When Alice falls through the rabbit hole in Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice in Wonderland, she proclaims the awe of a child about to enter an upside-down world: “I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downwards!”
And in many ways, that is where she arrives.
And now, in 2022, the Republican House Caucus is right there with her, as we were just reminded.
In a full GOP conference meeting Wednesday morning best seen as a self-rescue mission, House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy reportedly received a standing ovation after giving “a full throated defense” of tape-recorded phone calls that the New York Times has disclosed in recent days. The tapes recorded January 10, 2021, discussions with GOP leadership.
In them, McCarthy reportedly said that he was going to ask then-President Trump to resign and expressed grave concern over the most extreme members of the Republican Caucus, such as Matt Gaetz, who attacked fellow House members who had criticized Trump.
The country was “too crazy,” Mr. McCarthy had said immediately after the Capitol siege, for members such as Gaetz to be attacking each other at such a volatile moment. “He’s putting people in jeopardy. . . . We saw what people would do in the Capitol, you know, and these people came prepared with rope.”
McCarthy even asked whether his extreme House colleagues could be stopped like Trump on social media: “Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?”
McCarthy hasn’t just walked away from these taped 2021 remarks. . . he’s sprinted a la Usain Bolt. After the initial disclosure of the calls last week, McCarthy immediately ran straight to Trump, who appreciates little more than having Republican leaders kiss his ring.
Trump apparently signaled satisfaction with McCarthy’s homage . . . at least for the moment.
On Wednesday, McCarthy reportedly stressed to the House conference that he never asked Trump to resign. And then the Minority Leader covered over his post-January 6 outrage at caucus members such as Gaetz with the flimsiest excuse. “We had to discuss every scenario.”
While Gaetz remains unappeased, the vast majority of the conference appears to have forgiven McCarthy’s momentary lapse into truth-telling immediately post-insurrection. House members such as Barry Moore (R-AL) blamed the whole scandal on the media and “[t]he RINOs engineering this story to promote their own selfish agenda.” Evidently speaking of non-Trump-supporting colleagues such as Liz Cheney, Moore predicted that “they won’t be around next year.”
And so we have a Republican House conference members “that walk with their heads downward.” They cater to a former president whom virtually all secretly wish would disappear, as Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Baker wrote on Tuesday.
On the Journal’s conservative editorial page, Baker described the widespread private hope among Republican leaders “for Mr. Trump to break the habits of a lifetime and go quietly away.” As Baker deftly observed, that desire “is expressed as fervently in private as it is assiduously and dexterously avoided in public.”
“With the exception of a few demented types in Congress and the media, they don’t believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Mr. Trump.” But none will say any of that aloud. Fear for their political lives from Trump’s retaliation is a powerful political motivator, as we have seen over and over again.
And so, like Alice, we’ve fallen through the rabbit hole into an upside-down world in which officials of a party the country needs stand facts on their head and kowtow to someone they wish would evaporate. The fight for public truth—by journalists, public officials, and citizens—is the only way to keep our republic right side up and out of the rabbit hole in which advocates of power for its own sake seek to bury us.