The Trump supporters who stormed the Congress were not the only insurrectionists in the Capitol building yesterday; a sizeable number were already gathered in the lawmakers’ chambers well before any barriers were breached. In contrast to the agitators in their MAGA hoodies and army fatigue coats, these insurrectionists were seated in their crisp suits when Nancy Pelosi gaveled the opening of the joint session. They are products of our elite schools: Stanford and Yale Law School, Princeton and Harvard Law. They are fully aware that Trump decisively lost a fair election. Yet they have opportunistically chosen to ally themselves with a potentially mortal attack on our democracy.
Yet blaming Trump for the violence is pointless. Those who have followed this president knew he would never concede defeat. For the last two months, Trump has essentially become our subversive-in-chief, working overtime to overturn a democratic election. Yesterday, Mitch McConnell finally said, “back in your cage”— overlooking the fact that for years he had fed and nurtured the beast. Yet McConnell’s belated defense of democracy rings heroic compared to the tinny sounds emerging from Ted Cruz.
Cruz is already positioning himself as Trump 2.0; as a smoother, more intelligent and articulate demagogue. Trump lies in gross profusion; Cruz dresses his lies in the mantle of reasoned argument. Yesterday, we heard him speak of a “better way” that would help lawmakers avoid two “lousy” choices. The first lousy choice was “setting aside the election”. Only that choice wasn’t lousy, it was seditious – and two-thirds of congressional Republicans were, before the ugly scenes, scurrying to embrace it.
The second lousy choice was the one mandated by our constitutional democracy – certifying the results that had been duly ratified by the states and upheld by the courts. What makes that choice lousy? The fact, Cruz said, that “nearly half the country believes the election was rigged”. Well, yes, but perhaps the senator might have mentioned that this is only because of the disinformation that he and the president have been force-feeding the American people.