At long last: Prominent Republicans disown Trump, but a little too late

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January 9, 2021 3:40 AM

Others, reportedly, are contemplating leaving, even as former White House officials across partisan lines have advised against an exodus in the interest of holding up the federal government till the new administration takes charge.

Pence’s sharp “you did not win” to the Capitol Hill rioters is indeed a stinging rebuke to Trump and his “we love you”.Pence’s sharp “you did not win” to the Capitol Hill rioters is indeed a stinging rebuke to Trump and his “we love you”.

There can be no doubt, as the consensus between the two umbrella groups of the partisan commentariat in the US shows, that the blame for the Capitol Hill siege is entirely Donald Trump’s. Not only had he called for supporters to march against Joe Biden’s Congressional certification as the next elected president, fanning their fury with thoroughly discredited claims of a ‘stolen election’, he even used the opportunity to secure his popularity with the rioters and his larger vote-base, telling them “we love you” even as he appealed that they vacate the Capitol. Many believe the episode should catalyse the Republican party’s permanent severance from Trump. One of his most dogged senior Republican supporters, vice-president Mike Pence, finally broke ranks just before the certification by refusing to unilaterally block the Biden presidency in the manner that Trump wanted him to. Pence’s sharp “you did not win” to the Capitol Hill rioters is indeed a stinging rebuke to Trump and his “we love you”. Education secretary Betsy DeVos, one of Trump administration figures who resigned post the Capitol episode, wrote, “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation”. Transportation secretary Elaine Chao, wife of Senate leader of the Republican party Mitch McConnell, has also resigned, as have former chief of Trump’s staff and special envoy to Northern Ireland Mick Mulvaney and deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger. Others, reportedly, are contemplating leaving, even as former White House officials across partisan lines have advised against an exodus in the interest of holding up the federal government till the new administration takes charge.

The real question is, why has such conscientious objection to a president intent on shredding Constitutional obligations—indeed, the democratic fabric of the country—come so late in the day? McConnell may have lately stated that “if this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral”, but he didn’t even acknowledge Biden’s win in the popular election till just three weeks ago. A good many numbers of Republicans have called for removing the president from office under the 25th Amendment, but Republican lawmakers like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley continue to forward Trump’s claims of voter-fraud—Hawley has even tweeted about antifa (anti-fascist) “terror” in the aftermath of the Capitol riot, against the backdrop of many Trump-supporters claiming that the Capitol siege was “a liberal/antifa conspiracy”. It is not as if there has been no hint of Trump’s boundless lies and unbridled contempt for the norms of American democracy—bear in mind, this is a person who has talked of insane exercise of presidential power, including pardoning himself, and had refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in 2016 if he lost the presidential polls. To be sure, Trump knows he has millions of Americans backing him, and the Republicans would fear losing their support. But, if the Republican leadership is truly committed to avoiding a repeat of the siege or worse, it will need to recognise its role in allowing Trump to cultivate the baser political inclinations among millions of Americans if it is to attempt diffusing this Trump-mania.

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