After pro-Trump terrorists stormed the Capitol this week in an attempted coup, Congress reconvened in the wee hours of the morning to certify Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump. There were many remarkable, history-defining moments that occurred the night — undoubtedly, the photos of men wielding Confederate flags down the halls of Congress and posing in the office of the Speaker of the House will go down in history.
Putting into words my immediate reaction to these events is hard. I am at once shocked — seeing rioters forcefully enter their way into the Capitol will never not be shocking — yet well aware that with the carnage of the last four years and the dangerous lies spewed by Trump, I should have expected no less a disastrous end to this shameful Presidency. It’s hard to turn the anger I feel — towards the rioters and towards the politicians who emboldened them — into a coherent string of words; seeing Josh Hawley raise his fist in solidarity to protestors who just hours later would attempt a coup and, then seeing Ted Cruz, even after the insurrection, object to the election result (despite obviously knowing better) is enough to make me see red.
Yet, as Congress gathered in the aftermath of the insurrection, there was a clarifying moment as Democratic representative Conor Lamb got up to make an impassioned speech about the election result only to face an objection from a GOP Representative who was offended that Lamb may have insinuated that some members of Congress had been spreading lies. Yes, you got that right — he was not mad at the lies themselves, nor at the people who spread them, he instead was livid that someone would call out those lies for what they are.
Watching these members of Congress who had indulged the dangerous rhetoric of a President they knew was lying, squirm as they were called out, brought home the sheer cowardice of the Republican Party at large. Sure, there are many words you could use to describe Hawley, Cruz and co — traitorous and self-interested come to mind — but at the heart of all of that they are first and foremost cowards. They spent the last four years blindly supporting a President who they never wanted to be their party’s nominees and, looked the otherwise at scandals that would’ve had them seething had they been committed under Obama during his Presidency or Clinton during hers in an alternative timeline.
When Trump lost, they went along with what they knew full well were lies about election fraud, in the hope that by doing so they would gain brownie points from the GOP base: setting them up for re-election or even a crack at the Presidency in 2024. Just look at 2024 Presidential hopeful Gov. Kristi Noem; as her state battled one of the worst COVID outbreaks in America, she was criss-corssing America to campaign for Georgia Republicans and, was signing onto baseless election fraud lawsuits and opposing mask mandates. Once a conventional, establishment Republican politician, she was doing everything in her power to hitch herself at the last moment to the Trump train, even as it continued to streamroll fundamental American norms and values. For more profiles in discourage, see Ted Cruz — who became the loudest cheerleader of the man who once disparaged his wife’s appearance — and Sen. Kelly Loeffler; who objected to Biden’s election victory right up until she lost her special election, at which point (having nothing lose) she stopped objecting to the result.
All of this proves that while the Trump-enablers of the GOP are many things — dangerous, traitorous, dishonest — at their core, they are cowardly; too cowardly to stand up for American institutions, too cowardly to stand up for democracy and, too cowardly to stand up to the most cowardly President in American history: Donald Trump.