Democrats and Republicans in Congress today have a similar public relations problem. Call it “the tail wagging the dog.” It’s the impression that a small band of radicals is running the show, setting the agenda and calling the shots for both parties.
For Democrats, it’s “the Squad” — originally, a group of four House members (Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarWarren, Bush offer bill to give HHS power to impose eviction moratorium Democrats look for Plan B after blow on immigration Democrats reject hardball tactics against Senate parliamentarian MORE of Minnesota, Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibProgressive foreign policy should not be pro-autocracy Democratic bill would force Fed to defund fossil fuels Democrats brace for battle on Biden's .5 trillion spending plan MORE of Michigan, Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyWarren, Bush offer bill to give HHS power to impose eviction moratorium Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes Advocates 'in utter disbelief' after Biden resumes Haitian repatriations MORE of Massachusetts and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezFeehery: The confidence game Democrats face full legislative plate and rising tensions McCarthy on Dems' spending bill: 'The amount of money we spent to win World War II' MORE of New York), now joined by Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.). For Republicans, it’s a group of Jan. 6 deniers: Reps. Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneGOP efforts to downplay danger of Capitol riot increase The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she's meeting with Trump 'soon' in Florida MORE and Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzBipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy Eric Trump lawyer in New York attorney general's fraud case quits Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally MORE of Florida, Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertRepublicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally Security forces under pressure to prevent repeat of Jan. 6 Washington ramps up security ahead of Sept. 18 rally MORE of Texas, and Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarDomestic extremists return to the Capitol Republicans keep distance from 'Justice for J6' rally Washington ramps up security ahead of Sept. 18 rally MORE and Andrew Biggs of Arizona.
But there’s a huge difference between the two groups: One impression is true, the other is not. No matter how colorful, the Squad’s not running the Democratic Party in the House. But no matter how outrageous, the Jan. 6 Deniers are, in fact, controlling the Republican Party. Especially on the issue of Jan. 6, the inmates have taken over the asylum.
Even before last week, the Deniers showed what a bunch of wing-nuts they are. Clyde alleged the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol was nothing more than “a normal tourist visit.” Gohmert argued there was “no evidence” that any of the Jan. 6 mob were armed. Biggs and Gaetz both spread the theory that federal agencies, most likely the FBI, were behind the rampage. Gosar claimed, without evidence, that some rioters were members of antifa. Greene was one of 21 Republicans who voted against honoring Capitol police officers who defended them because, she insisted, it was not an “insurrection.”
Wait? Does that mean some Republican members of Congress are siding against the police and for an armed mob? Yes! And, last week the Deniers went even further. On July 27, Gaetz, Gohmert, Gosar, Greene, Biggs and Rep.Bob Good (R-Va.) appeared in front of the Department of Justice building and accused the Justice Department of “harassing” those arrested for invading the Capitol, whom Gosar called “peaceful patriots” and Gohmert described as “political prisoners held hostage by their own government.”
Two days later, Greene, Gaetz, Gosar and Gohmert attempted to storm unannounced into the D.C. jail to protest the detention of rioters charged with the most serious crimes — assaulting police officers or carrying weapons into the Capitol. When they were denied entrance, Gohmert accused D.C. jail officials of operating a “dictatorship.”
It’s bad enough that six Jan. 6 Deniers are backing the mob who attacked them rather than the police who defended them. What makes it worse is that they have at least the tacit support of party leaders. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyWoodward: Milley was 'setting in motion sensible precautions' with calls to China Thompson says he hopes Jan 6. committee can complete work by 'early spring' Juan Williams: Shame on the anti-mandate Republicans MORE of California has yet to condemn them. House GOP Conference Chair Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikWyoming county GOP rejects effort to rescind Cheney's party status Stefanik in ad says Democrats want 'permanent election insurrection' GOP leader taking proxy voting fight to Supreme Court MORE of New York blamed House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats seek to cool simmering tensions Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid House Democrats unveil legislation to curtail presidential power MORE (D-Calif.) for the riot. And Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE insisted his supporters were actually “hugging and kissing the police and the guards,” not attacking them.
All of which makes the aftermath of Jan. 6 especially difficult for police officers. “What makes the struggle harder and more painful,” Officer Michael Fanone told the January 6 Select Committee, “is to know so many of my fellow citizens, including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend, are downplaying or outright denying what happened.”
The bottom line: Trump, McCarthy and the Jan. 6 Deniers have turned the Republican Party upside down. They’re no longer the law-and-order party. They no longer defend the “thin blue line.” They’re now the anti-police, anti-law enforcement, anti-democracy and pro-insurrectionist party. Good luck defending that position in the 2022 midterms.
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”