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Two days after a Trump-backed mob stormed the U.S. Capitol — with some threatening to kill Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic leaders — the chair of the Republican National Committee didn’t exactly embrace a message of healing.
“We have a lot of hard work to do to take back the Senate and the House in 2022, but I am mad and I’m not going to let socialism rule this country and I’m going to work with every single one of you to make sure we squash it and we take back the House and take back the Senate,” Ronna McDaniel said to the committee’s annual meeting last Friday.
“So Democrats, get ready, buckle your seatbelts. We’re coming.”
In a vacuum, her words might be written off by some as standard political toughness. Democrats talk like this too, they might say. But context is crucial, and given the violent events of the previous days, McDaniel’s remarks were both troubling and telling.
Her language eerily echoed calls to action from President Donald Trump and his allies to his supporters gathering in Washington on Jan. 6. Not all Trump supporters on the National Mall last week joined the violent mob, to be sure, but it’s clear these calls to action helped fuel those who did.
“We’re coming for you,” Donald Trump Jr. said to the crowd gathered outside the White House that day. His reference was to Republican lawmakers who failed to back his father’s bid to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 election.
During the rally, the president repeated false claims of election fraud and urged his supporters to walk to the Capitol to confront members of Congress who were gathered to certify Joe Biden’s election victory. Hours later, five people were mortally injured and the Capitol was ransacked as rioters, some waving Trump flags, stormed the halls of Congress.
McDaniel did condemn the attack on the Capitol, but she did not condemn Trump, who picked her to lead the party. She was re-elected for a two-year term as head of the RNC last week, highlighting the party’s continuing fealty to Trump.
McDaniel’s rhetoric and popularity — and continuing loyalty to Trump, even as he takes no responsibility for the violence he unleashed in Washington — show that the party isn’t ready for the “healing” that many elected Republicans are now calling for.
There is hope even as the party fractures. On Wednesday, 10 Republicans in the U.S. House who voted in favor of the articles of impeachment against Trump for inciting last week’s deadly insurrection. Trump was impeached — for the second time — with the most bipartisan impeachment vote in history.
These lawmakers, from a diversity of states, show a way forward for their party that begins with acknowledging the damage that the outgoing president has done to the GOP, and more consequentially, to America.
“It has been a week since so many were injured, the United States Capitol was ransacked,” and five people were killed, including a police officer, Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, one of the 10 Republicans to vote for impeachment, said in a statement after Wednesday’s House vote. “Yet, the president has not addressed the nation to ask for calm. He has not visited the injured and grieving. He has not offered condolences. Yesterday in a press briefing at the border, he said his comments were ‘perfectly appropriate.'”
“I have backed this president through thick and thin for four years. I campaigned for him and voted for him twice,” Rice said. “But, this utter failure is inexcusable.”
Party leadership ignores — or worse, denigrates — voices like these at its detriment.
As the Republican Party splits and considers how to deal with a new group of rule-breaking elected officials in the mold of Trump, it cannot abandon its moderate wing. It must remain a party that welcomes members who support the Constitution, but also value diplomatic engagement, environmental regulation, civil rights and human decency.