Republicans like Mo Brooks are telling us everything we need to know about January 6th

The truth is that people like this can’t be defeated by bringing their iniquity to light, because they revel in it

Noah Berlatsky
New York
Tuesday 26 October 2021 20:33
Leer en Español

This week, there has been a lot of discussion about whether politicians might have helped to plan the January 6 rally that led to a violent insurrection at the Capitol, following the publication of an explosive article by Rolling Stone. The article claimed that people who organized the protest had participated in “dozens” of planning meetings “with members of Congress and White House staff”. And the way in which lawmakers have responded to such allegations is particularly telling.

Alabama Representative Mo Brooks denied involvement, but then went on to say, “I don’t know if my staff did [help plan the rally].. but if they did I’d be proud of them for helping to put together a rally lawful under the First Amendment at the Ellipse to protest voter fraud and election theft.”

Brooks, in his statement, reiterated the debunked and completely baseless claims of election theft which justified and inspired the violent attack on the Capitol. He denies the accusation that he tried to undermine democracy — then he turns around and publicly, boldly, tries to undermine democracy.

This dynamic has become familiar over the Trump years. The media and Congressional investigators continue to uncover damning details about high-level Republican involvement in the January 6 insurrection. But these revelations simply confirm what Trump and his supporters have already repeatedly made clear in public.

Republicans aren’t secretly committed to overthrowing democracy. They’re openly committed to overthrowing democracy and ending democratic accountability. They don’t try to hide it. As a result, exposing bad actors has limited efficacy. Mo Brooks can’t be defeated by bringing his iniquity to light. He revels in his iniquity, and his supporters do as well.

Brooks’ Trumpian immunity to exposure goes against everything Americans tell ourselves about politics. Hollywood stories about political evil are inevitably told as tales of secret corruption and public cleansing. In Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, or Captain America: Winter Soldier, or for that matter in All the President’s Men, people in political power pretend to be committed to public service. Eventually, reporters, or crusading politicians, or superheroes, discover that the powerful have a hidden, nefarious agenda. When that agenda is brought to light, much of the work of cleansing the body politic is done. The assumption is that people of good will are able to recognize open expressions of evil when they see them and work together to defeat it.

In practice, unfortunately, this has never been the case. The most egregious acts of violence and cruelty in American history have generally been carried out openly. People boast about them.

Jefferson Davis wasn’t hiding his support for slavery when he took the presidency of the Confederacy and said “its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural condition.” People took smiling photographs of themselves and neighbors at lynchings during the Jim Crow era.

Trump followed in a not-so-great American tradition of brazen public immorality. There are countless examples, but perhaps the most egregious occurred in October 2019.

At the time, the former president was facing an impeachment inquiry in part on charges that he had attempted to get Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election. But public revelations about Trump’s machinations didn’t give him pause. Instead, he simply doubled down. He repeated his calls for Ukrainian officials to investigate potential Democratic candidate Joe Biden on live television. As a bonus, he asked China to interfere as well.

Trump’s blatant confirmation of the charges against him didn’t result in his removal from office. Though the House impeached him, the Senate refused — and virtually all Republicans in both chambers voted in Trump’s favor. The GOP all but explicitly welcomed election interference by foreign powers against Democrats. Just as, following Trump’s loss, Republicans like Mo Brooks spread lies claiming the 2020 election was unfair, and that Trump had rightfully won reelection.

Investigations into January 6 are important. They keep the incident in the public eye. Specifics and details can help to prepare a defense the next time the right plans a violent takeover of power. Reporting and Congressional actions like impeachment do have an effect. Trump, after all, lost in 2020.

But investigations aren’t going to reveal a conspiracy against democracy, because the conspiracy is going on in plain sight. Republicans admit in front of the Supreme Court that they want to suppress Democratic votes to help their party win. Donald Trump calls on foreign powers to interfere in US elections. Mo Brooks says he’s proud to be associated with transparent lies about election fraud which led to violent insurrection.

Exposing Brooks does little good, because the problem isn’t Brooks. It’s an anti-democratic Republican party taking advantage of anti-democratic structures, like the massive GOP electoral bias in the Senate.

We already know what Brooks and Trump and their ilk are planning for America’s future, because they keep boasting about it. Like ranting supervillains announcing their not-so-secret plans to the helpless heroes, they’re telling us everything because they think we won’t or can’t stop them. Hopefully they’re wrong about that.

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