Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

The Insurrectionists Are Coming

Hey Democrats—this isn't hard.
April 26, 2022
The Insurrectionists Are Coming
(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

If the Kevin McCarthy tapes taught us all anything, it’s that the man is game to harbor criminals. And once someone with power does that, what won’t they do? Positioned to be third in line to the presidency nine months from now as speaker of the House, McCarthy will lead a conference of radicals, nihilists, and some people who likely committed federal crimes.

Shouldn’t Democrats be talking about this?

This is not the same group of Republicans who Democrats defeated in the 2018 midterms. That weak and compromised conference was in Trump’s thrall, but had not yet tried to stop the peaceful transfer of power. Today there are GOP members of Congress who were involved in what January 6th Select Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin describes as an “orchestrated, premeditated assault on our system of government.”

And so Democrats campaigning to defend their majority should warn the people they represent about this fact now, rather than just complaining about it next year.

Democratic candidates should not fear emphasizing that in this election a victory by the GOP is not simply the validation of lying and cowardice and hypocrisy.

Choosing Republicans on the ballot this fall is a choice to vitiate the oath to the Constitution.

Sure leadership, integrity and honesty were already out of fashion with GOP voters. But rewarding and empowering those who chose to gut the Constitutional order—and their leader who chose to lie about it for them—seems like another big step. And a dangerous one.

January 6 has not passed. It has metastasized. It was violent and deadly but that was only the last day—which was just one moment in a 60-day coup attempt. And since then we’ve had new state laws designed to help Republicans in corrupt the count in future elections, pathways to prevent certification by the states and absolution for those in Congress who would steal an election. Put it together and the picture is of a party focused on how to obtain power and protect it by anti-Constitutional means.

Pollsters and consultants keep telling Democrats to focus solely on kitchen-table issues. But it will feel pretty scary in that kitchen if Republicans get the gavel and use it to further their assault on democracy. So this crisis can and should be part of the campaign.

Articulating urgency about the consequences of a Republican majority doesn’t have to be the dominant message Democrats campaign on. It should not replace other voter priorities. But it should be a priority for the party. The message can be crafted for delivery by any member in any district. It can be a version of this:

As we experience the highest price increases in 50 years, try to adapt to a post-pandemic life, and dig in for the disruptions of variants and an extended war in Ukraine, Americans are looking to Washington for resolution and certainty and we know they are not finding enough.

While our party has tried, with the bare majority of votes we have in Congress, to pass bills to address these problems it’s important to note that we have also done so in the shadow of the deadly insurrection and an attempt by a U.S. president to steal an election.

No matter what the Select Committee on January 6th ultimately reveals, it’s critical that all Americans contemplate what we already have learned: The plot to overturn the will of the people was planned for months with the involvement of members of Congress.

While their leader knew the president was culpable, and likely guilty of a criminal act, and he believed Trump should resign, he then changed his mind for political expediency.

He chose to protect Trump and punished those who told the truth about the president’s role. He is aware of the complicity of members of his rank and file in this attack on our Republic and is protecting them, as well. New revelations show he has lied about this. Not shaded the truth; not engaged in spin; not obfuscated. Lied. Flat out.

If he is promoted to be third in line to the presidency, he will lie about anything. In abetting Trump and his followers in Congress, Kevin McCarthy has emboldened them. True public servants, doing the people’s business, do not work to thwart or weaken the Constitutional order they take an oath to protect. Republicans who took part in, or dismissed, sedition cannot be trusted with control of our government because they will break it.

You get the point. Many voters do not follow political news and it is incumbent on their representatives, in honoring their oath to the Constitution, to explain it in stark terms.

Democrats can be proud of numerous accomplishments that attract meager attention or credit—three times as many new jobs in 15 months than the last three GOP presidents combined; Biden’s careful and competent handling of the war in Ukraine; a bipartisan infrastructure program previous presidents failed to achieve; COVID relief and a rescue of the vaccine program. As for the disappointments: There were never enough Democrats in Congress to fulfill their promises on voting rights or social welfare spending.

No matter what races they win or lose this fall, or how wide the margin for Republicans, every Democrat knows a GOP House will destabilize this country. It’s time they be open about this fact with their voters.

A.B. Stoddard

A.B. Stoddard is a columnist at The Bulwark. Previously, she was associate editor and columnist at RealClearPolitics.