Let’s talk about the last week or so.
Here are some facts. Republican leaders insisted that purging Trump critic Rep. Liz Cheney from their ranks was necessary to unify their party ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
Former president Donald Trump celebrated Cheney’s ouster by calling her a “bitter, horrible human being,” and has made clear he has no interest in putting the hostilities behind him as he continues to seek vengeance and lie about the 2020 election.
Six months after losing reelection, Trump has certainly emerged more emboldened than ever after House Republicans voted to remove Cheney — the Wyoming congresswoman and a daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney — from her post as the No. 3 Republican over her repeated criticisms of Trump.
Meanwhile, Trump in recent weeks has only escalated his attacks on the election outcome, obsessing over a partisan Arizona audit and releasing a flurry of statements denouncing what he calls a “fake Presidential Election.”
“If a thief robs a jewelry store of all of its diamonds (the 2020 Presidential Election), the diamonds must be returned,” he said in a statement this week.
There remains no evidence to support his allegations of mass voter fraud, claims he began to make long before Election Day as polls showed him losing to Joe Biden.
Yet that hasn’t stopped Trump from continuing to try to convince his supporters that he was the rightful winner — ongoing attacks on the democratic system that Cheney warned could incite further violence as she delivered a defiant floor speech ahead of her colleagues’ vote to oust her from her leadership position.
The Cheney vote was just the latest sign of how firmly Trump has cemented his grip on a Republican Party that now has little room for those who dare to confront his election delusions — rejected in the courts and by Trump’s own attorney general and homeland security officials — even after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
That brings us to the next set of facts.
Flouting all evidence and their own first-hand experience, a small but growing number of Republican lawmakers are propagating a false portrayal of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, brazenly arguing that the rioters who used flagpoles as weapons, brutally beat police officers and chanted that they wanted to hang Vice President Mike Pence, were somehow acting peacefully in their violent bid to overturn Biden’s election win.
One Republican at a hearing a week ago called the rioters a “mob of misfits.” Another compared them to tourists. And a third suggested the sweeping federal investigation into the riot — which has yielded more than 400 arrests and counting — amounts to a national campaign of harassment.
It’s a turn of events that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, another target of the rioters, called “appalling” and “sick,” and it raises the possibility that the public’s understanding of the worst domestic attack on Congress in 200 years — an attack that was captured extensively on video — could become distorted by the same kinds of disinformation that fueled Trump’s false claims of a stolen election. It was the lie about the election that motivated the rioters in the first place.
Which brings us to yesterday’s set of facts.
Top congressional Republicans have been working to stop the formation of an independent commission into the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol (that they say was peaceful), again aligning themselves with Trump. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he will oppose the legislation to create the panel, joining House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who announced he won’t support it either. Both men claimed the bill was partisan, even though membership of the proposed commission would be evenly split between the parties.
Democrats maintain that an independent, bipartisan investigation of the violent siege is crucial to preventing it from happening again.
For sure, the litmus test for being a Republican these days is simply black or white. And the extreme is not really a comfortable place for most Americans who identify as a Republican. It would seem the criteria for membership has become rabid and requires some very serious blind spots despite being a principled platform for decades.
We bring all of this up only because we want to assure Gov. Phil Scott that when he decides this mob no longer works for him, and truly no longer represents his values, no one is going to blame him if he walks away from the R beside his name. We’d be proud if he did.