The more the Jan. 6 insurrection recedes in the face of other national and global crises, the easier it is for reporters to forget—or perhaps ignore—the fact that 147 congressional Republicans voted to overturn the 2020 election.
It was a vote against the will of the people, against American democracy, and it is indeed fundamental to the question of whether those Republicans are fit to hold office in our democratic republic.
The fact that the GOP's bid to retake Congress next year is mainly being helmed by pro-sedition Republicans should not be lost on anyone—least of all congressional and political reporters. It opens up a whole host of sticky questions for those Republican leaders, certain reelection-seeking members of their caucus, and absolutely any GOP candidate trying to unseat Democrats in battleground districts and states.
First off, here are the Republican congressional leaders who voted against democracy on Jan. 6 based on nothing other than Trump's fantastical delusions: Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who's leading the Senate GOP's campaign arm; House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California; his top 2 deputies, Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York and Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
Every one of these supposed "leaders" of the U.S. government should be made to answer for their votes, particularly now that no evidence has emerged to support Trump's claims. In fact, just the opposite: The body of evidence showing that Trump tried to manufacture evidence in order to steal the election has only grown.
Opportunities to re-up these questions will arise on the fly. Earlier this week, for instance, Sen. Scott took a cheap shot at President Joe Biden, questioning his mental fitness for office following his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
This got me thinking about how mentally fit a pro-seditionist is for office and, if I had the chance, what I might ask Scott if I saw him wandering the halls of Congress in non-recess times.
At the heart of the matter is whether Republicans who voted to overturn the will of the people with no proof to back their claims are fit to participate in governing a democracy. The natural offspring of that question is whether a party led by seditionists is fit to participate in democracy.
A common question for reporters to ask someone like Scott—who has been working to portray the Senate GOP caucus as mainstream—is whether he regrets his vote to overturn the election.
But I think there's a better way to ask that question: "Sen. Scott, recently you questioned President Biden's fitness for office. You voted to overturn the 2020 election based on no credible evidence. Since then, none has emerged. Do you question your own fitness for office?”
If he says, "No" or laughs it off, then he's suggesting that he has no regrets about trying to overturn a free and fair election based on nothing but sheer fantasy. The follow-up—"Do you still support democracy?"—potentially leads to a back-and-forth on whether trying to overturn the election is defensible in any way given the circumstances. Or maybe Scott runs, gets visibly flustered, or turns his back. Any of those responses make clear that his vote is now indefensible among mainstream Americans, even if it's a hot seller with Trump cultists.
But honestly, there are several categories of GOP lawmakers who should be made to answer these questions repeatedly, particularly as the midterms heat up and primaries become a factor.
First is the leadership team. Scott's trying to mainstream his caucus in order to appeal to swing votes while McCarthy's trying to radicalize his in order to win over the GOP fringes. Scott's own Jan. 6 vote runs counter to his mission and that should be made perfectly apparent to Americans. As for McCarthy, he will most likely gladly defend his vote and more moderate members of his caucus should be made to answer for it.
This brings me to the next category: Republicans running for reelection. On the Senate side, GOP senators such as Marco Rubio of Florida or Chuck Grassley of Iowa could pay a price for Scott's attempt to overthrow democracy, and they should both be asked about his extremism.
Rubio's in a political pickle in Florida and one potential Grassley opponent is already opening up opportunities to question the patriotism of Republicans. “Since the Capitol was attacked, [Republicans] turned their backs on democracy, and on us,” Abby Finkenauer, a former congresswoman who is running to unseat Grassley, charged in her announcement video.
On the House side, virtually every Republican defending a toss-up seat should have to answer fundamental questions about their commitment to protecting the will of the people. Though their districts might change after redistricting, right now that includes the following GOP members:
- Scott Perry, PA-10
- Steve Chabot, OH-01
- Jeff Van Drew, NJ-02
- Jim Hagedorn, MN-01
- Mike Garcia, CA-25
- David Schweikert, AZ-06
The easiest question to ask any of these members is whether they would support a seditionist for Speaker of the House (i.e. McCarthy). But no Republican is more primed for scrutiny on his commitment to democracy than Rep. Schweikert, who represents parts of Maricopa County—ground zero for Trump's Big Lie. When it comes to the fraudit, does he side with the GOP-led Maricopa County board, which has openly mocked it, or state senate Republicans who have likely cost taxpayers millions to come up empty-handed?
The final group of Republicans who must make clear whether they support sedition or not is GOP candidates working to unseat Democrats. In the lower chamber, GOP hopefuls can simply be asked whether they support the baseless sedition vote given that there is zero evidence to support it and, subsequently, if they would vote for pro-seditionist McCarthy for speaker. Republicans running for the U.S. Senate should be asked whether they support overturning the will of the people based on a fantasy. In other words, do they support fascism or democracy?
Before they cast their ballots, voters deserve to know where Republicans stand on the fundamental question of whether they support the American democracy that 147 sitting GOP members betrayed on Jan. 6. It's fertile material for reporters who have even an ounce of entrepreneurial spirit and journalistic chops—not to mention the fact that it would be performing a civic service to the community. They can just think of it as the patriotism beat.