The detonation of a ticking time bomb: At the root of Trump's madness is the gleeful cooperation of Republicans who are now alarmed


Former Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan released a statement on Sunday condemning an effort by a slew of House Republicans and a number of GOP senators to try to challenge, in Congress, the ratification of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris's victory in last year's presidential election. Biden and Harris routed Trump and Pence by more than 7 million votes in the popular vote, winning the highest presidential vote total in history. They also earned 306 electoral votes.

Ryan's statement does not mince words. He calls the Republican effort an "anti-democratic and anti-conservative act" in contravention of the principle of federalism that the people of the states, not the Congress or the federal government, get to decide elections. "Joe Biden’s victory is entirely legitimate," Ryan, who was Joe Biden's opponent as the Republican nominee for Vice President in 2012, said.

Reportedly, Liz Cheney, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, has circulated among her Republican colleagues an extraordinary 21-page memo debunking Donald Trump's conspiracy theories around the legitimacy of Joe Biden's victory.

In the Senate, Republican leadership has been trying to dissuade their members from signing onto this effort to make chaos. Mitch McConnell angrily called out Josh Hawley, the Senate's ring leader of the pro-Trump effort, in an internal call repeatedly last week. Republican Senators Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, and Bill Cassidy signed onto a statement on Sunday opposing efforts to attack the integrity of the election in Congress, and a host of other Republican senators, including in the leadership, have acknowledged Biden's victory.

But they don't seem to be getting through to their colleagues who are forging ahead with their plan to disrupt the electoral vote count. In fact, the intraparty insurgency seems to be adding strength. Georgia's unelected senator, Kelly Loeffler, announced this evening that she will be the lucky 13th senator joining the effort to challenge Biden's victory, alongside Hawley, Ted Cruz, and their band of merry misfits. Ryan and Cheney's appeals seem to be falling on deaf ears with their current and former colleagues as well, with well over half the House Republican conference poised to play this game. 

That is not to say that it is not essential for high-ranking current and former Republican officeholders to speak out and work within their caucuses to keep a lid on Donald Trump's destructive attacks aimed at the core of our republic. But inasmuch as it is vital that Republican leaders go on the record and put a marker down against this monster that is unleashed, it behooves us to remember that we ended up here not with the quiet complacency but the giddy encouragement of those same Republican leaders.

For the uninitated, Paul Ryan was supposed to be the original ring leader of the nationalist Republican coalition Trump has now hypnotized. Ryan was instrumental in nourishing the Tea Party that galvanized with predominantly racist motives to oppose President Obama and question his citizenship. The Republicans swept to power in the House in the 2010 midterms riding on backlash against President Obama and the just-passed Affordable Care Act. The Tea Party wave was fueled by a potent combination of lies, disinformation, and fear spread through harnessing the power of the Internet (sound familiar?).

In fact, Ryan's rise to the Speakership in 2015 - and the demise of his Republican predecessor John Boehner - was credited to the Tea Party by conservative luminaries of the day, and his rise coincided with the splashes made by the likes of Ted Cruz and Ben Carson. Ryan was revered as an anti-establishment figure who threw caution to the wind and stuck to his right wing guns no matter what. Again, that should sound somewhat famliar.

As Speaker, Ryan, who did everything in his power to nourish the beast that Donald Trump ultimately took control of, was also one of Donald Trump's closest allies in Congress. Ryan helped Trump not just by passing traditional (and bad) Republican policies like tax cuts but also by shielding Trump and his cronies from having to face questions about their connections to Russia. Ryan blocked a bipartisan proposal to protect the appointment and mission of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, saying legislation was unnecessary. We would later find out that Donald Trump's DOJ again and again curtailed Mueller's work and ultimately lied about it.

McConnell and his senate colleagues, too, protected Trump over and over. When Donald Trump was impeached for another attempted blackmail to try to fix the election in his favor, Republicans in the Senate rallied around him in unison, with the sole exception of Sen. Romney.

While Romney is certainly the best of the basket deplorable that have protected and walked in lockstep with Trump throughout the past four years, he, too, could not be bothered to assert principle over the opportunity to steal a second Supreme Court seat along with Trump. After Republican senators refused to give President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court even a hearing ten months before the 2016 election, they - along with Romney - confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the seat once held by the Late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Every Republican who is now correctly angry at their colleagues for helping Trump's attempt to steal the election, to a person, willingly shattered the very norms they themselves created in order to ram through Donald Trump's agenda when they liked it. Their actions have consequences.

They may have done it because it served their policy agendas, but as these Republicans shattered norms, covered up lawbreaking, and built a firewall around the Constitutional violations of Donald Trump, they gave permission to their base to ignore democracy so long as someone defends their political interests. Through their own actions, they told their party that ends justified the means, that reverance for the process was weakness, that their political adversaries were their blood enemies, and the only thing that mattered was winning. They taught their base that all that mattered is whether you are on their team, which is Trump's team.

Once again, I am glad that some Republican leaders and officeholders are speaking out and worrying about the effects of Trump's corrosive attacks against democracy both on the republic and on their own party. But Donald Trump and his cult weren't created in a day; they are a ticking time bomb that first started ticking with the Tea Party. So the Republicans who are concerned now must re-examine their own role in lighting a match and throwing into the cloud of ignitable gas, and they must determine never to repeat the mistakes of placing a man over the republic, placing team over democracy.

I fear that they will not.