Can’t we all at least agree that the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was bad? Apparently not.
This week, leading voices on the American right began accelerating their attempts to reframe the Capitol riot as a heroic act, rather than a violent attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
On one hand, this is not surprising. Republicans who initially condemned Donald Trump and the rioters in the immediate aftermath of Jan. 6 almost immediately began evolving on the issue. But the sentencing of Enrique Tarrio (the former leader of the Proud Boys) to 22 years in prison, sparked renewed spasms of outrage this week. Consider a few examples.
Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee, said that prison sentences for Capitol rioters “makes the good guy think, what’s the use of being a good guy?” (That’s right. Palin sees rioters as the “good guys,” which is all you need to know about the level of tribalism in our politics.)
Former Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake took the opportunity to revisit an old trope, calling it a “staged riot,” and saying that “many of the people were encouraged to go in by FBI informants.”
Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suggested that, as president, he would pardon rioters who were handed “excessive sentences.” Like others on the right, DeSantis went out of his way to argue that “a lot of people with the BLM riots…didn’t get prosecuted at all.”
Here, DeSantis seems to be suggesting a few things. First, there is the notion that two wrongs make a right. Second, there is the assumption that BLM violence in the wake of the George Floyd murder (which is certainly to be condemned and punished) was perfectly analogous to sacking the U.S. Capitol.
And third, there is the implication that America now has a two-tiered justice system, where people on the right are being targeted and receiving “excessive” sentences (never mind the fact that Tarrio’s sentence was handed down by a Trump-appointed judge—or that sentences handed down were below what the government was seeking).
“…it seems likely that the fate of the Capitol rioters will ultimately be determined based on which party wins next year’s presidential election.”
Nevertheless, this is the narrative being pushed by DeSantis. And he’s not alone. Likewise, presidential candidate and tech bro Vivek Ramaswamy lamented that “Antifa and BLM rioters roam free while peaceful Jan. 6 protesters are imprisoned without bail.” As such, Ramaswamy pledged to pardon “all peaceful, nonviolent Jan. 6 protesters who were denied their constitutional due process rights.”
I’m not sure what Ramaswamy means regarding being denied due process. After all, Proud Boy leaders and members were sentenced this week after being convicted in a court of law. But his pledge to pardon “nonviolent” protesters could presumably apply to ex-Proud Boys leader Tarrio, who—like Oklahoma bombing conspirator Terry Nichols or cult leader Charles Manson—wasn’t physically present at the riot.
Regardless of the sentencing, it seems likely that the fate of the Capitol rioters will ultimately be determined based on which party wins next year’s presidential election. So while their prosecution wasn’t politically motivated, their pardoning most certainly would be.
This is an open secret that is already being used to encourage MAGA voters to get-out-the-vote.
For example, Scott Adams, the right-wing creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip, tweeted this week that “2024 isn’t a presidential election. It’s a pardon hearing for J6. Treat it that way.” It’s a message that the rioters, themselves, have embraced. “Oh, I know [Trump will] pardon us,” Joe Biggs, a Proud Boys member who was sentenced to 17-years in prison, declared recently. “I believe that with all my heart.”
But 2024 won’t just be about pardoning the Jan. 6 rioters; the 2024 election may very well impact whether Donald Trump is in a position to pardon himself.
With stakes so high, at least one prominent Republican is warning that a Trump loss could spark violence.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declared this week that “People in power use their police agencies to arrest their opponents for made-up crimes in an attempt to discredit them bankrupt and imprison them, exile them, are all of the above. And if you’re not paying attention, you may not realize that Joe Biden is using exactly those tactics to make sure that Donald Trump is not his opponent in 2024.”
“If these tactics end up working to keep Trump from winning or even running in 2024,” Huckabee continued, “it is going to be the last American election that will be decided by ballots rather than bullets.” (Regarding Huckabee’s dangerous rhetoric, it’s unclear where the warning of violence stops and the inciting of violence begins.)
Keep in mind, these comments are not being tossed out by nobodies. While it might be easy to dismiss Scott Adams as a gadfly or a rabble rouser, the others are past and current Republican candidates and elected officials. What is more, their statements are consistent with statements espoused by Donald Trump, the former president who is the odds-on-favorite to be the Republican nominee again in 2024.
I repeat myself, but Republicans’ evolving position regarding the Capitol riot isn’t a new phenomenon. This is despite the fact that the general consensus immediately after the riot among Republicans was that it was a tragic and regrettable day—and that Trump bore much of the responsibility for the events that transpired.
In the initial aftermath, the riot was so demonstrably nefarious that the best way to avoid blame was to claim that the rioters were actually leftists running a false-flag operation.
It wasn’t long, though, before Republicans began downplaying the violence that occurred that day. And now, we are told that the rioters were “good guys,” which would seem to suggest that Jan 6. was something akin to the Boston Tea Party.
Quite the contrary. No matter how they try to spin it, Jan. 6 is a date that will forever live in infamy. At least, for the truly good guys who wear the white hats, it is.
The Daily Beast