Americans watched in horror as an angry mob stormed our Capitol in January. On Tuesday, the Senate released a bipartisan report outlining the security flaws that allowed the breach and a list of recommendations to protect the building from another attack.
Sixteen Republican state lawmakers who were in Washington on Jan.6 still hold public office and continue to pass democracy bills they attacked.
The report, while important, does not sufficiently address a key aspect of the riot: the dangerous undercurrent of conspiracy theorists serving in our country’s state legislatures. At least 20 Republican state lawmakers were present or close to the January 6 riot, and many more spread the kind of lies the angry mob would later use as justification for their cause.
Sixteen Republican state lawmakers who were in Washington on January 6 still hold public office and continue to pass democracy bills they attacked using their platform as a public official to try to overthrow fair and free elections. Many are also at the forefront of efforts to pass voter suppression sets of laws.
Until these officials are removed from their government positions and held accountable, the danger will persist. Senators investigating what happened on January 6 cannot just address shortcomings and inadequate police preparation; they must also look within the Republican Party.
But the insurgents are not the only problem. There are many more Republicans in our state houses who have pushed former President Donald Trump’s “big lie” that the elections were stolen and fanned the flames of the insurgency. They keep doing it.
Indeed, instead of taking a measured stand against insurgents and conspiracy theorists, Republican members have welcomed and allowed bad actors in their party. In fact, the top GOP official who has faced party repudiation is someone who refused to accept the election lies: Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, who was ousted from the Republican leadership of the United States Chamber for its commitment to the truth.
Brand names like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene may grab headlines, but the problem of radical Republican extremism runs much deeper than a few notorious individuals in Washington. To take an example: Mark Finchem, a representative for the state of Arizona, is affiliated with far-right groups like the Oath Keepers and the Coalition of Western States. He is considered an extremist by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism for his involvement in these groups.
Finchem witnessed the violent insurgency in Washington and initially defended the rioters, though he later attempted to claim that it was in fact antifa that stormed the Capitol. Recently, new evidence has emerged that appears to show the lawmaker directly outside the Capitol after rioters broke through a series of barricades and police lines. Finchem is now running for secretary of state, even though he was at the center of efforts to overturn Arizona election results last year. Arizona Republicans responded by burying a bill to deport him and clearing him of 82 ethical complaints related to his participation in the January 6 riot.
The revelation about Finchem’s activities in Washington follows a similar discovery about Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano, who initially claimed he left the area as soon as the mob turned violent. Recently released images show it was apparently closer to the Capitol seat than it originally suggested.
At the time, GOP State Senate Chairman Pro Tempore Jake Corman said the Senate had “no reason to act” on calls for Mastriano’s impeachment. Since then, the GOP leadership has repeatedly refused to comment on new evidence of its conduct during the insurgency. Masstriano is now exploring a race for governor. He said Trump wanted him to run and change Pennsylvania election laws. Mastriano also organized buses for insurgency participants and advocated for the annulment of the Pennsylvania election results.
Beyond the threat that these legislators represent in their positions, the failure to hold accountable the elected officials who attended the riot serves to embolden further. Many participants in the January 6 riot are running for office, an alarming development that jeopardizes any chance of moving forward.
Even Republican leaders who did not attend the riot are spreading disinformation about this and our elections in their home states. Mike Shirkey, the top Republican in the Michigan Senate, appeared with the state’s far-right militias; he even offered to help them work on their messaging. In the aftermath of the insurgency, Shirkey said he sympathized with the mob, then called it a hoax and hinted that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may have played a role. He also hinted that there are “puppeteers” controlling elected officials.
Despite these lopsided thoughts, Shirkey is still the head of the Michigan Senate GOP. The National Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, instead of condemning the legislator, welcomed him to its board of directors.
The insurgents are not the only problem. There are many more Republicans in our state houses who pushed the “big lie” of former President Donald Trump.
In Arizona, Republican Senate Speaker Karen Fann is among many leaders who say they have doubts about the election. This sparked a deeply compromised election ‘audit’ of the state, led by a company with no electoral experience owned by a ‘Stop the Steal’ follower to conduct a random wild goose hunt inspired by wild conspiracy theories. which have no basis in reality. The effort is a huge waste of taxpayer resources – but serves as a cover to pass bills, making voting more difficult. Two actual independent audits have already confirmed President Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
Republican elected officials, who have taken an oath to defend our democracy, pose a significant threat to our very system of government. We don’t just need to hold accountable the growing number of Republican public officials who are conspiracy theorists – we also need to condemn leaders who have turned a blind eye to hardline members of their party and those who use their lies. for political purposes. Our democracy cannot last if we do not have a common understanding of the challenges we face. No security measure can protect us from Republican lawmakers determined to use their power to undermine our democracy and spread lies.