The shadow of January 6th still casts: “James Madison’s Ultimate Nightmare”


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It was not unlike the formulaic false ending in a horror movie.

One might have thought the worst was over when the MAGAns mob was driven from the halls of the US Capitol and Congress resumed its duty to confirm the presidential election last year.

But the spectacle in which numerous Republicans – including our Lily-based Virginia GOP delegation of Ben Cline, Bob Good, Morgan Griffith, and Rob Wittman – voted against the confirmation of the election results last year, despite the chaos and violence they caused everyone had just experienced was the real-life equivalent of Michael Myers rising from the ground like a zombie.

We really should have seen it coming.

After all, what had the Trump years been for the Republicans, besides a long, unstoppable exercise of the trade principle for political expediency? And although January 6, 2021 was a bridge too far for a handful of them, for most of the others it was just another opportunity to adjust, evade and so on, which continues to this day.

Unfortunately, the Democrats continue to use January 6 as a partisan witch hunt to divert attention from their failure on issues that matter close to Americans and as an excuse to deny American citizens due process.

– Congressman Bob Good (@RepBobGood) January 6, 2022

Instead of the retreat from the abyss that many of us hoped for on January 6th, it has become just another fault line in our bitter polarization. And since then it has been reflected in our federal and state politics.

Witness the delicate dance our new Governor Glenn Youngkin had to perform, tiptoeing around “electoral integrity” until he was declared winner of the Republican Congress, a method the party chose because it actually did not support primary voters could trust to select an eligible candidate. The witness Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin, a Conservative who had served in the House of Representatives for 13 years, was felled in an area code by an attorney named Wren Williams, who was Trump’s assistant counsel during the Wisconsin recount that cost the Trump more than 3 million campaign US dollars and ultimately increased President Joe Biden’s winning margin. Williams found Poindexter insufficient to support Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen from him.

“I think the last straw for me is that November came and went, then December, then January, and we didn’t hear a beep from my delegate,” said Williams, who will join the Delegate House today when it starts. “Nothing about the election, nothing about Donald Trump, nothing about election integrity.”

There is also the new Del. Marie March, R-Floyd, who attended the Stop the Steal rally that preceded the Capitol riot, despite saying she did not march to the Capitol. March introduced a law allowing local school authorities “to put stickers on the sides and back of public school buses with the slogan ‘In God We Trust’ or the phrase ‘One Nation Under God’” in an apparently better way of identifying the clerks at the General Assembly, which will presumably win through its rejection of its draft law.

U.S. Capitol Police officers aim their guns at a door that was destroyed in the House of Representatives Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. when Trump supporters broke through the building. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory by a 306-232 electoral college against President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would vote down multiple state electoral college votes unless Congress appoints a commission to review election results. (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

They will join the reigning dels. John McGuire and Dave LaRock, who also competed in the stop-the-steal rally, and Senator Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, who is constantly on the line with her GOP counterparts in the Senate and from the panel for their comments on support of the attack on the Capitol. Taken together, they are sure to raise the level of nonsense in the oldest cohesive legislature in the western hemisphere and create a headache for its leadership.

Last week I asked Mark Rozell, Professor of Political Science at George Mason University, who spoke to me on the eve of the Capitol Rising last year, what the past year has taught us about politics. Here is what he had to say:

On the Jan. 6th Democrats’ constant talking and moralizing and whether it was effective:

Rozell: “How can you be so naive a year later as to believe that the opinion on the other side would even change? There they expressed their utter astonishment that the two Cheneys were the only ones on the floor. … They spoke primarily to their own support base … in front of an audience that is rightly amazed, dismayed and terrified about the future of this country and who wanted strong voices that reflected the very strong feelings of many Americans. “

On Trump’s shadow that still hovers over GOP politics:

“Trump’s influence over the Republican base remains secure and the incumbents realize that if they are not loyal to him, they will get a primary against him. … Political scientists have said for generations that the first rule of Congress is to be re-elected. … For those who ask about Profiles in Courage, there is a reason these people are considered exceptional in history, and there are several, not hundreds, of chapters in this book. “

About a Republican party in Virginia that has grown moderate enough to unite behind Youngkin but also brings some largely right-wing lawmakers into office:

“That is a characteristic of very different constituencies. … The candidates in the House of Representatives run from relatively small circles, often with very like-minded constituencies. It is possible to run and win as a strong, unyielding Trump Republican in a rural Conservative parliamentary district. … Youngkin had to walk a tightrope nationwide. He had to hold the rural Trump electoral base while appealing to moderate swing voters in the urban crescent, and notably, he did. By the way, Terry McAuliffe helped him with this. “

Where January 6th belongs in the pantheon of low moments in American history:

“That brings me to (Vice President) Kamala Harris. She cited the three terrible days of American history. … For the first two, this united country, that’s the big difference. There’s no debate about what happened at Pearl Harbor and on September 11th, save for some really insane runaway conspiracies. … But on January 6th … are we really going to argue about what is there for everyone to see? And yet one hears these conspiracy theories about Democrats and Antifa supporters posing as Trump supporters. People will believe what they want to believe. Facts don’t seem to matter. … It is, without a doubt, a dark day in American history. … In a way, January 6th is a singularly dark episode in our history as it was a domestic political attack on our government. “

How this gets better in a deeply divided nation:

“That is the hardest one to answer. I am not optimistic that there will be a short or medium term solution for our democracy. This will be an ongoing struggle. Can anyone challenge Trump in the Republican Party? And who will he be up against? An 82-year-old incumbent with little popularity? … We have seen phases of intense polarization in our past, no more than the civil war, but still in my lifetime, during the American war in Vietnam. It gives me hope that the country can position itself in a similar way differently than we are now. Maybe it needs a different kind of crisis, a unifying leader, someone who can define a common vision for the country. But right now we have two teams firmly in their own camps and it’s all about which jersey color you wear.

“It is the zero-sum policy that is so damaging to this system, a system based on moderation and compromise. No group can win everything, but there are a number of trade-offs between competing interests that ultimately produce some measure of the public good. … That’s not the way of thinking right now. This is James Madison’s ultimate nightmare right now. “

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