The Straw That Broke the Camel's Back?

AP Photo/John Minchillo

Following a pro-Trump rally, violent Trump supporters attacked Capitol Police, stormed the U.S. Capitol, and forced an evacuation, effectively stalling Congress from counting the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden. President Trump’s rhetoric — that he won the 2020 election by a “landslide” and that Congress was trying to steal it by ratifying the Electoral College votes — seems to have inflamed these rioters.

It seems this horrific act has finally pushed Republicans away from Trump’s election rhetoric. While 13 senators said they would formally object to the Electoral College results, only six of them actually did so.

“When I arrived in Washington this morning, I fully intended to object to the certification of the electoral votes. However, the events that have occurred today have led me to reconsider,” outgoing Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) said. “I cannot now in good conscience object to the certification of these electors. The violence, the lawlessness, and siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent and stand as a direct attack on the very institution my objection was intended to protect: the sanctity of the American democratic process.”

Loeffler called for election reform and insisted that “there were last-minute changes to the November 2020 election process and serious irregularities that resulted in too many Americans losing confidence not only in the integrity of our elections but in the power of the ballot as a tool of democracy.”

“Nevertheless, there is no excuse for the events that took place in these chambers today and I pray that America never suffers such a dark day again,” she added.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) demanded a full prosecution of the rioters who broke into the U.S. Capitol, comparing them to the insurrectionists who rose up this past summer.

Shots Fired, Pence Evacuated, Capitol Locked Down as Protesters Breach Premises. National Guard on the Way

“Last summer, as insurrection gripped the streets, I called to send in the troops if necessary to restore order. Today, insurrectionists occupied our Capitol. Fortunately, the Capitol Police and other law-enforcement agencies restored order without the need for federal troops. But the principle remains the same: no quarter for insurrectionists. Those who attacked the Capitol today should face the full extent of federal law,” Cotton said in a powerful statement.

He then called on Trump to accept the results of the 2020 election.

“It’s past time for the president to accept the results of the election, quit misleading the American people, and repudiate mob violence,” Cotton declared. “And the senators and representatives who fanned the flames by encouraging the president and leading their supporters to believe that their objections could reverse the election results should withdraw those objections. In any event, the Congress will complete its constitutional responsibilities tonight.”

The horrific mob storming the U.S. Capitol may have finally convinced Republicans that they cannot support all of Trump’s rhetoric. This is a key moment for the Republican Party, because so many Republicans rightly trusted Trump when the legacy media twisted the facts against him.

In fact, a Media Research Center poll found that many Americans who voted for Joe Biden said they would not have done so if they had heard about one of eight key election-related news stories that the legacy media suppressed (like allegations of Joe Biden’s personal connection to Hunter Biden’s corruption). If these Americans had not voted for Biden, Trump would have won the election.

The legacy media has shamefully buried Trump’s positive record — originalist judges and justices, defending America against Marxist critical race theory, bringing peace in the Middle East, breathing life into the economy, and cutting taxes and regulations, among others — while seizing on every error the president has made. Trump’s base knows this about the legacy media, so they too often dismissed the president’s negatives while rightly championing the positives.

Trump Needs to Forcefully Condemn the Rioters, Not Coddle Them

This has resulted in a bifurcated electorate, where millions are perpetually furious at Trump while millions more trust everything Trump says. To be perfectly candid, I found myself in each of these groups, opposing Trump in 2016 but then coming around to vocally support him in 2020 because he delivered on most of the promises I cared about.

Unfortunately, this bifurcated electorate lives in two different media bubbles. Trumpworld could not believe that Trump could lose, and Never Trumpworld could not believe that Trump could win. When Trump lost, it shattered Trumpworld’s certainty — and Trump took advantage of that.

Numerous election officials abused their positions in ways that watered down the integrity of the election, and irregularities emerged that gave superficial plausibility to Trump’s irresponsible rhetoric on the election. Tragically, the legacy media — and tech companies like Facebook and Twitter — decided to ignore the irregularities and silence dissent, which of course exacerbated election doubts further.

Trump, who sees himself as a winner, appears all too willing to burn down the Republican Party if he can still convince people that he won the 2020 election. He has attacked his excellent (former) attorney general, Republican state officials, and his extremely loyal vice president for not playing along.

Throughout this process, Republicans have started waking up to the fact that Donald Trump does not have their best interests at heart. Trump’s election challenge is not about conservatism or the Republican Party or even America — it is about him.

The shocking mob attack on the U.S. Capitol revealed where Trump’s rhetoric leads, and the Republican Party wants none of it. The threat of civil war broke Trump’s spell on the GOP — for now.

The Republican Party needs to chart a new path forward, and that will be extremely difficult. Trump’s policy record is excellent, and the GOP would be wrong to reject it after the 2020 election. Tragically, it seems Joe Biden was able to turn the election into a referendum on Trump’s bombastic character, and that explains why so many new voters turned out against him. Meanwhile, Trump rightly made the election about policy — and his policies have broadly helped Americans — so millions more also turned out to support him, and Republicans in down-ballot races.

The election revealed just how polarized Americans are, and it highlighted why the GOP can’t afford to reject Trumpism, even while it has to reject the excesses of Trump’s rhetoric.

The person who can find the perfect formula to do both will likely win the 2024 GOP primary.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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