If it occurred in the visual world, you’d swear it was an optical illusion.
Yet it prevails in right-wing positioning.
Let’s call it the Political Paradox Effect. Even as we learn startling new revelations about Donald Trump’s attempt to subvert the US Constitution and the results of the 2020 presidential election, Republicans resist a fuller exploration of those events. The more questions that arise, the less interest they display.
And we have learned a remarkable amount since the Jan. 6 insurrection. Thanks to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa and their book “Peril,” we now know just how Trump latched onto the cockamamie theories of right-wing attorney John Eastman to further his attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s clear Electoral College victory.
That was based on the constitutionally farcical notion that Vice President Mike Pence, while presiding over Congress’s certification of the electoral votes, could announce that some of those votes were contested or invalid, exclude them, and then rule Trump the winner of the reduced majority. When Democrats objected, Eastman said, Pence could then declare the entire election contested and thus send it to the House to decide; based on the one-delegation, one-vote process that governs in that case, the House would choose Trump. That scheme subsequently expanded to include a scenario under which Pence would delay the certification process, thereby allowing GOP-controlled legislatures to try to generate new slates of pro-Trump electors.
It would be gladdening news if Trump dismissed Eastman’s advice as the anti-constitutional lunacy it obviously was. Instead, he pressured Pence to adopt Eastman’s plan, telling his VP that his career was over if he confined himself to the simple vote-counting role the Constitution assigned him. Only Pence’s determination that he did not have the power to do as Eastman advised prevented an attempted coup by constitutional contortion.
Thanks to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s recent report, we have learned that after Attorney General William Barr resigned, Trump explored pushing out Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and replacing him with Jeffrey Clark, a loyalist who was trafficking in false claims of voter fraud and who had pressured Rosen to send a letter to elected officials in the various states Trump had targeted, wrongly asserting to them that the Department of Justice had found significant election issues there. Trump backed away from that plan only after being told it would generate resignations of top DOJ officials.
We have also learned, thanks to The Washington Post, that Trump schemers Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, and Eastman set up a command center for their election-overturning efforts at the Willard Hotel, just a block or so from the White House. The Willard outpost became the locus of the Trump team’s effort to spread misinformation and lobby state legislators to undermine the Electoral College results in the run-up to Jan. 6.
We have long known, of course, that Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and tried to cajole and bully him into finding enough votes to switch Georgia from Biden’s column to his.
What has emerged, then, is a clear portrait of an outgoing president who was ready to trample the Constitution and upend American democracy to remain in power. For anyone who reveres democracy, that should make Trump utterly unfit for a return to public life. And yet, the more we know, the less the congressional wing of the Republican Party, with a few honorable exceptions, wants to learn.
Witness the House vote to hold Bannon in criminal contempt for his refusal to comply with a subpoena from the select committee probing the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol. Only nine Republicans voted in favor. Or the way Senate Republicans rationalized away Trump’s attempts to prod the Justice Department to join his election-subversion efforts, concluding, “President Trump’s actions were consistent with his responsibilities as President to faithfully execute the law and oversee the Executive Branch.”
What explains the GOP’s posture? As Republicans from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to House minority leader Kevin McCarthy have made clear in word and deed, they don’t believe they can win unless Trump is in the GOP tent, hissing out.
But as Republicans try to dismiss Jan. 6 as much ado about very little or shrug at new revelations about Trump’s scheming or balk at each and every effort to get at the fuller truth, it demonstrates just what a Faustian bargain they have made with Trump and Trumpism. Simply put, they are more concerned with regaining party power than with safeguarding American democracy.
Remember that oath they took to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic? Here’s one more thing we now know. Those declarations are just dust in the wind.