The evidence that Donald J. Trump attempted to overthrow the United States government on Jan. 6, 2021 is overwhelming, and the House select committee tasked with investigating the coup has been remarkably effective in gathering and presenting it. It's a certainty that Trump gathered the crowd that day, that he was told many were armed, and that he specifically told them to "march" to the Capitol at the exact time Congress was meeting to acknowledge his election loss. His intent was to intimidate Congress into declaring the election invalid. He sat on his behind, watching television, watching the violence play out, and with a tweet attacking vice president Mike Pence specifically, egging it on. He refused to help until it had already been made clear that the violence had failed and both Congress and Pence were safe.
Trump is a stone-cold traitor surrounded by Republicans bent on toppling the government, and the effectiveness of the Jan. 6 committee's explanation of Trump's pathetic but still-violent plot has been enough to rattle anyone in conservative media not explicitly devoted to kissing Trump's ass. And that would be very good news—if the number of media conservatives who condemned the coup to begin with amounted to more than a handful. Everyone else in Republicanism is still riding the ol' fascist trolley, and anyone who thinks a fascist base is going to condemn a fascist leader for attempting to erase the rules preventing him from retaining power needs a refresher on what fascism actually is.
Is the conservative media turning against Trump, then? Not in any real numbers, no. What's changing right now is that some individual media figures are looking to cut Trump loose as too much of a liability even for Trumpism. Most of the movement is not that tactical, however, and those who supported the coup by promoting the invented hoaxes used to fuel it, and who immediately downplayed the deaths afterward—either with new hoaxes or by insisting that "most" of the crowd Trump gathered did not attempt to beat Capitol police officers to death in an effort to hunt down Trump's named enemies—are only shrieking those same hoaxes louder.Campaign Action
In The New York Times, we get a run-through of so-called conservative reactions to the hearings and, surprise, it's all the usual garbage fire. Radio shrieker Mark Levin says that it wasn't a real insurrection because a real insurrection would have involved Trump arresting Mike Pence. Merely pointing an angry mob in his direction and telling them that Pence was the thing standing between them and victory doesn't count. There's Laura Ingraham, one of the Fox News hosts who thought the violence of the day was extremely bad when it was happening, and were begging the White House to call it off—but who immediately turned around to downplay the same violence to viewers, a process that has become rote whenever the network's hosts have found their own network rhetoric to be in too-close proximity to acts of domestic terrorism.
As for Tucker, what is there even to say? The perpetually whining brat remains as devoted to a fascist remaking of the country as fellow sociopath Steve Bannon, who Carlson hosted after Bannon was found guilty of criminal contempt of Congress. As the House select committee has held hearing after hearing, Carlson's show has gotten more and more vigorous in its condemnations of the committee's very existence.
Carlson's post-Trump-revelations show was a raging trash fire, an absolute parade of gaslighting with mockery for Pence's Secret Service team and every other law enforcement officer on the job that day:
Sociopathic? Maybe. But even back during his CNN days, Tucker Carlson had a thing for mocking injured people—he spent multiple such days sneering about a lawsuit filed after a child had been disemboweled by a poorly designed pool drain. That giddy cruelty is his own little schtick, and possibly the only aspect of his persona that carried over from "smug fraternity kid in bowtie" to "globetrotting white nationalist with penchant for anti-democratic strongmen."
At The Washington Post, Greg Sargent mulls the "fracturing" between those conservatives that are attempting to cut Trump loose and those who are not, and is correct in suggesting that the split is mostly for self-serving reasons.
Two editorials from far-right media kingpin Rupert Murdoch's possessions, in The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, are unambiguous in cutting Trump loose; Trump has proven "unworthy" for office, says the Post. Sargent cites Post newsletter-writer Olivier Knox to note that the split is perhaps between those who fancy themselves part of the D.C. establishment versus those whose public personas rely on demonizing that establishment.
Put more bluntly: As revelations mount about what Trump did not just to assemble the violent mob, but the acts he took to use the resulting violence in his bid to stay in power, it's every conservative pundit for themselves. The question in every pundit’s mind is whether Donald Trump is so damaged—or so close to being indicted—that the movement has to pry him loose and accept the damage.
Much of what passes for intellectual Republicanism still secretly despises Trump, as anyone with a brain and a pulse naturally should, and would absolutely love to cut the ineffectual, unpredictable blowhard away from his base so that the movement could be inherited by an equally mean-spirited but more competent new Dear Leader. From most Republican senators to the editors of the Journal, replacing Trump with a less buffoonish figure would be a dream come true.
For the vast majority of the "conservative" media, however, every possible off-ramp was passed by long ago. The whole point of the newly fascist movement is that their "enemies" are wrong, every investigation of wrongdoing by movement leaders is a fabrication meant to discredit them, and indeed the entire world is allied in conspiracy against them. The news is no longer even news, but a jumping-off point for adding another lie to the big pile.
You're not going to get career talking heads who staked themselves to the notion that four years and two impeachments’ worth of rampant Trump corruption was all a conspiracy by Republicanism's enemies to make the ridiculous public clown look bad to now reverse themselves. They became big-name pundit celebrities by claiming all Republicans are innocent all the time.
Nobody on the Fox News programs is struggling with the question, or doing any nighttime soul-searching on whether the new details of Trump's inaction should finally be the brick that walls him up forever in the mausoleum of failed leaders. Every paycheck for the last four years has been dependent on their own ability to feed their audience whatever that audience wants most to hear, and the Republican base most wants to hear unhinged conspiracy theories about how all of their non-white, non-conservative, non-straight, non-library-hating enemies all plotted to make it look like Trump is a nation-betraying pile of crap, even after far-right cartoonists spent all those years drawing him as conservatism's musclebound and perfect-postured savior.
Republicanism is a fascist movement. There's no getting around that at this point; the party is dedicated to pushing hoaxes and propaganda as a primary means of winning elections, and is especially focused on targeting all Americans who are not them as their enemies. The truth of whether or not Dear Leader incited a violent, armed mob to assault a joint session of Congress rather than abide an election loss is not important, because the Republicans of the House and Senate, the Fox News punditry, and the Republican base would all have absolutely supported Trump's move to seize power if it had worked.
If the mob had found and killed Mike Pence and Trump used the act to declare emergency powers, nullify the election, and remain parked in the White House, every Republican from McConnell to Graham to McCarthy to Sean Hannity would all be defending Trump's position as the only plausible path forward. It would only be "reasonable" for Trump to act to maintain the nation's "security," and if the loser of an election announcing themselves to be the winner has never been done before, at the presidential level, then it would still be declared better than the unrest that would transpire if law enforcement or the military tried to remove him from the building.
We've been here before. We've been here even during the impeachment process launched against Trump for this precise event. Terrible shame, the Republicans all said, but Congress having to flee a violent mob is hardly reason to put a negative mark down in a president's permanent political record. Now let us all move on to hunt down "critical race theory" in all its imagined forms.
Fascist pundits respect power (see: Viktor Orban) and mock perceived weakness (see: Capitol police officers unable to subdue the mob.) The coup attempt is still seen, by them, as a perfectly reasonable bit of politicking, and the main concern even when it was happening was not over whether their dear ally Donald Trump was a filthy violence-provoking traitor using hoaxes to overturn an American election but the optics that would result after it presumably failed. There's nobody on Fox News saying this should never happen again. They're saying it was no big deal to begin with, and why are our political enemies so obsessed with this.
The bad news for Trump is that even pro-fascist conservative pundits are likely to cut Trump loose in the near future. The movement no longer needs him. Anyone looking for promises of vengeance against non-whites, against LGBT children, against school librarians, against pandemic scientists or other movement enemies has a host of Republican governors who have been falling over themselves to prove they could lead such a movement. Florida's Ron DeSantis has literally been copying even Trump's mannerisms in his bid to detach Trump from his base and paste himself into its leadership.
Whether the base will go along is another matter, but ... they probably will. Again, fascist movements celebrate power and mock weakness; all a new leader has to do to beat Trump is belittle him in front of the base that coalesced around Trump specifically because they liked seeing people belittled. Trump's success in creating a movement that is utterly vapid will eventually be his own undoing; these are people with low attention spans. Their focus is on hurting their perceived enemies, not loyalty toward their perceived allies. Anyone who lets them express their constant bubbling rage will do.
Trump and his followers proved on Jan. 6 how dangerously close they came to overturning our democracy. Help cancel Republican voter suppression with the power of your pen by clicking here and signing up to volunteer with Vote Forward, writing personalized letters to targeted voters urging them to exercise their right to vote this year.