I had high hopes for some redemption of the party of Lincoln when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally, at long last, distanced himself from the insanity of Donald Trump’s efforts to undo the election. In his election certification speech on the Senate floor, McConnell expressed concern for democracy – clearly rebuking Donald Trump and his ilk for their dangerous attempt to prevent Joe Biden from being certified as the winner of the presidential election. McConnell said that further efforts to contest a “not unusually close” election with “mere allegations” would plunge democracy into a death spiral. “Self-government, my colleagues, requires a shared commitment to the truth,” said McConnell. “We cannot keep drifting apart into two separate tribes with a separate set of facts and separate realities.”
On the eve of the House vote on the second impeachment of Donald Trump, it was reported that McConnell was happy the House was taking this step, because it would make it easier for the Republican party to distance itself from Trump. It seemed that McConnell was finally trying to excise the malignancy of Trumpism from the GOP. But based on events that followed, it seems that Trump’s cancerous dishonesty has already fatally metastasized, dooming Republicans to certain political and moral death.
In the House impeachment debate, Republican after Republican equated the insurrection at the Capitol with the incidents of violence at Black Lives Matter protests in cities across the U.S. The argument was essentially this: “The Democrats were defending violence then! So they don’t get to impeach a president over it now.” Except that the violence at racial justice protests was carried out by a small number of freelancing idiots. By contrast, the riot at the Capitol was instigated by the president, who sought to undo an election by using his mob of MAGA goons to terrorize the legislative branch into submission. There’s a big difference between private sector vandalism and a wannabe dictator’s attempted coup. False equivalence is a rhetorical form of falsity, which both insults the intelligence of its intended audience and begs their indulgence of the lie.
As Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube disabled Donald Trump’s accounts, Republicans railed against “censorship” and the supposed suppression of their First Amendment rights. This argument is laughably wrong, and pathetic. The First Amendment precludes the government from suppressing free speech. Twitter and the other social media companies are not the government. The First Amendment does not govern what those private companies do. The First Amendment guarantees only a free marketplace of ideas, so it was richly ironic to hear “free market conservatives” like Ted Cruz whining about the fact that the market was working. Twitter and Facebook don’t have to buy the violence-inciting lies that Donald Trump was selling. Companies can broadcast – or not broadcast – the speech they choose. Neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz can make them do otherwise. THAT would violate the First Amendment – an irony lost on the disgruntled Republicans upset about losing some of their private sector megaphones.
Indeed, the Republicans found their poster child for irony in Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green, a QAnon conspiracy theory supporter, who stood on the floor of the House impeachment debate while wearing a mask proclaiming she was “CENSORED.” She made the claim of being “CENSORED” as she freely addressed the nation on live television. It was like a scene from Idiocracy, only dumber.
The GOP’s post-Capitol riot arguments, and the pure fallacy of them, underscore an unfortunate reality about today’s Republican party. As it tries to move beyond Trump, the party remains intellectually bankrupt. Republicans persist in peddling obvious lies, even as they purport to distance themselves from the Liar in Chief.
I believe the Capitol riot was a wakeup call to Americans about the danger of a post-truth society. The House’s historic second impeachment of Trump reflects a majoritarian desire to live in a post-post-truth world. The Republican Party will be left behind by continuing to embrace dishonesty.