Yesterday I noted that January 6th remains radioactive for the GOP in a way that Trump’s other crimes simply don’t. It keeps coming up again because they’ve never dealt with what happened. And they haven’t because that would mean dealing with Donald Trump. And, let’s be honest, they haven’t because a substantial minority (or more?) of their supporters are in fact insurrectionists and unreconstructed ones.
The preference at all times is to ignore January 6th. The next line of defense is to offer general condemnation but say it’s time to move forward. If that doesn’t work the defense moves to “politicization” and general arguments that the Justice Department should never bring charges against the man the incumbent defeated or the one he’ll face in the next election. But defending Trump’s actions on and around January 6th remains basically impossible for all but the most authoritarian and criminally minded Republicans. Because January 6th is simply indefensible. What I wanted to note today is that the insider sheets, the ones generally inclined to say that in fact this is good news for Trump or, more seriously, that Republicans have a plan for this, are generally saying the same thing. This Axios update from last night is a good example. January 6th is different. There’s no denying it.
They’re saying this in large part because of what we noted yesterday: We have a lot of evidence for this from the last two and half years. When January 6th moves to the forefront, it’s bad news politically for the GOP. But they are also saying this because these insider sheets are built on access which means that to a large degree they’re saying this because this is what their own GOP sources are telling them.
It’s always important in these cases to set expectations correctly and understand intra-party dynamics. This doesn’t mean that Jack Smith brings Trump indictments and then Republicans suddenly and finally see that the charlatan Trump has led them astray. Rather January 6th pulls apart a basic cleavage in the GOP and GOP-leaning independents: the division between those who fundamentally support the coup or view it as some political rough-housing that got out of hand, and everyone else. If that’s a major topic of the campaign, it’s a major problem for candidates not running in strongly Republican states and districts.