Republicans Leaders in a ‘Tight Spot’ After Insurrection Led By Trump, Say Brookings
January 19, 2021—The riots that led to an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 continue to shock Americans and the world abroad. With less than an adequate defense, Congress could well have faced mass casualties in the Capitol building.
The aftermath of the insurrection leaves current Republican leaders in a tight spot, according to panelists participating in a virtual event at the Brookings Institution on Tuesday.
Moderate Republicans fear retaliation if they do not support Trump supporters. Yet, allowing past and present political circumstances to culminate into another insurrectionist-like event must be stopped, said Susan Hennessey, a senior fellow at the institution.
Republicans have long gone against democratic norms and are falling into a disturbing pattern, said Elaine Kamarck, another senior fellow at Brookings. Senior Fellow Molly Reynolds, added that the country needs “to reflect on the degree to which white supremacy is at the center of the attack on how the U.S. conducts its elections.”
In short, the Republican party must now figure out how to balance its internal beliefs with external pressures, mainly coming from President Donald Trump himself.
The panelists pointed to the effect social media, and the capabilities allotted to platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, had on elections. The moderation actions and inactions of social media companies play a significant role in how information is spread and received.
“Convincing those who disagree with the integrity of the elections is a challenge still looming,” said Rashawn Ray, a fellow at Brookings. Ray said that Trump and those before him have eroded trust in the government, media, and even science.
“The more we learn, the worse it looks,” added John Hudak, senior fellow in governance studies at Brookings, saying the Presidential election of 2020 is a watershed moment in U.S. history, as it marks the first time a president refused to concede and recognize election results peacefully. President Trump’s refusal to engage in diplomatic and ceremonious traditions, including attacking the election results’ credibility, has caused outrage never before seen, he said.
All of the senior fellows at Brookings largely agreed that Trump would not be convicted by the two-third vote necessary in the Senate following the House’s second impeachment of Trump. But it could be close. They agreed that the Sente trial would symbolize how urgent Republican leaders feel it is to callout Trump’s behavior as unacceptable.
Many have expressed disappointment with Vice President Mike Pence for not invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection, which could have removed more quickly than a House impeachment and Senate trial.
However, invoking the 25th amendment is not an easy decision to make, Kamarck noted. She quoted Pence, saying, the 25th amendment “was not intended as a means of punishment or usurpation.” The 25th amendment should only be used if the person in question, is truly out of his mind and ill-fit.
Pence had to “thread the needle,” said Kamarck, as he chose not to punish or usurp President Trump of his power, balancing the challenges of being a mainstream Republican without estranging himself from the Republican party. Pence made it clear he would not give into President Trump’s demand that he refuse the certification of votes.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris face a near-impossible challenge of determining the best way to unify the country under such polarized conditions, they said. Yet many in America are looking to the new administration to present and execute a plan to get out of it.