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Following the Democrats’ lead

Erick Erickson | Jan. 6 represented a logical stop on our country’s road to decay


Protesters fill the Wisconsin state Capitol in 2011 in opposition to a Republican-sponsored collective bargaining bill. Associated Press/Photo by Andy Manis

Following the Democrats’ lead

Sadly, some on the right are trying to rewrite Jan. 6, 2021, as a day of celebration. A recent column in a Trump-centric publication compared it to Bastille Day and the French Revolution—something no conservative should celebrate. What happened one year ago today was a violent incursion into the U.S. Capitol to attempt to stop Congress from counting Electoral College votes. While it was far less than what some claim—it wasn’t a “coup”—it was a logical stop on our republic’s road to decay.

“Selected, not elected” became a mantra of Democrats after President George W. Bush’s win in 2000. The result not only locked us into a red state vs. blue state dynamic but also became the first election in a long time where a party refused to accept the results. As an aside, up until 2000, news networks used blue states to represent the party that held the White House and red states for the challenger party. But the 2000 election was the first in living memory where a challenger won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote. That gave Democrats ammunition to refuse legitimacy for Bush. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights icon, refused to attend Bush’s inauguration because he considered it illegitimate.

Four years later, Bush won with 51 percent of the vote. But Democrats began whispering that he had stolen Ohio with the help of then–Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. Democrats went so far as to cast doubt on the Diebold election machines used in the state, claiming Blackwell had agreed to purchase them under nefarious conditions and alleged security problems that cast doubt on the outcome.

In 2016, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her party orchestrated a smear campaign against Donald Trump, claiming Russian shenanigans won the presidency for him. On Dec. 19, 2016, as Electoral College delegates convened in all 50 states, progressive protestors gathered outside state Capitol buildings demanding that electors reject Trump. At least one refused to vote for him. Actor Martin Sheen (known for playing President Josiah Bartlett on the TV series The West Wing), filmmaker Michael Moore, the cast of Saturday Night Live, and other celebrities begged electors to hand the election to Clinton. On Inauguration Day 2017, progressive rioters stormed through Washington, D.C., smashing storefronts and setting cars on fire. Again, Rep. Lewis refused to attend an inauguration because of its “illegitimacy.”

In 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams failed to force Georgia’s gubernatorial race into a runoff. Her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, then the state’s secretary of state, had cleared the needed 50 percent threshold and was duly elected. Abrams not only refused to concede, but progressives used the national press to advance a theory of voter suppression in Georgia. To this day, Hillary Clinton and others claim Republicans stole the race from Abrams. To this day, Abrams refuses to concede that Kemp legitimately won.

What happened in Wisconsin, Texas, and Washington was all shameful. But much of the American press corps and pundit class’ choice to condemn Republicans and praise or ignore Democrats only escalates matters.

Just two years later, Republicans would turn the Democrats’ playbook on them. President Trump refused to concede to Joe Biden and alleged shenanigans cost him the election. Why not? Democrats had been doing it since 2000. Many Republicans viewed their antics as not only legitimate, but also mirroring behavior the press had excused for Democrats over the last two decades.

As for incursions into Capitol buildings, Democrats had been doing that, too. In Wisconsin, Texas, and other states over the past decade, progressive protestors have stormed state Capitols to disrupt legislatures. “Thousands of protesters rushed to the … Capitol Wednesday night, forcing their way through doors, crawling through windows and jamming corridors,” is how the newspaper in Madison, Wis., described progressive activists storming the Wisconsin State Capitol in 2011 to stop Republicans from passing collective bargaining reform. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it an “impressive show of democracy” and said she stood with the protestors.

In Texas, progressive protestors stormed the state Capitol in Austin in 2013 to stop a pro-life measure. The media praised then–state Sen. Wendy Davis for attempting to filibuster the measure. Democrats cheered on the activists for disrupting the legislative session.

Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol were beyond excuse, but during Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett’s U.S. Supreme Court hearings, progressive activists tried to disrupt committee meetings and votes. In truth, we should condemn all this behavior, regardless of who is doing it. Appealing to “democratic norms” cannot be something trotted out as self-serving. But when the media only condemns Republicans, the condemnation looks more like partisan agenda-setting than legitimate criticism. Why were protestors smashing windows and invading the Wisconsin state Capitol to shut down its legislature an impressive show of democracy, but Republicans doing the same in Washington not?

What happened in Wisconsin, Texas, and Washington was all shameful. But much of the American press corps and pundit class’ choice to condemn Republicans and praise or ignore Democrats only escalates matters. Each side gets to engage in whataboutism, the media gets to play favorites, and the republic continues its slide into decay. Either this behavior must be condemned by all, or both sides will use it to their advantage.


Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson is a lawyer by training, has been a political campaign manager and consultant, helped start one of the premiere grassroots conservative websites in the world, served as a political contributor for CNN and Fox News, and hosts the Erick Erickson Show broadcast nationwide.

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