On January 5, 2022, one day before the anniversary of the right-wing storming of the U.S. Capitol, Sen. Ted Cruz called the event a “violent terrorist attack.” That evening, Tucker Carlson of Fox News Cruz was criticized for his remarks. Cruz was reprimanded for his remarks the next night. appeared on Carlson’s show to beg for forgiveness. “You called this a ‘terror attack,’ when by no definition of the word was it a terror attack,” Carlson said. “That’s a lie. You told that lie on purpose, and I’m wondering why you did.”
Cruz hid behind Carlson like a boy caught out by curfew. “The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy, and it was, frankly, dumb,” Cruz said. “I don’t buy that,” Carlson responded. “I do not believe that you used that accidentally. I just don’t.”
The next seven minutes of the interview continued in the same fashion, with Cruz desperately justifying himself over a chyron that at one point read: “What was Cruz thinking?” Carlson’s dominance over Cruz was total. Cruz’s surrender was unconditional. The power dynamics couldn’t have been more clear if a CEO was to exhort a new employee on their very first day of work.
This interview was far from an anomaly. It reflected the official and informal conservative responses to January 6th. Conservative leaders were not willing to give, unlike in the immediate aftermath. lip serviceIt was not appropriate to criticize the events of that day. The various conservative responses (or lack thereof) offer the strongest evidence that the attempted coup was not a maligned one time event. Instead, it threatens to serve as a mythologized moment of glory for right that could be used as a model for the future. One year after the January 6th attack, a review of conservative responses shows that there is almost no distinction between the so called respectable right and violent, explicitly racist or insurrectionary fringes in most spheres.
Carlson is not just a television host, and Cruz isn’t some congressional backbencher. Together, these two are the core of mainstream conservatism. Carlson’s show ranks as either the most-watched or second-most-watched show on Fox News, averagingEvery evening, there are more than 3 million viewers. Cruz, meanwhile is the symbol of conservatism in Senate.
These two figures made it clear that there was no way to find fault with the January 6 attempted coup. Cruz wasn’t saved by his repeated protestations that he was only criticizing the protesters who physically harmed police. He was also not protected by the fact he spearheadedThe Senate is resisting the certification of the 2020 presidential elections. The party line has been established by the most influential conservatives of the country, and not just fringes.
That’s not to discount the role the far-right flank of elected Republicans have played in generating support for the events of January 6. Another interview was conducted on the anniversary of the failed coup. A former staffer for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, California, accused the House Republican minority leader in taking his cues form the far right fringe of his caucus. “His leadership strategy is dictated by the most extreme wings of his party,” Ryan O’Toole, now a staffer for Rep. Liz Cheney, told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “And so, when Marjorie Taylor Greene or Matt Gaetz put their thumb on the scale, that’s what he responds to.”
For their part, Greene and Gaetz spent the year anniversary providing the only semi-official Republican response. The two appeared on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcastin the morning, held a press conferenceIn the afternoon. The two men presented baseless conspiracy theories that claimed the FBI was responsible for the riot. “We did not want the Republican voice to go unheard, and we did not want today’s historical narrative to be hijacked by those who were the true insurrectionists,” Gaetz said, referring to his conspiracy theory about FBI agents and paid informants.
Though it’s true that Gaetz and Greene represent the far right of the elected Republicans, members of the GOP’s mainstream faction did everything they could to downplay the mob attack on the Capitol. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the GOP’s likely 2024 presidential front-runner if Donald Trump declines to run, used the occasion to attack the media for alleged anti-Trump bias: “Jan. 6 allows them to create narratives that are negative about people that supported Donald Trump,” he stated. Lindsey Graham, mainstay of the Senate tweeted that President Joe Biden was engaged in a “brazen politicization” of January 6, as though there were a way to discuss an attempted coup outside the realm of politics.
A recent review of the January 6 “insurrectionists” also shows that demographically, they comprised the GOP’s traditional voting base, rather than a collection of outsiders. Robert A. Pape, a political science professor analyzed the economic records of more than 500 January 6 defendants, and found that “more than half are business owners, including CEOs, or from white-collar occupations, including doctors, lawyers, architects, and accountants,” and only 7 percent were unemployed. These demographics match the demographics of Republicans generally, who tends to be wealthierMore Democratic voters than Republicans. When askedTo self-describe their economic situation, 66% of Fox NewsViewers claimed they were middle-class or wealthier. This means that the demographic groups that stormed Capitol shared a lot of similarities with the ones who watched Tucker Carlson discipline Ted Cruz a few years later.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the nominally anti-January 6, “Never-Trump” wing of the conservative movement also went out of its way to make apologies for the insurrectionists, even while offering mild criticism. “It is now an article of faith on the left that these goons were determined to ‘destroy democracy’,” argued conservative author Jonah Goldberg, writing in Bari Weiss’s newsletter. “But that wasn’t their actual intent. They Considered Trump’s story. They Considered they were saving democracy from a coup.” He went on to write that their “stupidity” doesn’t “let them off the hook,” and that the central plotters should be held accountable. But ultimately, Goldberg sees the attempted coup, and the Trump administration more broadly, as a deviation from conservatism, rather than a predictable culmination of the movement’s values and priorities.
Two stalwart conservatives were embraced by Democrats at the anniversary. Both were from Wyoming and both had the last name Cheney. Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming, is one of the two Republicans that sat on January 6’s committee. She has been a hero to the mainstream wing the Democratic Party. Both she and her father Dick Cheney, former vice president of the United States and Iraq War architect, attended the official anniversary celebration. They were both admired by Democrats, with more than a dozen standing to shake hands. “One by one, Democrats put aside their fierce and lasting policy divides with the Cheneys to thank them for condemning the attack and Trump’s continued effort to undermine the 2020 presidential election results with his false claims of fraud,” The Washington Post reported.
It is a sad irony that Dick Cheney – a man who was partially responsible for illegally disrupting and ultimately stealing the 2000 election – has been recast by liberals as a great, principled defender democracy. The Supreme Court’s decision to stop the Florida recount as a result of Bush v. GoreIt serves not only as a reminder of the long-held promise of U.S. democracy but also as a tool for future coup plotters. The greatest threat to future transfers of power to the United States is not found in the absurdity or halls of power. The synthesis of these two factions is the key to the future of the anti-democratic left. This fusion seems to be almost complete one year after the Capitol breach.