In the aftermath of the failed Jan. 6 Trump-incited coup attempt to overthrow the U.S. government, support for Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment has been growing, and a majority of Americans now want to see the former president barred from running for office in the future, according to recent polls.
But while once-reliable Trump sycophants have begun to distance themselves from the disgraced former president, it’s notable that even after the storming of the Capitol that killed 5 people, 147 Republican legislators — 139 members of the House and 8 senators —voted against certifying the Electoral College votes in one or more states, that, if they had enough votes would have overturned the results of the 2020 election.
These GOP lawmakers who persisted in repeating and giving credibility to Trump’s Big Lie about having had the election stolen from him, are being increasingly condemned by their colleagues, constituents and hometown newspapers. There are calls for their resignations or expulsion under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, that stipulates that if a person has engaged in an “insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S., they cannot hold public office. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Sasha Abramsky, a journalist, author and regular contributor to The Nation Magazine’s “Signal to Noise” column. Here, he talks about the need for accountability for Republican party members who enabled Trump’s assault on democracy over the past four years.
SASHA ABRAMSKY: This is entirely predictable. I mean, Trump is the most unsubtle politician, maybe in American history. He wears his actions on his sleeve and he says what he’s going to do. And then he does it. And Trump’s basically been saying for the last several months, “I will only accept an election result if I win that election.” And he’s been telling his supporters, “If I don’t win the election, it means there was fraud. And if there’s fraud, it means we have to do something to take the country back.”
And his supporters have been taking him at his word and his acolytes, people like Rudy Giuliani or these really extreme conspiracists — attorneys like Lin Woods and Sydney Powell — they’ve been sort of percolating with this evermore fanatical vision of what post-election America should look like. So it was very, very clear from early November onwards and arguably even from the summer on, when Trump started trying to undermine the U.S. Postal Service and all the other things he did to try and muck around with the election.
It was very, very clear that we were in a situation where the president of the United States was going to gin up his supporters to try to forcibly keep him in power. There was no mystery to that. Anyone who didn’t see it was only not seeing it because they had deliberately blinkered themselves.
So my overwhelming analysis when I was watching this was, this is entirely unsurprising. And this really is the consequence of four years — or five years even — of the GOP leadership in the Congress, essentially tolerating any and every extreme that Donald Trump could come up with for short-term partisan advantage.
And, you know, there’s a famous John F. Kennedy inaugural quote, when he talked about riding the tiger. And he basically warned Americans and he said, don’t do it. Don’t ride the tiger because anyone who does ends up in the belly of the beast. And that’s what happened with Trump, all these Republicans thought they could basically control a demagogue. Turned out the demagogue was basically uncontrollable and uncontainable, and this country came nearer to an absolute political disaster on Jan. 6 — arguably than it’s come since 1865 and the end of the Civil War. I mean, it was that consequential. It really could have represented the unraveling of the American democratic experiment.
SCOTT HARRIS: Sasha, as you just outlined, many of those politicians within the Republican party were complicit in Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, where Joe Biden won and Trump lost. What should be the consequences for these legislators who basically attempted to overturn the votes of millions of primarily African-American voters in big cities in these battleground states? Many of them continue to contest the election after the Jan. 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
SASHA ABRAMSKY: I mean, there clearly have to be consequences. And obviously those consequences — there’s no one size fits all approach and they’re going to be gradated. So if you take Donald Trump himself, first he was impeached. I would argue it’s fairly likely he’ll be convicted by the Senate and prevented from ever running for office again.
But he really should be tried — I mean, you know, in broad daylight incited an insurrection, there’s no doubt about it. So did Rudy Giuliani, who was talking about trial by combat. You know, for the top instigators of what really was a coup attempt, there needs to be legal consequences. When you’re talking about people in the House and in the Senate, I think it depends who they are and what they did. So Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz not only voted in favor of challenging the Electoral College, but they orchestrated this extraordinary effort to undermine faith in the election.
So I think there’s a very good case to say that Hawley and Cruz should be expelled from the Senate. And the same goes for at least a handful of the Congress members who, you know, it looks like they were in some ways cooperating with collaborating with coup plotters. So at the very least, those individuals need to be kicked out of Congress. But beyond that, again, they must face legal consequences if they did in fact, incite an insurrection. And then you have this sort of 140 something, or 130 something just run of the mill, rank and file GOP members who went to the dark side when it came to this vote. Pragmatically, you can’t expel two-thirds of the GOP caucus, but I think every single one of those people should be held to political account. And when they run for re-election in two years or in the Senate case, four or six years, when they run for re-election, every single one of these individuals needs to be held to account by the electorate for essentially trying to destroy the constitutional system of government.
And I think a lot of them will be. I mean, I’m under no illusions that in 2022, all of the GOP will be voted out of office. But I think there’s room here to have a political realignment because there are an awful lot of people, even within the Republican party who are extremely uncomfortable with what’s happened and extremely uncomfortable with the flirtation with fascism and with demagoguery and with streetfighters that Donald Trump basically set in motion these past four years.
Journalist and Nation magazine columnist Sasha Abramsky’s books include “Jumping at Shadows: The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream.” For more information, visit Sasha Abramsky’s author page at the Nation Magazine at thenation.com/