Republican officials were freaking out yesterday about Trump's announced plans to counter program the national prayer service at the Capitol to commemorate the deaths and injuries connected to his attempted coup and insurrection. What Republicans didn't want was him forcing them once again to defend his Big Lie, which is what he intended to talk about tomorrow. Someone persuaded him to back down. So he blamed the select committee's investigation and cancelled his broadcast, and said he'd talk about the way he sees the issues at a super-spreader MAGA rally in Arizona next week.
How the hell was he able to keep his grip on the GOP after the sacking of the Capitol? Too many people in our 24/7 news cycle would have reinvented their personal identity as their affinity to what their favorite news sources have persuaded them is political "truth."
Last night, the NY Times published an adaptation by Jeremy Peters from his forthcoming book, Insurgency: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted. Peters wrote that 6 weeks after the assault on the Capitol, Trump's pollster "saw how thoroughly Trump had remade the G.O.P. in his image-- and how enduring his popularity remained, even after the attack on the seat of American democracy. The people who described themselves as the most committed Republicans were also the most likely to say they were committed to Trump, Fabrizio found in his post-Jan. 6 survey. Feelings about the former president, he explained in his analysis, were so intertwined with the understanding many voters had about what it meant to be a strong Republican that 'Trumpism and party fidelity' were becoming one and the same."
Trump's shocking 29% approval rating immediately after the attempted coup actually caused senior Republicans to start denouncing him, even a spineless worm like Kevin McCarthy. Peters reminds us that McCarthy "urged his colleagues to support a resolution to censure Trump for inciting the violence. And in a speech on Jan. 13, the day Trump was impeached for the second time, McCarthy was unambiguous about where he believed the blame fell. 'The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,' he said. Even former Vice President Mike Pence, who on Jan. 6 was hustled out of the Senate chamber by Secret Service agents who were concerned he was a target, was angry enough to fume privately to a Republican senator, 'After all the things I’ve done for him.'" But... as Peter Meijer (R-MI) said on one of the Sunday talking heads shows this week, Republicans felt they had no alternative.
The breach didn’t last long. And burying the memory of what happened on Jan. 6-- which Pence downplayed recently as “one day in January”-- has become a necessity to maintaining power and relevance in today’s G.O.P.
One year after that day in January, polls show that most Republicans see little need to re-examine-- or even acknowledge-- what happened. Around three-quarters of them still view Trump favorably, or roughly the same as when Fabrizio conducted his poll shortly after Jan. 6. And there is no surer sign that the Republican Party remains the party of Trump than the fact that there remains no obvious or able challenger to him in sight.
McCarthy was among the first to change tack, visiting Trump’s Palm Beach estate in late January. After the two men posed for a photo, a Trump spokesperson released a statement announcing that the two men had agreed to work together to reclaim the House majority.
“President Trump’s popularity has never been stronger than it is today, and his endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time,” the statement noted. McCarthy has since tried to derail the congressional commission investigating the attacks.
No one seems more intent on proving how damaging it is politically for a Republican to question Trump’s revisionist accounts of what happened in the 2020 election and on Jan. 6 than Trump himself.
In an interview at Mar-a-Lago a few weeks after the attack, he suggested that Pence had jeopardized his political future by not heeding his demand to interfere with the counting of the Electoral College votes in Congress that day.
“There was no downside,” Trump said. “So Mike could have done that. And I wish he did. I think it would have been much better for the country. I also think it would have been better for Mike.”
He expressed little interest in discussing what harm might have befallen Pence, his beseechingly loyal lieutenant of four years, as rioters marauded through the halls of Congress calling for his execution. Their threats weren’t real, he insisted. “I think it was an expression. I don’t think they would have ever thought of doing it,” he said.
As Republicans at first tried to dispel the idea that Trump’s dominance over the party would continue once he left office, many of them sounded like Senator Rick Scott of Florida, who said in a television interview a year ago that the G.O.P. belonged to no single person but to its voters-- the people.
Trump, however, offered a revealing clarification to Scott’s comment: “But the people like me the best, by far.”