthy crawl back to Trump’s side

History will surely mark that day as a singular tragedy –a blood-soaked insurrection by pseudo-patriots worshiping in the “cult of Donald Trump.” But Republican lawmakers are moving on. They have turned the page, swallowed any revulsion they might have felt then and crawled back to Trump’s side, as they fight to help him once again escape responsibility for his behavior.

They are doing this even though their lives were in danger that day, and even though the victims included Trump supporters. And even as a shocking new report by The New York Times shows how the mob trampled and may have killed one of their own on the Capitol’s marble steps. Republican leaders in Congress are siding with the man who incited the violence. Right after the tragedy, Senator Mitch McConnell and Rep. Kevin McCarthy pinned the blame for the bloodshed on Trump. But now they aren’t so troubled by it.

The Times report showed how Boyland, a 34-year-old Trump superfan, was crushed by fellow rioters as “Trump 2020” banners flew. Her friend cried, “She’s dead!” Nearby a man in a cowboy hat shouted for his comrades to knock the gas masks off of police officers.

The three others who died that day were Ashli Babbitt, 35, a rioter who was climbing through the glass door to the House chamber when she was shot by a Capitol Police officer defending fleeing lawmakers; Trump loyalist Kevin Greeson, 55, who died of a heart attack; and Benjamin Philips, 50, who died of a stroke. Philips founded a pro-Trump website devoted to opposing “communist marxist scummy democrats.”
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The riot also injured 140 police officers. The mayhem and suffering can be laid at the feet of Trump, who spent months promoting the lie that he won the election and stoking his followers’ rage. He spoke to the crowd that day. “Fight for Trump, Fight for Trump!” they chanted. Then they attacked.

Soon after the chaos, McConnell exhibited what looked like a genuine human response. “The mob was fed lies,” he said. “They were provoked by the President and other powerful people.” McCarthy, minority leader in the House, also said something that rang true. “The President bears responsibility,” he said.

But that was then. On January 26, McConnell voted with 44 colleagues to stop the second impeachment trial of Trump. McCarthy began his own flip-flop when he told reporters last Thursday that Trump had not provoked the attack after all. Then he flew to make amends with the ex-president at his Florida resort. They posed for a photo, Trump grinning like a contented cat. According to news reports, the two agreed that Trump would work to help the GOP capture the House in 2022.
McCarthy will get to grin himself if Republicans do retake Congress and he gets the speaker’s chair. Meanwhile, his contortions and McConnell’s retreat suggest that Trump was on to something when he called Washington a “swamp.” Cold-blooded creatures live in swamps.
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The 2020 election showed that Americans wanted Trump removed from power. Court after court had already rejected his narcissistic campaign of propaganda and lawsuits alleging the election had been stolen from him. The public release of a recording of his notorious phone call demanding officials in Georgia “find” more votes for him surely contributed to the Republicans’ defeat in that state’s two Senate races, which cost McConnell his position as majority leader.

Although Trump is bad at elections and bad for America, he’s still good at manipulating the GOP. He has convinced them he is a martyr, not a loser, and commands the loyalty of the most fanatical of the party’s voters.
The rabid members of any party can exert outsized influence in primary elections, and Trump and his children have indeed threatened officials who stand against him with primary challenges. Donald Trump Jr. attacked Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney after she voted in favor of impeaching Trump. Another Republican who voted for impeachment, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, now has a primary challenger, a candidate who named his committee “Impeach Adam Kinzinger 2022.”

Kinzinger and Cheney are sad outliers in a Republican Party hardened in their devotion to self-interest and desperately frightened of Trump. The moment of conscience that some Republicans experienced after the riot lasted less than a month. What will it take for the GOP to find its way back to the path of human decency, and stay on it a little longer?

Must the next Rosanne Boyland or Brian Sicknick die in their arms for them to do the right thing?

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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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