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Dana Milbank: Republicans Allow Their Crazies to Represent the Party

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Dana Milbank, Washington Post columnist, wrote about the no longer surprising abdication of the Republicans on the anniversary of January 6, leaving Congresspeople Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz as the party’s representative.

He writes:

Exactly a year earlier, in and around the House chamber, Republicans and Democrats hid together, on the floor, behind chairs and under desks, as outnumbered police, guns drawn, kept President Donald Trump’s mob at bay.

Yet out of that shared trauma came one of the most divisive acts in American political history.

Republican lawmakers spent most of the next 364 days trying to erase any trace of the insurrection and Trump’s role in it. They opposed impeachment, they opposed an independent commission, they opposed (then sabotaged and boycotted) an investigative committee, and they embraced as gospel Trump’s “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen.

Even after that record of ruin, Republicans somehow managed to plumb new depths on Thursday’s first anniversary of the insurrection. The House convened to hold a moment of silencefor the police officers who one year ago saved democracy — and lawmakers’ lives — and who died in the attack’s aftermath. Republicans boycotted this, too.

At the stroke of noon on the House floor, Chaplain Margaret Kibben prayed: “On this anniversary of national discord and despair, send your healing spirit among us and tend to the dispiritedness and disagreement here within and around the people’s house.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rose to hail the “defenders of our democracy” on Jan. 6. “Because of them Congress was able to defeat the insurrection, to return to the Capitol that same night, to ensure that the peaceful transfer of power took place.” She called for a moment of silence in memory of four officers who died in the aftermath of the attack and a subsequent attack at the Capitol.

On the left side of the chamber, about 50 Democrats rose. Across the aisle, only one Republican lawmaker stood: Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a pariah in her party because she dared to condemn Trump’s election lies. Next to her rose her father, former vice president Dick Cheney.

Democrats spontaneously lined up to greet father and daughter — a poignant reminder that there was a time, not long ago, when Republicans and Democrats could fight bitterly but be confident that their shared commitment to democracy would preserve the Republic.

No more. By shunning Thursday’s commemoration of the Jan. 6 attack, Republican leaders, as usual, left a vacuum that let the wing nuts speak for the party. Trumpian Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) announced that they would give “a Republican response,” on the Jan. 6 anniversary, and in the absence of any other Republican response, theirs became the Republican response.

“We did not want the Republican voice to go unheard, and we did not want today’s historical narrative to be hijacked by those who were the true insurrectionists,” Gaetz said. And so, in a meeting room in the Cannon House Office Building, two flights up from where Democratic lawmakers were at the same time recalling their personal horrors from Jan. 6, the duo spent 37 minutes telling reporters that Jan. 6 was a “fed-surrection,” a plot perpetrated by the FBI.

“What if those Capitol Police officers are victims?” Gaetz asked. “What if they’re victims of an orchestrated effort by the FBI or other federal law enforcement to increase the criminal acuity of that day?” Such “Department of Justice and FBI assets and informants,” Gaetz alleged, were also responsible for the plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D).

Greene, chiming in, also blamed the FBI for the 2014 Bundy land dispute in Nevada. “Another example would be in 1968, the Democratic National Convention, when there were 10,000 protesters and one out of six were federal undercover agents,” she continued.

It was the sort of rant that would cause a C-SPAN host to disconnect a caller. But on Thursday’s anniversary, Gaetz and Greene were the unchallenged voice of the Republican Party — and Fox News’s Laura Ingraham gave Greene a platform to make the same bonkers allegations the night before.

Is it any wonder the Republican Party’s moral integrity has fallen so far, so fast?

As The Post reported this week, at least 163 Republicans who have embraced Trump’s election lies are running to become senators, governors or other statewide officials with sway over elections. At least five candidates for the House were at the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection and at least 12 of the top Republican House recruits have accepted the “big lie.” Six in 10 Republicans say the 2020 election was fraudulent, and 40 percent thought political violence could be acceptable, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found.

In his address Thursday from the Capitol, President Biden asked: “Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth, but in the shadow of lies? We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation.”

But the Republicans’ ongoing attempt to disappear Jan. 6 shows that we already are.

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