The spectacle of a pro-Trump mob sacking the Capitol in an attempt to cancel the election result was so revolting that even the president’s most devoted sycophants felt compelled to denounce it. And yet the continued gravitational pull of the Trump cult requires them to construct justifications for supporting Trump anyway.
The cleverest rationales have sprung from the party’s most elite-trained sophists. Senator Josh Hawley argued yesterday that endorsing Trump’s attempt to reverse the election was actually a way to stand up to the mob. Ben Shapiro, guest-authoring today’s Playbook, has exceeded Hawley and produced an even more breathtaking rationale. After talking to numerous Republicans in Congress, Shapiro reports that they oppose impeachment because it is a ploy “to cudgel them collectively by lumping them in with the Capitol rioters thanks to their support for Trump.” Here’s his full passage:
Many in the media seem bewildered that House Republicans didn’t unanimously join Democrats in supporting impeachment (looking at you, Playbook readers in the media) — after all, Republicans were in the building when rioters broke through, seeking to do them grievous physical harm. My Republican sources tell me that opposition to impeachment doesn’t spring from generalized sanguinity over Trump’s behavior: I’ve been receiving calls and texts for more than a week from elected Republicans heartsick over what they saw in the Capitol.
Opposition to impeachment comes from a deep and abiding conservative belief that members of the opposing political tribe want their destruction, not simply to punish Trump for his behavior. Republicans believe that Democrats and the overwhelmingly liberal media see impeachment as an attempt to cudgel them collectively by lumping them in with the Capitol rioters thanks to their support for Trump.
I detect a wee logical flaw. If Republicans are concerned about being lumped in with the rioters, they could vote to impeach the president who incited the riot. That would refute the charge quite effectively.
Instead, they’re refusing, on the grounds that being asked to hold the riot-inciter accountable is a dastardly plan to make them look like they support him. Instead, they’re going to fight back against the scheme to lump them in with the rioters by staking out a pro-riot (or, more precisely, anti-anti-riot) stance.
Last summer, Republicans kept demanding Joe Biden denounce riots that broke out alongside anti-police brutality protests. Joe Biden could have refused on the grounds that the demands were just a ploy to lump him in with the rioters. Instead, he denounced the riots. Because Biden actually opposes rioting.
Refusing to hold your own side accountable for its abuses — on the grounds that your opponents are trying to exploit the shame of those abuses — is a rationale for supporting every terrible thing your side does. Which is exactly the Republican strategy under Trump.