Let’s state what happened on Wednesday for what it was: an insurrection by supporters of President Donald Trump storming the US Capitol. They were the definition of a mob.
The insurrection and the Electoral College objections to President-elect Joe Biden’s election that preceded and followed it were an ugly milestone in just how divisive the political arena has become in America.
But let’s be clear: This wasn’t a both sides issue. The events of the past week are a major point in support of the idea that Republicans are more responsible for the polarization in our country. Wednesday was the culmination of a multi-month effort by the President that was largely bolstered by a number of Republicans.
Recent American history doesn’t provide any sort of road map for what happened this past week. This isn’t a philosophical argument. We can prove this via the numbers — specifically, the number of times a president tried to overturn the results of an election, the number of times supporters of his backed that with widescale violent action and the number of times a majority of his own party’s members in Congress backed that election challenge.
There’s no record of the supporters of a mainstream Democratic president or presidential candidate doing anything like what happened at this large of a scale in modern history.
There had not been a presidential candidate in the last century who did not concede the election once the Electoral College met and determined the winner. Not even Democrat Al Gore, who lost a far closer election, did it.
Trump, however, carried on and falsely charged fraud, even as there was no fraud and no legitimate way he could overturn the results.
And despite Wednesday’s violence, Republican President Donald Trump continued to initially defend many of the protesters. (By later Thursday, Trump was pressured into releasing a video concession.)
Now, to be clear, many Republican lawmakers denounced Trump’s performance on Wednesday. Many of these same people, however, were nowhere to be found in the lead-up. Many were perfectly fine with Trump carrying on with his motions through the courts, which stood no shot and gave supporters false hope.
Trump is a major part of who the GOP is right now. He’s the President, and he was renominated in 2020.
Indeed, even after the insurrection at the Capitol, there were many who carried on with objections to 2020 results.
The events of Wednesday and Thursday marked only the second time in recent political history that there had been an objection to the Electoral College results supported by a House and Senate member.
The other time was after the 2004 election, when Democrats were the objectors. But what was a fringe exercise after the 2004 election for Democrats in Congress became a lot more mainstream for Republicans after the 2020 election. The Democratic challenge was not backed by that cycle’s Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, and it was backed by far fewer congressional members. Just 31 House members and one senator were in favor of it. The challengers were open about the fact that they were not trying to overturn the election, but rather bringing attention to what they said were widespread voter problems.
That was clearly not the case for many Republican objectors this time around.
This week, 121 House Republicans and 6 Republican senators objected to the results from Arizona. One of the House members who supported the challenge was the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy. Another was House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.
And unlike after 2004, objections to a second state were backed by a senator.
An even higher 138 House Republicans and 7 Republican senators voted to sustain the objection to counting Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. That’s about two-thirds of all House Republicans.
There were going to be significantly more objections to counting other states’ electoral votes had a mob not taken over the Capitol. This was a pared down vote, and it still managed to be significantly larger than what occurred after the 2004 election.
The bottom line is this: Democrats may have taken extreme action 16 years ago, but this time, a much larger number of Republicans went even further.
If this isn’t the very definition of asymmetric polarization, I’d like to know what is.
Analysis: The events of this week show the GOP has a big problem The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ CNN.