Republican Senator Mitt Romney was paying $5,000 a day to protect his family from his party’s own voters after the insurrection. Other Republicans were warned off of voting to convict Trump in the second impeachment with echoes of terrorism in effect: “Think of your personal safety, said another. Think of your children.”
After the deadly domestic terrorist attack of January 6th, incited by the party’s own president at the time, Republicans were even more reluctant to hold Donald Trump accountable — not only because of their fear of backlash from their base, but now out of fear for their family’s safety.
In a stunning Atlantic excerpt from McKay Coppin’s forthcoming biography on Mitt Romney that delves into his reckoning with the cost of pursing power, we learn:
“Some of the reluctance to hold Trump accountable was a function of the same old perverse political incentives—elected Republicans feared a political backlash from their base. But after January 6, a new, more existential brand of cowardice had emerged. One Republican congressman confided to Romney that he wanted to vote for Trump’s second impeachment, but chose not to out of fear for his family’s safety. The congressman reasoned that Trump would be impeached by House Democrats with or without him—why put his wife and children at risk if it wouldn’t change the outcome? Later, during the Senate trial, Romney heard the same calculation while talking with a small group of Republican colleagues. When one senator, a member of leadership, said he was leaning toward voting to convict, the others urged him to reconsider. You can’t do that, Romney recalled someone saying. Think of your personal safety, said another. Think of your children. The senator eventually decided they were right.”
Romney, who is wealthy, was able to provide private security for his family at the cost of $5,000 a day (my bold):
“As dismayed as Romney was by this line of thinking, he understood it. Most members of Congress don’t have security details. Their addresses are publicly available online. Romney himself had been shelling out $5,000 a day since the riot to cover private security for his family—an expense he knew most of his colleagues couldn’t afford.”
This nugget tells a much bigger story about the current state of the Republican Party. Romney was paying $5,000.00 a day to protect his family from his own party’s voters. Many other senators who could not afford personal protection were terrorized into voting to protect Trump from the consequences of his actions.
They were terrorized into letting the party leader and domestic terrorist off from the insurrection he fomented which led to the death of law enforcement and scared Americans’ tenuous trust in democracy.
This is how fascism gets its hooks into a system. It doesn’t start out as an all-out attack, otherwise, people would rise up against it. The cheering of the Trump base on Wednesday night when Governor Ron DeSantis promised “extrajudicial killings at the border” tells the true story of where this base that Republican Senators are terrified of land.
DeSantis gets a round of applause from Hannity’s studio audience when he promises extrajudicial killings at the border pic.twitter.com/LWBjYMubik
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 14, 2023
Romney confided a few months after Trump’s 1/6 attack, “A very large portion of my party, really doesn’t believe in the Constitution.”
McCay writes that Romney was wrestling with, “Was the authoritarian element of the GOP a product of President Trump, or had it always been there, just waiting to be activated by a sufficiently shameless demagogue? And what role had the members of the mainstream establishment—people like him, the reasonable Republicans—played in allowing the rot on the right to fester?”
When mainstream Republicans are asking if they played a role in ushering in the authoritarian element of the Republican Party, it’s way past time to take the threat seriously.
Romney is reported to have mused, “Authoritarianism is like a gargoyle lurking over the cathedral, ready to pounce.”
The issues facing this country are not a matter of Democrat vs. Republican, as the media tends to present them. The issue is democracy vs. autocracy.
It can happen here, it is happening here right now. Senators voting a certain way due to the fears for their own safety is what it looks like as authoritarians push at the edges looking for weak spots to exploit to begin shifting a democracy into democratic backsliding. Sadly, this isn’t hyperbole, and even Mitt Romney is worried about it.