When treason doth prosper: The daily efforts to transform America into a one-party state
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol filed a motion on April 22 asking a judge to put an end to the attempts of Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows to stonewall the committee. Meadows has tried to avoid talking to the committee or providing it with documents, using a number of different arguments that essentially try to establish that the U.S. president cannot be held accountable by Congress.
The committee’s motion carefully explains why those arguments are wrong. To support their belief that the Congress has the right and responsibility to investigate the circumstances of the January 6 insurrection — a correct understanding of our governmental system, in my view — the committee gave the judge almost 250 pages of evidence.
Included was some of the material I have been waiting for: a list of members of Congress who participated in planning to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
We have heard a lot about independent lawyers and members of the executive branch who were willing to try to keep Trump in office. We have also heard about people at the state level. But while there has been plenty of speculation about what members of Congress were involved, we had little to go on.
We knew that both former energy secretary Rick Perry of Texas and Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) had texted with Meadows about possible avenues for overturning the election. We knew that Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) had recorded videos before the insurrection that suggested they supported it. We had an odd statement from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on January 5 saying that he, not then–vice president Mike Pence, would count the certified electoral ballots the next day. We had Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) allegedly saying to Jordan on January 6, “Get away from me. You f**ing did this.”
But the January 6th committee has just given us a bigger — although not the whole, yet — picture.
In last night’s filed motion was part of the testimony to the committee from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former special assistant to the president and the chief of staff. When asked which members of Congress were involved in calls about overturning the election — including calls saying such efforts were illegal — Hutchinson named Representatives Greene, Jordan, Boebert, Scott Perry (R-PA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Jody Hice (R-GA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Debbie Lesko (R-AZ).
The heart of this group was the “Freedom Caucus,” which was organized in 2015 to move the Republican Party farther to the right. Its first chair was Jim Jordan; its second was Mark Meadows. Its third was Andy Biggs. Mick Mulvaney, who would go on to Trump’s White House, and Ron DeSantis, who is now governor of Florida, were key organizers.
We should be clear: the people working to keep Trump in office by overturning the will of the people were trying to destroy our democracy. Not one of them, or any of those who plotted with them, called out the illegal attempt to destroy our government. To what end did they seek to overthrow our democracy?
The current Republican Party has two wings: one eager to get rid of any regulation of business, and one that wants to get rid of the civil rights protections that the Supreme Court and Congress began to put into place in the 1950s. Business regulation is actually quite popular in the U.S., so to build a political following, in the 1980s, leaders of the anti-regulation wing of the Republican Party promised racists and the religious right that they would stomp out the civil rights legislation that since the 1950s has tried to make all Americans equal before the law.
But even this marriage has not been enough to win elections, since most Americans like business regulation and the protection of things like the right to use birth control. So, to put its vision into place, the Republican Party has now abandoned democracy. Its leaders have concluded that any Democratic victory is illegitimate, even if voters have clearly chosen a Democrat, as they did with Biden in 2020, by more than 7 million votes.
Former speechwriter for George W. Bush David Frum wrote in 2018: “If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.” And here we are.
As if to illustrate this point, news broke that a North Carolina official threatened to fire an elections official unless she gave him access to the county’s vote tabulators. The news agency Reuters noted that this threat was only one of more than 900 instances of intimidation of election officials in what has become commonplace after the 2020 election.
It appears that elected officials of the Republican Party are willing to overturn a legitimate Democratic victory in order to guarantee that only a Republican can hold office. That means a one-party state, which will be overseen by a single, powerful individual. And the last 59 days in Ukraine have illustrated exactly what that kind of a system means.
Standing against that authoritarianism, Democratic president Joe Biden is trying to reassure Americans that democracy works. He insisted on using the government to support ordinary Americans rather than the wealthy, and in his first year in office, poverty in the United States declined, with lower-income Americans gaining more than at any time since the “War on Poverty” in the 1960s. Lower-income workers have more job opportunities than they have had for 30 years, and they are making more money. They have on average 50% more money in the bank than they did when the pandemic hit.
Biden’s insistence on investing in Americans meant that by the end of his first year, the U.S. had created 6.6 million jobs, the strongest record of any president since record keeping began in 1939. By the beginning of April, the economy had added 7.9 million jobs, and unemployment was close to a 50-year low at 3.6%. Meanwhile, the deficit is dropping: we should carve $1.3 trillion off it this year.
Biden’s deliberate reshaping of the American government to work for ordinary Americans again, regulating business and using the federal government to enforce equal rights, so threatens modern Republicans that they are willing to destroy our country rather than allow voters to keep people like Biden in power.
I do not believe that a majority of Americans want a dictatorship in which a favored few become billionaires while the rest of us live without the civil rights that have been our norm since the 1950s, and no voting rights to enable us to change our lot.
Letters from an Аmerican is a daily email newsletter written by Heather Cox Richardson, about the history behind today’s politics