The Capitol Riot Aftermath Bodes Ill for Democracy
Someday, the past year or so may be remembered as a bout of temporary insanity among a large share of the American people. This group refused to take basic precautions against a devastating pandemic, swallowed the lies of a president who had lost an election, and excused a violent mob that attacked the Capitol to prevent Congress from doing its constitutional duty.
Or maybe not. Maybe it will come to seem perfectly normal. Maybe this period will be known as the time when we lost our bearings for good, dooming us to a catastrophic national unravelling.
The rise in insanity is hard to overstate. A recent poll found that 20% of Americans -- including half of those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 -- believe the inoculation implants a microchip that the government can use to track them. Nearly half of Republicans don't plan to get vaccinated.
Even as the delta variant fuels a surge in infection, governors in some red states have rejected mask requirements in public schools, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowing to "provide protections for parents and kids who just want to breathe freely."
Right-wing politicians and their media allies have spread the preposterous claim that massive fraud deprived Donald Trump of reelection. A May Reuters-Ipsos poll showed that 61% of Republicans believe it. An April Reuters-Ipsos poll found that a majority of them agree that "the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol was led by violent left-wing protestors trying to make Trump look bad."
It gets worse. A poll sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute found that the lunatic QAnon movement has gained a significant following, with 23% of Republicans affirming that "the government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation." GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado have praised QAnon.
This week's hearings on the Capitol insurrection were another reminder of the alarming radicalization of the Republican Party, something exploited and encouraged by Trump.
The mob set up a gallows, chanted, "Hang Mike Pence," forced both Republican and Democratic members to flee for their lives and savagely beat police officers. But congressional Republicans now want to move on, treating it as a minor incident grossly exaggerated by Democrats and the media -- rather than an extremist effort to block a legitimate transfer of power.
GOP senators blocked the creation of an independent commission to investigate the attack. House Republicans tried in vain to stock a House committee with Trump henchmen who could be counted on to disrupt the inquiry.
Many Republican politicians are too infatuated with Trump -- or too afraid of him -- to admit the terrifying scope of the danger the insurrection represents. The party's elected officials have become a coalition of crazies and cowards.