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The company they keep: the transformed GOP

Before discussing the transformation of the Republican Party, a final point regarding negotiating the Covid Relief Package with the GOP leadership: I’d refer the Democrats to the Charlie Brown meme where he, in good faith, prepares to kick the football while Lucy holds it in place (or not). History rhymes.

As for Jan. 6, this extraordinary narrative is still unfolding, the facts slowly revealed, the chilling, surreal images of the insurrectionists inside the Capitol repeatedly shown. We see that many are fueled by a consuming rage, a rage that seems inexplicably disconnected from all that defines our democracy, meaning, in this moment, the peaceful transfer of power. Who are these people? And why are they there?

To answer those two questions, I took a step back and tried to deconstruct what came before that Jan. 6 afternoon. It seems evident now that the anger of the mob first gathered on the Ellipse was not simply a spontaneous response to a grievance-saturated rally riff by Donald Trump; rather, it was the culmination of a weeks-long, premeditated plan, organized and financed by a cohort of enablers, its singular purpose being to overturn the 2020 election.

That effort, contrary to all appearances, was never haphazard, or simply cobbled together from rally to rally, stream of consciousness speeches. It was not simply the Giuliani clown car filing specious lawsuits that claimed, without evidence, rampant voter irregularities. Instead, in its starkest form, it was a coldly calculated campaign to hold onto power at all costs, predicated on voter fraud, one that gradually devolved into an alleged Democratic-engineered conspiracy, summarized by the “Stop the Steal” MAGA mantra. Its intent was to disenfranchise some 80 million voters who cast ballots for Joe Biden, and was soon referred to by the Democrats as Trump’s “Big Lie.”

Most of those who supported Trump during that post-election selling of the “Big Lie” have vanished into the shadows. But there are those 147 House and Senate Republicans who went on the record and voted, post-insurrection, to join Trump in his last-ditch effort to obstruct the Electoral College results. They, in effect, stood shoulder to shoulder not only with Trump and his full-throated “I won in a landslide” lie, but stood with the virulent “Hang Mike Pence” mob. These elected legislators, Republicans all, willingly trafficked in unreality, in conspiracies, mirroring the rabbit hole Trump dropped into during what the New York Times characterized as “77 Days: Trump’s Campaign to Subvert the Election.”

But then, the Republican Party had remained silent for more than four years amid a kaleidoscope of Trumpian dissembling and delusion, ever reluctant to step forward and take umbrage with his chaotic, self-serving administration; the COVID-19 and family separation policies are but two examples. Even after these same Republicans hid in back rooms or hunkered down amid the seats in the galleries and bore witness to what was the take-down of our nation’s Capitol, they voted for the “The Big Lie,” knowing it was a shameless betrayal of our nation’s laws and norms for which they have yet to be held accountable.

And now we are about to observe an attempt by the Democrats to once again hold Donald Trump accountable not only for his incitement of the mob — “If you don’t fight like hell, you won’t have a country anymore!” — while, in effect, urging them do whatever is necessary to stop the vote if Mike Pence won’t.

But in truth, if only indirectly, the Democrats’ Article of Impeachment holds Trump accountable for those 77 days wherein he sold, like an elixir at a carnival, “The Big Lie.” And then, finally, he stood at the podium on the Ellipse and aimed the now-enraged MAGA mob like a cannon at the Capitol. Chaos and loss of life accomplished.

Chris Honoré is an Ashland Tidings columnist.