Mere hours after a deranged and violent mob carried out a terrorist attack against the U.S. Capitol, incited to do so by a deranged and violent president, elected officials in both the Senate and House took to their chamber floors Wednesday night to lament the gruesome events that had just transpired. Both Republicans and Democrats seemed understandably shaken by the unhinged violence, a standard feature in the country for the last four years, thanks to our menacing president, but one that had only now intersected with their own lives.
Yet even this brush with danger, and the plain fact that it had all been instigated by the president himself, has not awakened Republicans to the clear and present threat to American democracy and, more importantly, to what they might do about it. Rather than launching impeachment proceedings or invoking the 25th Amendment — a critical act to safeguard the country and prevent Trump and his rabid followers from inflicting more death and destruction before January 20 — Republicans are, once again, choosing the meaningless option of symbolically distancing themselves from the president instead of lawfully removing him from office.
That decision is as outrageous as it is unsurprising. All along, Republicans have aided and abetted the president's lawlessness and depravity, turning a blind eye to his open violations of the Constitution and stoking the same fires of resentment and rage that finally showed up at their own doorstep on Wednesday.
In a normal universe, Trump's November loss coupled with the loss of Senate control after two Democratic victories in Georgia earlier this week (clearly aided by Trump's post-election tantrum and relentless attacks on the state's GOP leaders) would make a party step away from its outgoing president. Yet even in the wake of Trump-led sedition and violent insurrection, Republicans still cannot summon enough moral conviction — let alone political clarity — to expel Trump from power and definitively sever their ties to him.
In their Wednesday night remarks, not one Republican called for Trump's impeachment. Indeed, only Mitt Romney, the lone remaining voice of sanity and conscience in the GOP, even accurately accounted for the president's responsibility for the violence: "What happened here today was an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States."
Yet even Romney, who admirably voted for one article of impeachment less than a year ago, would not commit to doing so again this time. "I think we have to hold our breath for the next 20 days," Romney told reporters on Wednesday, as if what the nation is undergoing is just a painful episode, not a direct assault on its very foundations by the man in the Oval Office.
While Romney holds his breath, other Republicans are busy fanning the flames. In the House, a majority of Republicans voted to reject the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, a move that was "exactly what the mob wanted," as Mother Jones' Tim Murphy pointed out. On Twitter, Rep. Mo Brooks, the Republican Congressman from Alabama, spent Thursday morning pushing the lunatic, but all-too-common in Republican circles, conspiracy that antifa, rather than pro-Trump forces, had been behind the attack on the Capitol. And the same Republican senators who stoked the mob with their insinuations that the election had been stolen or marred by fraud, like Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, denounced the violence but continued to push those same lies about the election in the process. In his Senate speech on Wednesday, Hawley, who had encouraged the would-be terrorists with a raised fist salute on his way into the Capitol Wednesday morning, quickly pivoted from his mild rebuke of the violence to a more full-throated focus on their "concerns." "We do need an investigation into irregularities, fraud," Hawley said. The terrorists may have been removed from the Capitol grounds by Wednesday evening, but the insurrectionists still have their seats in Congress.
Despite all that, Romney and the few other Less-than-Trumper Republicans still haven't been moved to action. Reports have surfaced that some in the administration have briefly considered but dismissed invoking the 25th amendment option, but the mere fact this merited serious discussion should make the necessity of action absolutely clear.
Meanwhile, the movement we have seen from a handful of Republicans in the Trump administration who have resigned, like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Mick Mulvaney, Trump's former Chief of Staff and now special U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland, only underscores how pathetic any Republican action short of impeachment is at this point.
Like rats abandoning a sinking ship, these enablers are choosing their own last minute face-saving rather than the urgent task of protecting this nation. "We didn't sign up for what you saw last night," Mulvaney said in explaining his resignation on Thursday. Having coddled and carried out Trump's every wild delusion, unlawful fantasy, and unconstitutional impulse, Republicans not only signed up for but also sanctioned the very circumstances that directly led to Wednesday's unprecedented events.
"That's not who we are," Sen. Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, solemnly intoned about the day's violence on Wednesday night, just the sort of mythmaking Republicans like to do in moments like this, choosing to characterize the regular expressions of white nationalist terrorism in this country as something aberrant or alien, rather than endemic and enduring. In the aftermath of this atrocity, Republicans — and some Democrats — are, once again, sanctimoniously calling for the nation's "healing." For that to have any chance of happening, they must cut out the festering infection before it violently erupts again.