As predicted, it appears that sections of the Republican Party have indeed come full circle when it comes to the Capitol riots. During and immediately after the riots on January 6, it may be recalled that many GOP lawmakers joined their Democratic colleagues in expressing condemnation of the riot and the rioters. Many even went so far as to hold Trump directly responsible, a heat of the moment decision that most Republicans ended up walking back.
Not too long after Biden was elected to the office, a subtle but perceptible shift started happening in the Republican narrative of the January 6 riots. Much of the Republican narrative attempted to obscure the responsibility of Donald Trump for the riots or otherwise spin confusing narratives of how the protestors in the Capitol were Antifa and BLM protestors in disguise. This was, naturally, contradicted by the very protestors that Republicans were trying to shift the blame off. Many of the Capitol rioters felt outraged that they were not being given full credit for storming the Capitol and being 'great patriots'. Of course, their public statements made it easier for law enforcement to find them as well.
When this spin to the narrative appeared to be failing, Republicans tried another one just before impeachment. They questioned whether there was anything in Trump's speech that could be considered incendiary enough to be considered direct incitement. This was to be expected. This was one of Trump's main points of defence during the impeachment so it wasn't surprising that his loyal GOP henchmen would follow in lock-step in this direction.
But it was the latest shift in the GOP Capitol riots narrative that is the most telling of the future direction of the party. When the party decided to fully embrace Trump again ahead of the Conservative Political Action Conference this year, it seemed as if Trump's Republican lackeys realised that support for the riots was more widespread than they thought amongst Trump's support base. Indeed, a YouGov poll for January had actually found that 45 per cent of Republican voters were in support of the riot and considered it 'justified'. And so it began. While it was subtle at CPAC, it soon became apparent that the GOP was going for a full rebranding of the Capitol riots to make it more convenient for their role in the history books. The most grievous example of this shift came recently after Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson commented on radio that he did not feel threatened when the pro-Trump mob broke into the Capitol because they were 'law-abiding patriots'. He would have felt threatened if Trump had won and a mixed Antifa and BLM crowd was the one breaking in. Johnson went on to question if the riots could even be called armed riots because no firearms were fired by the rioters. Not only are his views reprehensibly racist, but also continue the deeply worrying trend of shifting the basic facts of an event that should be traumatic to all Americans. It would seem that in a not too distant future, the GOP version of the riots will become an official alternative history of January 6 on the same lines as the alternative history of the Civil War came to exist in the American south. One of the most shocking assaults on American democracy in the history of the nation will be remembered differently by different sides of the political aisle. Just how does one go about uniting a nation that cannot even agree to the reality of an insurrection that nearly toppled their seat of power? The future is not encouraging.