Yesterday, the Trump supporters who stormed Congress were not the only rebels in the Capitol building; a substantial number had already assembled in the chambers of the representatives even before any barriers had been broken.
These insurgents were seated in their crisp suits when Nancy Pelosi opened the joint session, unlike the agitators in their MAGA hoodies and Army fatigue coats. They are graduates of our prestigious schools: Princeton and Harvard Law, Stanford and Yale Law School. They are well aware that Trump lost a fair election decisively. Yet they voted opportunistically to align themselves with a potentially lethal assault on our democracy, but it’s futile to blame Trump for the abuse. Those who followed this President knew that he was never going to concede defeat. Trump has practically been our subversive-in-chief over the past two months, working overtime to reverse a Democratic election. Finally, Mitch McConnell said yesterday, “back in the cage”-overlooking the fact that he had fed and nurtured the beast for years. But compared to the tinny sounds coming from Ted Cruz, McConnell’s belated defense of democracy sounds admirable. Cruz is already portraying himself as Trump 2.0; a sleek, knowledgeable, and articulate demagogue. In abundance, Trump lies; Cruz dresses his lies in the mantle of rational logic. “We heard him speaking yesterday about a “better way” to help legislators escape two “lousy” options. The first lousy choice was “repeal the election.” Except that choice was not lousy, it was inflammatory – and before the nasty scenes, two-thirds of Republicans in Congress supported it. The second lousy choice was the one mandated by our constitutional democracy – certifying results duly accepted by the states and upheld by the courts. The second lousy choice was the one mandated by our constitutional democracy. What makes lousy this election? The truth, Cruz said, is that “almost half the country believes the election was rigged. “Well, yes, but maybe the senator should have said that this is just because of the lies that he and the president were forcefully feeding the American people.
Cruz then suggested a third alternative in a gesture of great statesmanship: the formation of an electoral commission like the one forged to settle the 1876 Hayes-Tilden election. Never mind that a real election dispute between states that had sent election certificates to each other was faced by the Hayes-Tilden Committee. There is no controversy here, except for the fictional one that Cruz helped invent.
The suggestion by Cruz is a perfect expression of the strategy of Trump: lie often enough, and you can build your own powerful reality. No sooner had Cruz finished his speech than it was all too clear the powerful reality. If someone attempts to draw a line from his place to the violence that followed, we can already imagine the outraged denials and reverse charges Cruz will use. Hey, how dare you? It is the Democrats, if anything, who are to blame. This is what happens when you ignore millions of Americans’ legitimate concerns.
It seems like some Congressional Republicans were stunned by the brutality of Wednesday to rethink the wisdom of this particular exercise in constitutional brinkmanship.
But it remains to be seen if anything has really been gained from it: We are not Germany in 1933.
But maybe we were in Munich in 1923. A few thousand Nazis staged a failed attempt to overthrow the Weimar Republic on November 8 of that year. Ten years later, through voting, the same rebels took power in Germany. At Amherst College, Massachusetts, Lawrence Douglas is the James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought.