Talking Points

The Republican Party doesn't get to have Jan. 6 both ways

Republicans want to have Jan. 6 both ways.

On the one hand, they would have Americans believe the insurrection was just an expression of "legitimate political discourse," the language the Republican National Committee used on Friday to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for participating in the investigation of that day's events. The RNC was echoing the stance held by former President Donald Trump, who had suggested he might someday pardon the rioters, if only he somehow returns to the Oval Office. "If I run and if I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly," he said at a rally last month.

On the other hand, there are a few GOPers who seem eager to cast blame for the insurrection … on Democrats. Axios reports that the Republican "shadow committee" looking at Jan. 6 wants to pin blame for the day on "negligence at the highest levels" for failing to properly secure the Capitol. (Again, this is echoing Trump. "If Nancy Pelosi does her job on security, there is no 'Jan. 6,'" he said last week.) And Politico reports that some of the Trumpiest Republicans — folks like Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) — are eager for the party to aim the Jan. 6 committee at Democrats and "deep state" accomplices in the Justice Department, assuming the GOP wins a House majority in this year's midterm elections. 

Taken as a whole, the GOP outlook seems to be this: Jan. 6 is no big deal and also Democrats must be punished for allowing it to happen. 

This is what actually happened that day, and this is who did it:

It's probably unreasonable to expect a coherent take on the insurrection from a party that takes its cues from perhaps the most incoherent president of modern times. And as I've previously pointed out, the GOP approach to Jan. 6 — aside from simply absolving all the bad actors of responsibility — mostly amounts to an ugly bit of victim-blaming. Everybody is responsible for the violence of the insurrection except the man who incited it, and the people who were incited.

Perhaps throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks is intended to mask the Trumpist GOP's embrace of political violence. But nobody's fooled. We ought to have some more legitimate discourse about that.