Today marks four months since the US Capitol was stormed by a mob intent on blocking Congress from accepting the Electoral College win for President Joe Biden. Inside the Capitol, a smaller mob of 147 Republicans, also seeking to de-legitimize Biden’s victory and keep Donald Trump in power, voted to overturn the 2020 election results.
At the time, mainstream editorial writers, columnists and media commentators decried those who had voted to undermine our democracy. For days they shone a spotlight on “The Sedition Caucus” or “The Treason Caucus.” GOP leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy faulted Trump explicitly. Would that they would do so today!
Back then, and for days afterward, many media types, talking heads and sentient citizens said the unconstitutional behavior by legislators must be punished by removal from office. Some cited Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, designed to exclude Confederate Civil War traitors: “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress … who … having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same[.]…”
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin said the six Senators should be expelled and Senators Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and John Kennedy disbarred.
On January 8, website itstartstoday.com asked how much would you give to ensure that every one of them is removed from Congress? It invited contributions to Democratic nominees who would oppose these opponents of democracy.
There was much talk that the ignominious 147 should be branded in some way by the news media covering them. Perhaps a permanent asterisk by their names, with an “S” for sedition. At a minimum, none should be quoted or allowed on interview shows until he or she apologizes or acknowledges the legitimacy of Biden’s election and the untruthfulness of Trump’s Big Lie. How soon the news media forget.
It’s to be expected that Fox and Trump’s Amen Chorus media would try to whitewash the January 6 insurrection and act as if nothing serious took place. I’m not surprised that Cong. Liz Cheney’s simple truths have faced radio silence on their air or opprobrium from her colleagues. Unfortunately, she will pay a price for her honesty. It’s also expected that the 147, most of whom represent overwhelmingly Red districts, would not only emerge unscathed but would turn their anti-democratic behavior into a small-donor fundraising bonanza. But look at what the mainstream media are now doing.
As Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan observed: “Too many Sunday news shows repeatedly book the likes of Kevin McCarthy, Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson without reminding viewers how these members of Congress tried to undo the results of the election. A rare exception is CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ which hasn’t booked a single member of the so-called Sedition Caucus since January.” Sullivan also praises WITF, a small Harrisburg station that continually reminds its viewers which state legislators tried to overturn the Pennsylvania election.
Under other circumstances, I’d say book the ringleaders of the 147 and confront their claims. You know, bad ideas die in the marketplace of ideas. Unfortunately, too few of the current crop press interviewers have the capacity to mount such a challenge. They all live inside the Beltway, a rarefied bubble in which interviewers and interviewees become co-dependents, needing each other for their personal gratification.
I often cringe at MSNBC’s Chuck Todd’s inability to interrupt and ask trenchant follow-up questions. As I’ve written before, I miss Tim Russert on Meet the Press. If you can’t consistently remind viewers what happened on January 6 and how high the stakes remain, if you can’t cut off filibustering answers and hold guests’ feet to the fire, then don’t give them the oxygen to make matters worse.
Former CBS chief Les Moonves waxed ecstatic in 2016 about the ratings bonanza caused by the public’s apparently insatiable hunger for Trump’s racist rants, wild lies and “bomb throwing. “Bring it on, Donald. Keep going,” Moonves said: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” Too many of mainstream media seem to be following that path in normalizing the seditious Senators and Congresspeople still intent on perpetuating the Big Lie about a Big Steal.
Facebook’s squirrelly decision yesterday, to reassess in six months restoring Facebook and Instagram access to Trump, just kicks the can down the road. The news that Trump has been actively discussing his 2024 presidential return makes this announcement all the more disconcerting.
It’s early May. Lilacs and azaleas are in bloom, Covid numbers are down and we should be feeling a spring in our steps. But darkness lurks if news media and the companies that own them don’t remember the winter of our discontent and their responsibility to keep truth alive.