There was a brief political consensus in the immediate aftermath of the insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. As we've discussed, the left, right, and center could all agree on a simple truth: participating in a riot inside the nation's seat of government is a serious attack against our democracy.
It wasn't long, however, before the consensus broke down. For example, some Republicans started pushing the ridiculous line that the pro-Trump attackers may have been secret liberals. Soon after, Donald Trump, who played a key role in inciting the violence, got in on the game, insisting that the Capitol attackers posed "zero threat," and were merely "hugging and kissing the police and the guards."
Last month, multiple Republican House members tried to manufacture an entirely new reality in which the riot's perpetrators were actually the victims. One GOP lawmaker described the rioters as "peaceful patriots," and blasted law enforcement for "harassing" them. Another said the Jan. 6 violence more closely resembled a "normal tourist visit" than a deadly attack.
Soon after, Senate Republicans derailed a bipartisan proposal for an independent commission to investigate the insurrectionist assault.
Yesterday, several congressional Republicans went to bat for the rioters once again, this time pressing Attorney General Merrick Garland on whether the Jan. 6 attackers are being treated unfairly.
The letter, signed by Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Ted Cruz of Texas, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Mike Lee of Utah and Rick Scott of Florida, asks Garland to provide information related to what they assert is "unequal justice" being meted out to those involved in the Capitol attack compared with other "mass unrest, destruction and loss of life."
As the Washington Post report explained, the five conservative Republican senators -- three of whom voted against certifying President Biden's victory in the wake of the Capitol assault -- were "specifically referring to the pockets of violence and vandalism in U.S. cities that followed the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a White police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes."
In other words, the GOP senators are deeply concerned about whether federal law enforcement treated racial-justice protesters better than members of the pro-Trump mob that attacked the seat of our democracy in order to hunt American elected officials and derail our system of elections.
Conflating the racial-justice protests with the insurrectionist Capitol riot is difficult to take seriously, but it's quickly become a staple of Republican politics, as Johnson, Cruz, Tuberville, Lee, and Scott were eager to prove yesterday.