Tuesday, 15 Jun 2021

Opinion | How the Storming of the Capitol Became a ‘Normal Tourist Visit’


By Thomas B. Edsall

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

It is no wonder that Republican leaders in the House do not want to convene a truth and reconciliation commission to scrutinize the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The more attention drawn to the events of that day, the more their party has to lose.

Immediately after the riot, support for President Donald Trump fell sharply among Republicans, according to surveys conducted by Kevin Arceneaux of Sciences Po Paris and Rory Truex of Princeton.

The drop signaled that Republicans would have to pay a price for the Trump-inspired insurrection, the violent spirit of which was captured vividly by Peter Baker and Sabrina Tavernise of The Times:

The pure savagery of the mob that rampaged through the Capitol that day was breathtaking, as cataloged by the injuries inflicted on those who tried to guard the nation’s elected lawmakers. One police officer lost an eye, another the tip of his finger. Still another was shocked so many times with a Taser gun that he had a heart attack. They suffered cracked ribs, two smashed spinal disks and multiple concussions. At least 81 members of the Capitol force and 65 members of the Metropolitan Police Department were injured.

Republican revulsion toward the riot was, however, short-lived.

Arceneaux and Truex, in their paper “Donald Trump and the Lie,” point out that Republican voter identification with Trump had “rebounded to pre-election levels” by Jan. 13. The authors measured identification with Trump by responses to two questions: “When people criticize Donald Trump, it feels like a personal insult,” and “When people praise Donald Trump, it makes me feel good.”

The same pattern emerged in the Republican Party’s favorability ratings, which dropped by 13 points between the beginning and the end of January, but gained 11 points back by April, according to surveys by the NBC/Wall Street Journal.

Mitch McConnell himself was outraged. In a Feb. 13 speech on the Senate floor he said:

January 6th was a disgrace. American citizens attacked their own government. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of democratic business they did not like. Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the vice president.

Memorably, McConnell went on:

There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.

McConnell’s indignation was also short-lived. Less than two weeks later, on Feb. 25, McConnell told Fox News that if Trump were the nominee in 2024, he would “absolutely” support the former president.

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