Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Why we should do more politicizing — especially after Jan. 6

By Joel Mathis, The Week

Republicans aren’t so angry about the insurrection. They just object to how Democrats talk about it.

When President Joe Biden last week marked the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection with a speech castigating former President Donald Trump for inciting the rioters, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) jumped to Trump’s defense. “What brazen politicization of Jan. 6 by President Biden,” the senator tweeted.

Graham immediately received a well-deserved roasting on social media. “Attempted coups are political,” one critic pointed out. Seems obvious enough. Over the weekend, though, Graham doubled down — a sign his complaint of “politicization” by Democrats wasn’t a silly gaffe, but an intentional strategy to defend Republicans from criticism for their role in the uprising.

“I was really disappointed in the tone of the president and the vice president — of the politicized Jan. 6,” he told talk radio host John Catsimatidis. “The American people reject what happened on Jan. 6, but come November 2022, they are going to reject the Democratic Party.”

Graham was joined Sunday by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who went on TV to grumble about last week’s Democrat-led anniversary commemorations while the House of Representatives was officially out on recess.

“You watch what they did last week when we were out, trying to politicize Jan. 6th,” McCarthy told Fox News, quickly adding that “everybody believes what happened on Jan. 6th was wrong beyond wrong.”

Not everybody. Most Americans agree that what happened on Jan. 6 was wrong. But poll after poll shows that Republican voters tend to take it less seriously — they describe the insurrectionists as “protecting democracy,” or believe conspiracy theories that it was a “false flag” operation designed to discredit Trump and his followers. That leaves Graham and McCarthy in an awkward position. They can’t defend the indefensible, but they can’t criticize it too directly and remain in good standing with their party’s base. That’s how Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) got in trouble with Tucker Carlson. So they’ve resorted to a third option: Taking offense at their opponents’ anger.

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