Gasp! Horror! Unthinkable! This is not our country!
The reactions of countless Republican senators and representatives who were interviewed shortly after Donald Trump thugs stormed the Capitol, as Congress was beginning to count the electoral votes that would culminate in the marking of President-elect Joe Biden as our nation’s 46th president. With little resistance from police, rioters marched into the Capitol and halted the count, with congresspersons being led to areas where they were sheltered. One protestor was shot and died afterwards. Three others died from “medical emergencies,” according to law enforcement. Complete chaos and disgust.
Despite the surprise that Republicans expressed, they are responsible for the escalation of what many political critics saw coming. Throughout his presidency, Republicans have enabled Trump and stood by him as he has consistently engaged in unpresidential and unethical behavior with impunity that led to his impeachment with Republicans blocking his removal. Even after Trump soundly lost to Biden in the November 3 presidential election, Republicans stood firmly with him despite the lack of any evidence —including official recounts and court decisions— hinting that there was any fraud and that Trump’s so-called “landslide victory” was stolen from him. On the morning of the congressional counting of electoral votes, there were still 13 senators and 89 representatives who indicated that they would object to the counting of the electoral votes due to fraud.
One more time, Trump stoked the fire of hate and violence in his rabid supporters that he spoke to gathered across the street from the Capitol, telling them to march down the street and take back the election that was stolen from them.
Afterwards, as his own congressional supporters publicly called for Trump to demand that his supporters stop the violence and their occupation of the Capitol, he finally put together a clip telling his supporters to return to their homes, that he knows how much they are hurt because their landslide victory was stolen from them through fraud, that they should not be playing into the hands of evil Democrats, and that he loves them. No words of condemnation and no actions to carry out his presidential obligations to protect the U.S. Constitution. Many people interviewed, including some Republicans, agreed that Trump had not gone far enough to dissuade his followers from halting the violence and occupancy of the Capitol. The National Guard and police departments from surrounding states eventually made their way to the Capitol and it was some time after the start of the 6 p.m. curfew that DC Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed, that police authorities slowly pushed back the rioters. No visible arrests made even though it was clear that many rioters were in violation of the curfew.
Contrast these actions to the aggressive police tactics and Trump sending in forces to deal with protestors marching against the killing of George Floyd. Recall that Trump regularly describes these protests as “massive violence in our cities throughout the country.” Compare what happened in the Capitol this afternoon with the police fatal shootings of too many unarmed Blacks and Latinos. The events today were reminiscent of white armed rioters who stormed into the Michigan State Capitol to protest Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s shelter-in-place mandate earlier this summer.
Ultimately, it is white supremacy that has allowed Trump to refuse to acknowledge the fact that Biden soundly defeated him and that has given Trump impunity for his unethical and law-breaking behavior with Republicans refusing to hold him accountable. It is also white supremacy that resulted in police officers providing little resistance against white self-proclaimed “patriots” who took over the Michigan State Capitol and U.S. Capitol, but that led to a white police officer killing a 12-year-old Black youth, Tamir Rice, who was playing with a pellet gun outside of a recreational center in Cleveland. A mob of white rioters is given leeway and accommodation, but zero tolerance for people of color, even a child. The suggestion that the police were outnumbered relative to the Trump mob is consistent with this view—even though Trump and his thugs loudly proclaimed that violence would take place, the appropriate level of authority was not assembled to put down such force, again giving them leeway and the benefit of the doubt.
While Republicans have defended and enabled Trump to carry out his dastardly deeds with impunity, not only have many of them lost their integrity and soul —yes, Ted Cruz, you are one of these major figures— but they are sacrificing their own political party, as Trump himself stokes internal divisions. As an example, while Trump rioters took over the Capitol, Georgia —a traditional red state— saw its voters elect two Democrats over Republicans in runoff elections for the state’s two U.S. Senate seats, putting both the Senate and House under Democratic control. Mitch McConnell will soon be the minority leader of the Senate.
Republicans have created the Trump monstrosity. Although some are tiptoeing away from Trump now while many others are still firmly at his beck and call, all Republicans cannot feign open-mouthed surprise and disbelief about what happened today in the Capitol. They bear responsibility. Many will eventually go down with Trump come re-election time. Was it worth it?
Rogelio Sáenz is professor in the Department of Demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He is a regular contributor to Latino Rebels. Twitter: @RogelioSaenz42.