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Memo to media: the GOP's Trump "reckoning" is never coming
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In a move that should have surprised nobody, yet seemed to catch the D.C. press off guard, the Republican Party rallied to Trump's defense this week, voting overwhelmingly in favor of shutting down an impeachment trial before it even begins in the U.S. Senate.
Casting aside the fact that he incited a murderous mob that ransacked the U.S. Capitol, 45 Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), voted to give a remorseless Trump a pass. The vote came in the wake of news that, during the final days of his presidency, Trump secretly plotted to fire the U.S. Attorney General in order to force Georgia officials to overturn the state's election results, which would have ignited the country's gravest Constitutional crisis in a century.
Confirmed: There is no looming GOP "reckoning" over Trump, and there will never will be, no matter how many times naïve news outlets suggest otherwise.
For five years, the press has gotten this story wrong. Why? Today's Republican Party represents an unwieldy challenge for news outlets. It spent the winter wantonly trying to invalidate election results, while simultaneously endangering the masses during a public healt crisis by deliberately misinforming Americans about the Covid-19 pandemic. It has also taken no disciplinary action against a new Congresswoman who previously supported the killing of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Yet the press remains committed to portraying the GOP as a mainstream, center-right entity. That's why it keeps botching the "reckoning" story — reporters assume there is a Republican breaking point with Trump and the politics of hate and revenge he represents. But there never is.
The post-insurrection mob headlines in early January were explicit. And they were all wrong:
"Republicans Splinter Over Whether to Make a Full Break From Trump" (New York Times)
• "A GOP Reckoning After Turning Blind Eye to Trump" (Associated Press)
• "Insurrection Marks Moment of Reckoning for Republicans" (US News)
• "The day Trump broke the GOP" (Politico)
• " GOP Faces Trump Reckoning" (NPR)
• "Southern California Republicans face reckoning after insurrection in D.C." (Orange County Register)
If one of our two major political parties doesn't care that Trump incited a mob by attacking free and fair elections for months, if the GOP doesn't want to address the fact that extreme and violent domestic forces rallied to Trump's side and set out, in theory, to kill members of Congress, then the press should report the truth and stop pushing this myth about a looming "reckoning."
Instead, the Beltway press badly misread the insurrection story and assumed so-called responsible members of the GOP would do the right thing. The height of that purposeful naïveté came when nameless McConnell aides started calling reporters two weeks ago and telling them that McConnell maybe/kinda supported impeachment. Convinced that the mythical "reckoning" had arrived, journalists wildly overplayed the story.
"There's a better than 50-50 chance that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would vote to convict President Trump in an impeachment trial," Axios excitedly reported. "Rep. Liz Cheney's support for impeachment could open the floodgates for other Republicans," insisted CBS's Norah O'Donnell. The New York Times agreed, claiming Cheney's move was, "a sign that the dam could be breaking against Mr. Trump in a party that has long been unfailingly loyal to him." Adding, "Party leaders were racing to distance themselves from a president many of them now regard as a political and constitutional threat." The newspaper was sure the "deeply divided" GOP was "close to a breaking point," in the wake of the murderous mob.
Wrong, wrong, and wrong.
A Fox News headline announced, "McConnell Furious With President, Supports Move to Initiate Impeachment Proceedings." And from CNN: "Many Republican senators are staying quiet about whether they'll back conviction -- a sign that they, too, could support conviction in an effort to rid Trump from their party."
Wait, what? By saying nothing about impeachment Republicans were signaling they might support impeachment? What a strange tealeaf-reading exercise from journalists who were anxious to create a storyline about a rebellious wing of the Republican Party standing up to Trump. The whole thing was a mirage.
The press has been making this mistake for years, anxiously portraying Republicans as being deeply concerned over Trump's reckless and dangerous behavior. Last summer, the Times announced GOP members were “despairing” over Trump. "The result is a quiet but widening breach between Mr. Trump and leading figures in his party," the newspaper insisted. The breach though, was only visible to members of the press.
This kind of coverage has been predictably wrong throughout the Trump era because journalists have been projecting a rational thought process onto the Republican Party, and especially after he incited a deadly mob, leading journalists to think, ‘Of course they'll punish Trump, of course he'll be forced to pay a price, right?’
Not by this radical GOP. It was never a realistic option. The press needs to cover today's GOP for what it actually is — fringe and erratic — and not the mainstream version they want it to be.
(photo Getty Images)
🖥 GOOD STUFF:
Writing in Mother Jones, Nathalie Baptiste highlights the truth about today’s GOP in her piece, “There Is No GOP Civil War. The Party Has Already Chosen Trumpism”:
Despite their losses in the 2020 elections, the Republican Party has no real incentive to reverse course. Trump won majorities among white voters, white Protestants, men, and Southern voters. Instead of coming up with policy ideas to address a pandemic, an economic crisis, and health care, the GOP has opted to combine voter suppression and appealing to racial animus to concoct a winning formula. In the aftermath of the Capitol siege, most of the party is choosing to stick with Trumpism and owning the libs as ideology.
🎸 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK:
The Killers, "When You Were Young"
"Let's see what this thing can do," says lead singer Brandon Flowers, as the band ignites the rocket booster that sets off the show's finale at the glorious Royal Albert Hall in London, from just over a decade ago.
This is one of my all-time favorite live rock performances, mostly because of the manic, frenzied state of the British crowd. And the fact that "When You Were Young" ranks as one of the great anthems of the last 25 years. (Make sure to catch the "Song Exploder" episode on Netflix that delves into the making of the song.)
Highlight: Watch for the super fan behind the band and just bask in his euphoria. He appears around the 3:10 mark, slightly set apart from the crowd. He's wearing dark, short-sleeve shirt and he spends the final two minutes of the song jumping up and down with both hands raised in the air.