Finally, after five years, we have identified the point where Republicans (well, some of them at least) start feeling a sense of shame.
It took an invasion of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of agitated conspiracy theorists, egged on by our president, to make some Republicans realize that maybe things have gone too far. Notable among their number is a healthy serving of GOP elected officials, from Gov. Phil Scott to House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy to Sen. Corey Parent to former VTGOP executive director Jeffrey Bartley, and I apologize for anyone else I left out. You did the right thing.
It wasn’t anything new for Scott or many other Vermont Republicans, who have never approved of what the president was doing to the party they loved. But for most Republicans, the remorse was extremely belated. They didn’t draw the line at “rapists and murderers,” or “grab them by the pussy,” or his habit of hurling base insults at his political opponents, or the consistent groveling at the feet of Vladimir Putin, or a foreign policy that favored dictators and punished our longstanding allies, or hush money payments to a porn star, or Trump’s refusal to release his financials, or tearing refugee families apart at the border, or otherwise punitive immigration policies, or “good people on both sides,” or the Trump Foundation self-dealing, or the rank nepotism of his administration, or the shameless profiteering at taxpayer expense, or the disastrous response to Hurricane Maria, or his persistent efforts to bend the justice system to his will, or the efforts to get dirt on Joe Biden, or the commission of clearly impeachable offenses, or the revolving door of imcompetent sycophants and ideologues who populated his administration, or the catastophically bad response to Covid-19.
Nope, it took a direct invasion of the Capitol at the instigation of Donald Trump. So it turns out that Republicans aren’t quite completely shame-free after all. Good to know.
The image above says everything that needs to be said about the events of January 6. As former state representative and chief American History fanboy Dylan Giambatista pointed out on Twitter, the guy is carrying a Confederate battle flag past a portrait of Vermont’s own Justin Morrill, stalwart Republican member of Congress from Civil War days. It was an inadvertent middle finger aimed at anyone who has fought to preserve the union.
After the jump: The CovidCruiser returns.
We don’t yet know what part, if any, that the Vermont contingent played in the attempted insurrection. We do know that a bunch of them, riding what I call the CovidCruiser, rode all night to D.C. to protest against the legitimate results of a legitimate election, and agitate for the installation of the man who lost by seven million votes. They have most likely returned by now, to spread the coronavirus among their friends, neighbors and loved ones.
I hope that at least some of them feel ashamed (I’d settle for “embarrassed”) about what happened yesterday. I hope that they went down to D.C. for a nonviolent expression of their beliefs, and that none of them took part in the storming of the Capitol. Because, in the clear light of the day after, every Republican has to decide: Do you stand with a president seemingly intent on seizing power, destroying democracy and fomenting violence? Or do you stand for a Republican Party that tries to advance conservative policies in the marketplace of ideas and within the framework of the American system?
I have to say I’m not optimistic about the VTGOP. While many of its elected officials have remained within the realm of common sense, the party has freely trafficked in QAnon-style conspiracy theorizing — and the far-rights efforts to deligitimize any Democrat elected president. (That’s been a consistent theme throughout the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and the stage is set for more of the same around Joe Biden. Many Republicans simply do not believe that any Democrat deserves to be president.)
Party leaders like VTGOP chair Deb Billado and Republican National Committeeman Jay Shepard and party vice-chair Deb Bucknam (last seen representing the town of Stamford in its ridiculous legal challenge to the governor’s Covid policies) are deeply committed to Team Trump. They publicized the CovidCruiser trip and asked party members to join in. The Chittenden County Republicans lent their names to the bus trip. And it was only a couple days ago when the Rutland County Republicans tweeted out this inflammatory response to an inflammatory Trump tweet:
Leaving aside the customary spelling misadventure, this is quite the statement from one of the biggest county parties in Vermont. Republican Senators Brian Collamore and Joshua Terenzini and the county’s Republican contingent in the House should be queried on whether they agree with their county party or not.
Billado herself issued a pretty good statement last night, condemning the violence. But it remains to be seen whether she and her colleagues are willing to permanently renounce the extreme and anti-democratic nature of Trumpism at its worst.
We wait in hopeful expectation.
John, please consider that the majority of Vermont Republicans should not be painted with such a broad brush. The Trump faction remains a minor (although admittedly a very loud and passionate) part of Vermont’s Republican Party. Constant proof of that appears in every Republican primary since Phil Scott was first elected. (Seriously, go back and take a second look at those numbers.) His success in Vermont Republican primaries speaks volumes about the nature of our party. The extremist right wing has never been more than a minority.
Moderate Republicans, who have always been the majority, have admittedly had one serious flaw. For too long we’ve been too quiet in the face of this loud minor contingent. Our complacency probably comes from the knowledge we’ve retained a majority status despite all the vitriol and name calling from the fringe minority. But even FOX News has now declared that the era of Donald Trump Republicanism ended as the Capital Doors were being bashed in. Perhaps now the majority of Vermont Republicans, who have valid concerns about encroachment on constitutional rights, rising taxes and an insatiable bureaucracy that cannot be sustained by Vermont’s citizenry, will find their voices.
In the meantime, let me be personally clear. I’m a moderate Vermont Republican and proud of it. Donald Trump’s antics as the Tweeter in Chief have misled too many Republicans for too long. We Republicans cannot be heard through the noise that he’s created. I’m glad he’s done. And by the way, I made a promise that I’d not criticize a fellow Republican. I’m not. I’m criticizing Donald J. Trump.
Thanks for writing, Senator. I don’t know exactly how many Trumpers there are in the VTGOP, but they do occupy most of the party leadership positions. That doesn’t happen by osmosis. On the other hand, the vast majority of your party’s officeholders are responding appropriately to the events of January 6. I was especially impressed by the remarks of your constituent Rep. Scott Beck during today’s House Minority Caucus meeting.
Join the discussion, gentlemen, if you want an eye-witness account.
“It took an invasion of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of agitated conspiracy theorists, egged on by our president, to make some Republicans realize that maybe things have gone too far.”
This has been building for at least twenty years, ever since the Reagan Revolution. As two books, Dark Money and Democracy in Chains, by Jane Mayer and Nancy MacLean respectively, point out, the aim of the Republican Party (or at least its far libertarian elements which took control of it) has been to destroy democracy in favor of unrestrained capitalism and of absolute rule by an oligarchy of wealth and/or birthright that the majority cannot challenge and is subservient to this minority. That’s what that Confederate battle flag is all about. What happened yesterday is the culmination of that effort. Republicans have much to answer for now, including the Vermont Republicans.