How will Democrats react to the thumping that most observers believe they will get in the 2022 midterm elections? Or to the possibility that in three years a Republican could be sworn in as the 47th president?
They relish the Jan. 6 opportunity to endlessly relive the supposed danger that a disgraceful but still pathetically ineffectual riot posed to the republic, which they have spent the last 12 months misrepresenting as an “insurrection” or failed coup d’etat by Republicans.
The media treated the date as a sort of new national holiday to reinforce the awfulness of former President Trump and his deplorable supporters. But all that hyperbole about that riot being the moral equivalent of the Confederates firing on Fort Sumter, Pearl Harbor, or even the 9/11 terrorist attacks hasn’t convinced many people living outside the leftist bubble of CNN, MSNBC, and The New York Times to believe Republicans are a party of insurrectionists.
From the outside, the inflamed rhetoric of Jan. 6 fever appears to be an utterly cynical exercise in gaslighting. That was most apparent when used to justify Democrats’ push for so-called “election reform” laws that President Joe Biden claimed last week to be the only thing standing athwart a return to “Jim Crow” racism. The legislation is, in fact, an effort to federalize elections, discard every rule aimed at ensuring voter integrity, and in effect rig the process to Democrats’ advantage.
Democrats May Believe Their Own Spin
But the more one digs deeper into the avalanche of Jan. 6 articles in left publications like The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and many others or listens to leading Democrats and party activists talk about the subject, the less cynical it seems. Democrats have been drinking their own mix of toxic partisan Kool-Aid to the point they actually believe that Trump and Republicans are authoritarians and plotting to destroy American democracy.
Indeed, after years of faithfully spreading conspiracy theories about the Capitol riot and Trump colluding with the Russians to steal the 2016 election, it was inevitable that liberals and leftists would be in a genuine state of panic about the possibility that they are living through the last years of a Weimar Republic-like prelude to Trumpian fascism. They believe that all resistance to Democratic legislation and leftist policies such as critical race theory indoctrination, or even public rudeness to Biden (“Let’s go, Brandon”), are evidence of an insurrectionist spirit.
Leftist Media In Frenzy of Fear
When one listens to political hacks like Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., say that ending the filibuster in the Senate and passing new voting laws is vital to the continued existence of the American republic, it’s hard to take him seriously. Yet audiences for left-wing outlets that are publishing innumerable think pieces along the lines of, “What Will It Take to Stop the 2024 Election Coup,” “The Republican Plot to Steal the 2024 Election,” “Seven ways Republicans are already undermining the 2024 election,” “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun,” or “No One Is Coming to Save Us From the ‘Dagger at the Throat of America’,” to cite just a few examples, are almost certainly buying what those who are breathlessly warning of the danger ahead are selling. Indeed, the authors of these pieces probably believe it too.
Seen in this light, serious arguments that try to explain to Democrats that Republican voter integrity measures like voter ID laws or banning vote harvesting won’t “suppress” the vote of minorities are likely to fall on deaf ears. So will pointing out that the Russia hoax used by federal officials to hobble Trump was a lot closer to a coup attempt than the foolish efforts to find a legal strategy to stop Biden from taking office.
The left is equally uninterested in the lack of evidence that Jan. 6 was anything but a disorganized riot or that, even if the 2020 count was accurate despite the chaos induced by pandemic practices, the election was unfairly influenced by the bias of Big Tech companies and corporate media outlets that suppressed reports of Biden family corruption.
Once you discard the idea that Republicans are relatives, friends, or neighbors who may disagree with you about politics but who also mean well and instead view them as the moral equivalent of Germans who voted Adolf Hitler into power, talk about defending democracy becomes a life and death struggle. That means defeat can never be accepted and must be averted at all costs, no matter what it takes.
Left Ready to Reject GOP Wins
To be fair, some on the right have come to see politics as an existential struggle as well. But while Biden’s capture by his party’s left-wing lends credence to those arguments, Democrats aren’t so much worried about the consequences of policy shifts to American society. What they appear to be claiming is that any system that could put the GOP or Trump back in power are not merely horrifying but must be the result of a corrupt or racist system that is being manipulated by Trumpist authoritarians.
This amounts to a political faith that is building toward a belief that Republican victories in November 2022 will be inherently illegitimate and must be rejected by hook or crook. The same applies to their hysteria about 2024 which, as the literature produced on the subject indicates, they have half convinced themselves has already been stolen.
That these conspiracy theories masquerading as defense of democracy bear more than a slight resemblance to the conviction on the part of some Trump supporters that there was no way their man could have fairly lost in 2020 is an irony lost on the left. As much as they are certain that any doubts about 2020 are the product of Trump’s “big lie,” their embrace of their own collection of conspiracies about vote suppression and Republicans stealing elections is nothing less than another “big lie.”
The impact of the myths about Jan. 6 being an insurrection and democracy endangered by a GOP assault on voting rights has, in effect, painted the Democrats into a corner where any defeat must be considered proof of a rigged system.
Prepare for Extreme Measures
Seen in that light, it’s not enough to denounce Democratic rhetoric as false or cynical. The net effect of their claims is that those who have been convinced of it are calling for extreme measures to prevent an election loss and are already preparing to regard their party’s likely coming rejection by the voters as another coup, no matter how honest the count may be.
The full consequences of this are unknowable but, at the very least, Americans should prepare for efforts by the Democrats’ cheering section in the corporate media and by the Big Tech overlords of the Internet to go further than they did in 2020 to prevent such an eventuality. In the event that fails, more “mostly peaceful” riots in the aftermath of Republican election victories are likely. As with the violence and looting unleashed by the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, that will not be termed an “insurrection” by those still raging about what happened on Jan. 6.
All that, and not Republican opposition to the Biden presidency and Democratic legislation, is the most serious blow to the fabric of American democracy imaginable.
Jonathan S. Tobin is a senior contributor to The Federalist, editor in chief of JNS.org, and a columnist for the New York Post. Follow him on Twitter at @jonathans_tobin.