Some Republicans Say Capitol Insurrection Should Be A Wake-Up Call Over Trump Complicity
Missouri state Rep. Shamed Dogan sees Wednesday’s riot at the U.S. Capitol differently than some of his Republican cohorts.
Dogan, who didn’t endorse President Donald Trump in 2016 or 2020, said the insurrection was a result of enabling a man without a moral compass.
"The Republican Party needs to get back to its roots and get away from being a cult around the personality of Donald J. Trump,” said Dogan, of Ballwin. “I mean, of all the people in the world to try to model your party after... that guy?"
One key storyline in the aftermath of invasion of the Capitol is whether Republican complicity toward Trump in order to reap the benefits of his electoral appeal to GOP voters led to a violent attempt to subvert democracy.
It’s a pertinent question to Missouri Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Josh Hawley, who was the first senator to announce his objection to President-elect Joe Biden’s win.
In some respects, Missouri support for Trump made sense. While some political analysts scratched their heads over how a New York real estate developer could energize rural voters, there was no question he had tremendous appeal to them. In 2016 and 2020, he won some historically Democratic rural areas in northeast and southeast Missouri with 70% to 80% of the vote.
That could be why people like Dogan, who represents St. Louis County, one of the few places in Missouri where Trump likely hurt Republicans, was in the super minority of state GOP leaders who were consistently critical of Trump. He said Trump’s steady stream of false claims around his election results stoked a fire within his supporters that burned out of control Wednesday.
“He told them that the election was stolen,” Dogan said. “He told them that the government that was going to be sworn in on Jan. 20 of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris is illegitimate, and they’re planning a coup against him. When you’re using that kind of language, what do you expect people to do?”
Hawley, along with Republican Missouri U.S. Reps. Jason Smith, Sam Graves and Blaine Luetkemeyer, did not return messages Wednesday from St. Louis Public Radio asking if they regretted their decision to object to the Arizona and Pennsylvania electoral votes.
Luetkemeyer put out a statement after he voted saying, “The will of Missouri’s Third District and the Constitution — not opportunists committed to creating chaos — guide my decisions.
“The Constitutional questions about those states’ elections are not erased by the reprehensible actions that took place at the Capitol,” Luetkemeyer said.
Missouri Republican lawmakers who voted to reject the Biden electors also didn’t respond to whether Vice President Mike Pence should invoke the 25th Amendment and push Trump out of office two weeks before Biden takes command. Sen. Roy Blunt, who opposed congressional efforts to deprive Biden of electoral votes, didn’t respond to a similar question. U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, said on Wednesday she wasn’t ready to make that determination and did not respond to a message on Thursday asking if she supported such a move.
One Republican lawmaker who did call for Pence to take the unprecedented action was U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of northern Illinois. He has been one of the few vocal members of his party who has condemned Trump’s efforts to overturn Biden’s victory.
“All indications are that the president has become unmoored, not just from his duty or even his oath, but reality itself,” Kinzinger said in a video posted on Twitter. “It is for this reason that I call for the Vice President and members of the cabinet to ensure the next few weeks are safe for the American people and that we have a sane captain.”
Fallout over Hawley’s actions
Perhaps the most ire has been directed at Hawley, who has faced an avalanche of criticism from within and outside his party over the past 24 hours.
That fallout includes Simon and Schuster canceling Hawley’s upcoming book and a demand from the Student Bar Association of the University of Missouri law school (where Hawley was a professor) to resign.
“I will maintain this to my dying breath: This is a man whose ambition has overcome a servant's heart,” said former Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who lost to Hawley in 2018, on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “He is way more interested in how he can get elected president than serving the people he was elected to serve.”
(Hawley posted a statement on Twitter calling the cancellation of his book "Orwellian." He added that "this is the Left looking to cancel everyone they don't approve of. I will fight this cancel culture with everything I have. We'll see you in court.)
Even some of his core supporters, like former Missouri Sen. John Danforth, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Thursday that his decision to back Hawley’s Senate bid was “the worst mistake” of his life. And Dogan called Hawley an “embarrassment to Missouri” for stoking the flames and continuing to contest the results of a fair election after the Capitol was attacked.
“For him to still stand up after seeing a woman lose her life and then not even mention that woman losing her life in any of his speeches … Josh Hawley just, I mean, he’s lost any respect I had for him, which was pretty low at this point anyway,” Dogan said.
Hawley released a statement to some media outlets on Thursday saying, “I will never apologize for giving voice to the millions of Missourians and Americans who have concerns about the integrity of our elections.”
That came after Hawley defended his decision to object on the Senate floor Wednesday evening, contending that the chamber was the right place to hash out disagreements over the election — most notably whether Pennsylvania overreached with its absentee ballot regulations.
“And so to those who say this is just a formality today, an antique ceremony that we’ve engaged in for a couple of hundred years? I can’t say that I agree,” Hawley said. “I actually think it’s very vital what we do, the opportunity to be heard, to register objections is very vital. Because this is the place where those objections should be heard and dealt with, debated and finally resolved. In this lawful means, peacefully, without violence, without attacks, without bullets.”
Some of Hawley’s colleagues, including Democratic Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, sharply disagreed that an expansion of absentee balloting spearheaded by that state’s GOP legislature ran afoul of the state constitution.
While not mentioning Hawley, Blunt said in a statement released early Thursday that he didn’t join those objecting to Biden’s win because the ability for Trump to contest the election ended “with each state certifying its election results in accordance with the Constitution and state law.”
“None of [Wednesday’s] statements contained new information that has not already been presented to, and reviewed by, a state or federal court,” Blunt said. “My view is that there is not sufficient evidence to sustain the objections. The states and the voters in each state elect the president. As such, Congress has a constitutional obligation to accept the election results.”
Anita Manion, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said it was striking how Hawley stuck with his decision to object to the electoral vote count when some of his colleagues, such as soon-to-be-former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, decided to bail on the futile effort.
“What he had to say on the floor last night seemed really out of step with most everyone else,” Manion said Thursday. “There were a handful of folks who took that same tone. And I found it to be a jarring, disappointing, departure from the tone that other senators, the vice president, the representatives were taking.”
Hawley is not up for reelection until 2024. Should he seek another term or run for president as McCaskill suggests, Manion said his decision-making and words will be used against him in television ads and political discourse.
“Certainly that picture of him with his fist up sort of riling up the crowd and the fundraising efforts that he’s tied to these challenges — I think those are going to be pretty strong campaign ads against him,” Manion said. “I think he’s definitely done damage to certainly those moderates and independents in the middle, people that were really devastated to see what happened yesterday.”
On Thursday, the Missouri Independent reported that a Joplin businessman who contributed millions to Hawley’s campaigns denounced him and called for the Senate to censure him.
David Humphreys, president and CEO of Tamko Building Products, said Hawley should be censured “for provoking yesterday’s riots in our nation’s capital.”
Illinois lawmakers react
While the votes objecting to Biden’s win were not close, they did nab support from two members of Congress who represent part of the Metro East: Mike Bost and freshman Mary Miller.
Miller, who stirred controversy Wednesday by stating “Hitler was right on one thing,” the need to capture support from youth, in a speech before the rioting, did not return multiple requests for comment.
Bost said in a statement he voted to overturn the electoral votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania because, “in my belief, they failed to meet that constitutional standard.”
Another local member of Congress, Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, who like Blunt helped with the process of Wednesday’s Electoral vote count, declined to overturn the Pennsylvania and Arizona electoral votes. He said in a statement the rioting and violence brought back painful memories of when he witnessed a gunman shoot and critically injure fellow Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
“Political violence of any kind is never acceptable and must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There’s no excuse for what we saw,” Davis said. “It’s unpatriotic and un-American. Political leaders, from Congress to the White House, have an obligation to be voices of reason and calming in times of national crisis. That time is now.”
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum