A lot of Kansas Republicans voted against the ballot initiative on Tuesday to ban abortions. Roger Marshall, the more extremist of the state’s two right-wing senators, called it “a gut punch” and said he is “shocked, absolutely shocked… I don’t have an explanation.” Maybe the explanation is that at least part of the GOP’s base is not as extreme, unpatriotic and insane as the party’s leaders are. The other part of the base, however… as extreme, unpatriotic and insane as you could have ever feared.
This morning, the Associated Press reported that in primaries this year, Republican incumbents have been losing at nearly twice the average rate of the past decade. And they’re losing because they’re not extreme enough. He used Wisconsin far right Assembly Speaker Robin Vos-- who faces his fascist primary challenger, Trump-endorsed Adam Steen, next week— as an example. “Vos has presided over efforts to restrict abortions, weaken unions, expand gun rights and push back against COVID-19 mandates. Despite that, he’s facing a primary challenger who claims he’s not conservative enough. The challenger’s argument: Vos should do more to respond to Trump’s unfounded allegations of fraud in the 2020 election.” Successful Republican challengers in these primaries are winning by portraying themselves as fascists and embracing extreme positions against democracy and on right-wing manufactured hot button issues, like transgender children and critical race theory.
Vos is one of nine GOP Wisconsin lawmakers facing primaries. Though the challengers face an uphill fight, they could push the already conservative Legislature even further right if they notch a few victories. That would mark a significant shift in a state that plays a crucial role in national elections.
Twenty-seven states had held legislative primaries or conventions before Tuesday. In those, at least 110 Republican incumbents and 33 Democrats had been defeated. The Republican loss rate of 7.1% far exceeds the Democratic rate of 2.8%. It also significantly exceeds the 3.6% average Republican incumbent loss rate over the previous decade in those states, as well as the 4.4% Republican loss rate in those states during the last redistricting election cycle in 2012.
Before dawn today, A.B. Stoddard eviscerated Republican leaders, specifically Republican senators, for the mess his party has turned into. And he started at the top. “To slightly invert Churchill,” he wrote, “McConnell was given the choice of defeat or dishonor. He chose dishonor. And then he got defeat in the bargain, anyway.” You may recall that McConnell’s wife resigned from the cabinet because of Trump’s role in the insurrection. Was she keeping the reason a secret from her husband? I don't think so-- and Stoddard asserts that all the Republican senators knew what Trump was up to in terms of his coup.
In the end only seven Republicans found Trump guilty of inciting an insurrection. Judging from all of the private concern anonymous sources have expressed, it seems safe to assume that most of the other 43 privately agreed. Probably even Hawley and Cruz, the 2024 wannabes who led the effort to decertify Joe Biden’s election. Certainly the other senators who didn’t vote to decertify, but who couldn’t vote to convict because they fancy they can run for president. Tom Cotton, Tim Scott, and Rick Scott all understood that doing their constitutional duty would get them evicted from MAGA-ville.
But there were other men in the Upper Chamber who dirtied their hands for Trump without any fantasies of a presidential campaign dancing in their heads. They sat at the leadership table or thought they were poster boys for the Constitution and they likely looked down on Cruz and Hawley running their pre-campaigns on Fox News and Twitter.
Lindsey Graham had also pressured Georgia election officials. Chuck Grassley suggested he could step in for Pence on the 6th, telling reporters the night before: “Well, first of all, I will be— if the vice president isn’t there and we don’t expect him to be there, I will be presiding over the Senate.” Mike Lee texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to “please tell me what I should be saying,” and worked to get Sidney Powell in to see Trump. Ron Johnson’s chief of staff tried to arrange for an envelope of fake electors to be given to Pence on January 6th but was rebuffed. Johnson, Grassley and Graham have all chaired powerful Senate committees, on variously Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Judiciary and the Budget.
If we subtract those nine ambitious (or seditious) men, that still leaves 34 possible Republicans who could have joined the seven voting with Democrats to convict Trump. Like Richard Burr and Pat Toomey— who voted to convict— Rob Portman, Richard Shelby, and Roy Blunt are retiring and had no reelection campaigns to protect. And there are plenty of other Senators, safe in red-state seats, who must have known even more than what the House impeachment managers presented at the trial. Among those 34 surely ten of them could have helped bar Trump from future office by providing the votes to reach the required 67 supermajority for conviction.
Senate Republicans’ refusal to convict Trump for insurrection has not only invited future crises, but has permanently disemboweled impeachment as a constitutional mechanism. If the attempt to overturn democracy isn’t a convictable offense, then literally nothing is. We no longer have a workable mechanism for removing corrupt, wicked, or dangerous chief executives. And with that deterrence gone, we should expect more corruption, wickedness, and danger from future presidents.
McConnell’s historic cop out after the vote, blaming Trump for the attack after letting him off the hook, is one for the ages. Admitting that Trump had gotten away with it, McConnell said “He didn’t get away with anything yet,” and said Trump was “still liable for everything he did while in office.”
And yet McConnell is not, as one might have imagined on February 13, 2021 when he excoriated Trump, now calling for the attorney general to investigate whether the former president committed a crime.
Because months later, after all of the cowardice with their impeachment votes, Senate Republicans had a chance to redeem themselves. Instead they blocked the creation of a 9/11-style, independent commission to investigate the insurrection.
Today, a year and a half after January 6, Donald Trump is on his way to announce his third campaign for the presidency, 70 percent of Republicans believe the Big Lie, the Department of Justice is investigating the largest crime in history— and Senate Republicans are silent.
Trump corrupted our democracy because people let him. Senate Republicans were complicit in it. They absolved him twice knowing everything. They attempted to prevent the rest of the public from uncovering what they knew. And now that the public is finding everything out anyway, yet they say nothing.
Long after Trump is gone, their legacy will remain.