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Republicans, expel anyone who supports the rioters

The United States witnessed a violent insurrection on Wednesday designed to prevent the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. It left five dead, including police officer Brian D. Sicknick. The majority of Americans — including between 70% and 80% of Republicans surveyed in two new polls this week — have rightfully disavowed the violence.

Yet that still leaves the shocking finding that approximately one in five Republicans support the actions of those who stormed the Capitol. Twenty percent of Trump’s 74 million votes is 15 million people. And a new ABC poll released Sunday found that while 67% percent of Americans blame Trump for the riot, a breakdown of the numbers by party affiliation shows 61% of Republicans believe Trump did nothing wrong.

Think about this for a moment. On Wednesday, the US Capitol was attacked as part of an attempted violent coup. No American who watched that should approve. That is, at least no American who supports our Constitution, our democracy and our nation. The anger I hold for those who committed this attack and those who approve of it is boundless.

It’s now time for the GOP to put party behind and stand up for America by joining in impeaching and removing Trump. That would send a clear message to all that any elected official involved in an insurrection will swiftly be removed from office.

Second, they must address the extremists within their party by either working to de-radicalize or expel them.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Friday asked respondents, “Do you support or oppose the protesters who broke into the U.S. Capitol while Congress met to certify the Electoral College votes from the 2020 presidential election?” Jaw-droppingly, 22% of Republicans said they supported the protesters. Only 58% of Republicans responded that they “strongly opposed” the mob’s conduct. Equally staggering: 50% of Republicans told the Reuters pollsters that they approved of Donald Trump’s actions around the events at the Capitol. Another 10% said they leaned toward approval.

A Marist/PBS poll released Friday backed up the Reuters findings, noting that 18% of Republicans said they support “the actions” of those who broke into the Capitol.

Alarmingly, there are real concerns that we may see this violence replicated in the future by other right-wing extremists. The best and perhaps last hope to avoid that is by holding everyone involved in the insurrection accountable, from Donald Trump to all who stepped illegally into the Capitol. Plus — and this is of paramount importance — the GOP must weed out the extremists in their midst. Republican leaders across the board now need to go beyond bland calls for unity and address the reality of what needs to be done.

For example, staunch Trump supporter Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who amplified Trump’s lies about election fraud and even after the violence at the Capitol, still voted against the certification of Biden’s victory in two battleground states. He tweeted Saturday, “‘Unity and healing’ doesn’t happen with cancel culture and impeachment.”

GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted Friday similarly that impeaching Trump will “only divide our country more,” adding, that instead “we must work together to lower the temperature & unite the country to solve America’s challenges.”

First, unity won’t happen if Trump is given a pass. Only by holding him and all involved accountable can we send a message that hopefully will deter others from replicating this violent insurrection. The GOP should put party behind and stand up for America by joining in impeaching and removing Trump. That would send a clear message to all that any elected official involved in an insurrection will swiftly be removed from office.

Second, they must address the extremists within their party by either working to deradicalize or expel them.

For years as a Muslim American, I heard the right demand that we must root out the extremists in our community. Indeed, during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump declared that Muslims “have to turn in the people that are bombing the planes,” adding, “they know who the people are. And we’re not going to find the people by just continuing to be so nice and so soft.” In reality, the Muslim community has worked with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to report any extremists.

Republicans now need to do the same. GOP leaders like Jordan, McCarthy, Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz and others should be taking the lead in helping identify the Trump supporters who attacked our Capitol by reviewing pictures from this incident to see if they recognize them. If so, they should alert law enforcement.

In addition, they need to address immediately the fact that 20% or more of their base apparently supports violence to achieve their political goals before that view can metastasize. One way is for GOP leaders to declare with one voice that Republican officials who express any support for the insurrection should be removed from office. At the very least, the party should pledge to support a primary opponent. Leaders should also tell the rank-and-file Republicans that those who support this kind of violent protest are not welcome in the party.

This also means stopping the lies we’ve seen from some Trump-loving GOP members of Congress, like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) who have baselessly asserted that those involved in the attack were not Trump supporters but from antifa. Not only has the FBI said there was no indication that antifa members were involved in the violence, these new polls confirm that an alarming chunk of Republicans support the attack.

If GOP leaders sincerely want unity, the road map is clear: Hold all involved in this violence — including Trump — fully accountable and remove all within the GOP who support it. Anything less means we could, tragically, see even more deadly right-wing violence in the near future. Republicans now have the chance to show that they’re finally ready to put country over partisanship. They need to take it. It’s that simple.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

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