There is Little Shift in Republican Attitudes Since the Capitol Attack

Three weeks before the attack on the Capitol I wrote a column titled “A Disturbing Look at What Republicans Think About the Election.” The column analyzed 8 post-election polls about the election and concluded, “The high and severe levels of the repudiation of the results of the election by most of the members of one of the only two major political parties in the United States is a deep long-term problem for the future of democracy here. It is not fixable short-term.”

New President Joe Biden is now preparing to confront the pandemic and the continued economic fallout with a program he will be submitting to Congress, while the impeachment trial of President Trump for inciting an insurrection against the United States does not begin until Feb. 8th. There’s obviously less patience for former President Trumps’ misconduct among Republican Senators than House members, but it remains to be seen if 17 Republicans would really join 50 Democratic Senators to reach the 2/3 vote in the Senate necessary to  convict the President and set the stage for disqualifying him for future office. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

It’s been some time since the attack; has the Republican base, the Republican party electorate, had any attitude shifts on critical questions since the attack? Does the base acknowledge any responsibility for Trump inciting the attack? Do they remain overwhelmingly supportive ? Is there any movement toward accepting the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s election? Is the nation doomed to a co-existence with a huge majority of the members of one of the two major political parties in a frenzied rejection of the results of a Presidential election?

I chose four polls that looked at the public’s attitudes about whether, and how much, President Trump bore responsibility for the attack on the Capitol. The pollsters were not asking exactly the same questions, so I grouped the responses into “A Great Deal, A Good Amount,” a middle category where the response was “Some,” or “A Little,” and a final category of “None.”

In two of the polls, Morning Consult and Pew, a slim majority of Republicans acknowledge Trump bore at least some responsibility for the attack. In the other two, Marist and Washington Post, it was nearly half. In general, the polls showed that about a quarter of Republicans acknowledged Trump bore a lot of responsibility, about a quarter acknowledged some, and “None,” drew a range from 35-56%, and averaged about half for the four together.

The fact that half the Republicans acknowledged the former President bore a lot, or at least some, of the responsibility for the attack, did not translate into support for impeachment. Here is 538.com’s aggregate trend line on impeachment support from the attack until Biden’s inauguration.

Overall, 538.com reports that the public supported impeachment 53%-43%, but as one can see from the party affiliation breakdown above, less than 14% of Republicans support impeachment.

Has there been any shift in Republican attitudes about the legitimacy of Biden’s election since before the attack. Sadly, no. These three polls show the continued widespread belief among Republicans that Biden’s victory was not legitimate:

Morning Consult asked about whether members of Congress should have voted to accept or reject the certification of the Electoral College votes regarding Biden’s victory. Here is the response:

You Gov/CBS asked the public about whether Biden could be considered legitimate following his swearing in on Jan.20th. Here is the response:

Three polls asked the public if Trump should continue to play a major/prominent role in the Republican Party or as a national political figure. Here are the responses among Republicans:

In two of the three polls, one-third of Republicans said No to the question of whether Trump should continue to play a major role in the future, in a third, Pew Research, 40% said No, although that poll added those who Lean Republican to the sample. Generally speaking, about 60% said Yes.

The sum of all the polls; perhaps a quarter of Republicans admit Trump bore a lot of responsibility for the attack. Two-thirds or more believe Biden was not legitimately elected. About 50% of Republicans, but only 41% of Trump voters, accept that after Biden’s swearing in he is the legitimate President of the United States. The Republican Party leaders in the Senate have a base that is disconnected from reality.

New York Times writer Jamelle Bouie, in a Jan.22,2021 column entitled, “We Have to Make the Republican Party Less Dangerous,” had this dark comment. “ The Trump stress test, in other words, has revealed a nearly fatal vulnerability in our democracy — a militant, increasingly anti-democratic Republican Party — for which we may not have a viable solution. “ Despite the title of the article, there wasn’t really any solution offered to Americans’ damaged politics.

The Democrats don’t really have a solution to the political divide; sixty to seventy percent of Republicans reject the results of the election. The Democrats will do well if Biden does well. He must be successful in getting Americans vaccinated, helping the economy recover, improving the social and economic well-being of the American people, and in demonstrating dignity, decency, and competency. The honeymoon period won’t last long-maybe only a few weeks. The Democrats have a useful political weapon in 2022. Trump will not be on the ballot, and they will have a shot to hold the House and make gains in the Senate. In the end, they will have to keep winning elections.

Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years and retired at the end of 2016. He chaired four committees, including the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions for six years, the Committee on Cities for five years, and the Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities for six years. There are 96 Brennan laws on the books of the State of New York and Jim won three national awards for his legislative work during his career.

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