Over the weekend, former President Donald Trump escalated his ongoing attacks on American democracy as he offered the potential of pardons for January 6 insurrectionists if he were reelected in 2024, incited further demonstrations against officials who are now investigating him, and asserted once again that the 2020 election should have been overturned.
Mainstream media outlets, however, are continuing to treat the rising of an American fascist movement as a political curiosity, providing horse-race coverage instead of examining it first and foremost as an ongoing threat to the republic.
During his speech at a Texas rally, Trump claimed that the January 6 insurrectionists “are being treated so unfairly,” saying, “If it requires pardons, we will give them pardons.” To be clear, the most severe sentences handed down thus far have been for rioters who assaulted police officers, and members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group have been indicted for seditious conspiracy, directly relating to an alleged effort to overthrow the government. Yet Trump made this promise to a cheering crowd, including supporters standing right behind him and wearing T-shirts labeled “Cops for Trump.”
Trump also called for his supporters to take to the streets again, for “the biggest protest we have ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta,” if “these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors” who are investigating both his conduct surrounding the election and his personal business dealings “do anything wrong or illegal.” In response, the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, who has impaneled a grand jury to investigate Trump’s threatening phone call with Georgia’s secretary of state, has asked for assistance from the FBI to guarantee the security of the Fulton County courthouse and government center.
“We must work together to keep the public safe and ensure that we do not have a tragedy in Atlanta similar to what happened at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021,” District Attorney Fani Willis said in an official letter on Sunday.
In addition, Trump released another statement over the weekend, directly attacking former Vice President Mike Pence and claiming that he “could have overturned the election.”
Mainstream media outlets should be treating all of this as a five-alarm fire for American democracy and the U.S. Constitution. But instead, Politico’s Playbook on Sunday pondered how Trump’s declarations might affect Republican messaging and prospects for the midterm election.
It’s clear that Trump isn’t moving on. Will the MAGA base? Will the GOP? And how will that affect the party’s ability to retake the House? Is there any chance that House Republicans distance themselves from the former president, or will this be yet another confirmation that it’s Trump’s party now?
The New York Times positioned Trump’s comments in terms of supposed Republican infighting and messaging: “The statement signifies an increase in the intensity of the former president’s push to litigate the 2020 election and comes days after Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, issued a public warning to Republican candidates to ‘respect the results of our democratic process’ during an interview with CNN.” (The alleged conflict among Republicans is also exaggerated by mainstream media outlets.)
The Washington Post ran a piece Sunday evening, titled “Trump’s Texas trip illustrates his upsides and downsides for Republicans and their midterm hopes.” Immediately after the paragraph detailing Trump’s offer of pardons to January 6 rioters, along with his incitement of new demonstrations against district attorneys, the article proceeded to discuss what this might mean for Republican candidates in primary and general elections:
Trump may be out of office, and not yet an official candidate for president in 2024, but he still represents a conundrum for his party. The former president retains an unchallenged grip over the base of the party. In most states, separation from Trump’s desires and policies is a sure path to defeat in a Republican primary and risks lower GOP turnout in a general election.
But Trump’s continued effort to downplay the events of Jan. 6 while stoking agitation for future violence risks alienating the independent and moderate voters Republicans desperately need and think they are set to gain in November.
And in a separate but also consequential example of missing the real message, The Associated Press said that Trump’s “offer represents an attempt by Trump to further minimize the most significant attack on the seat of government since the War of 1812.”
Trump didn’t just “minimize” what happened, he is actively trying to seed more of it.