Facing the Truth About Trump’s Electoral Interference, and Ourselves
My journey to taking January 6th seriously, and why “constitutional conservatives” who turn a blind eye confuse me.
On January 19th, 2017, I stood on stage at the National Press Club and gave a speech calling for “a new type of Republican.” The speech was at the Deploraball, an Inauguration party I helped organize for the grassroots wing of the Trump movement. My vision was typical of Trump’s early supporters — to challenge the establishment, recenter the GOP around everyday citizens, and restore American sovereignty.
Looking back now, you might think I would be happy about the Trumpist takeover of the GOP. But as I follow details around January 6th, I have become disturbed by the picture that has emerged of a coordinated attempt to interfere in the electoral process. It was by all appearances an attempted coup or something approaching it. The c-word no longer seems like hyperbole.
As I followed details around January 6th, I became disturbed by the picture that emerged of a coordinated attempt to interfere in the electoral process.
Even more disturbing is the dismissive attitude among fellow Republicans as these details emerge. Only 8 out of 50 Republican Senators said they followed the hearings, according to an article by Matt Laslo. Only 2% of Republican voters say January 6th is top of mind going into November, according to the latest PBS/NPR/Marist poll.
Being a former Trump-supporting Republican who takes these issues seriously is lonely. I’ve heard every counter-argument in the book. I sympathize with some concerns. I agree, for example, that cross-examination of witnesses would lend more credibility to the hearings. And I understand why, after years of name-calling and media hysteria, people reflexively dismissed the hearings.
But I keep coming back to this question: How can anyone claim to be a “constitutional conservative” and ignore the evidence of Trump’s electoral interference? How can any patriotic American turn a blind eye?
I remember feeling confused in the weeks after the 2020 election. Noise about election fraud had reached a fever pitch. Some claims made sense. Others seemed crazy. Something felt off.
I remember feeling confused in the weeks after the 2020 election. Noise about election fraud had reached a fever pitch. Some claims made sense. Others seemed crazy. Something felt off. Around that time, I reached a personal low point. Months of toddler parenting under Covid had taken their toll. I decided to quit Twitter and step back from any political involvement.
Weeks before the election, I had participated in an election wargaming exercise hosted by the Claremont Institute and Texas Public Policy Institute. My role was to play the intelligence community. The exercise made me internalize just how sensitive the transfer of power is from a national security standpoint.
I watched January 6th happen from afar with that lesson on my mind. I was horrified by the images but not sure what to make of it. I spent the following year in political “monk mode” reevaluating everything. I diversified my information diet, committed myself to listening rather than talking, and opened myself to new perspectives.
During this period, I wrote a draft novel set in Boston in the late 1760s, just before the American Revolution. It was about an apprentice at the Boston Gazette who got swept up in the Sons of Liberty movement. I was curious how colonials went from regarding themselves as British-American citizens to American revolutionaries.
I realized the GOP had become not-quite-consciously revolutionary.
Putting myself in those shoes gave me empathy for the emotional experience of a percolating revolution, but it also made me wary of it. It changed the way I viewed the Trumpified GOP. I realized it had become not-quite-consciously revolutionary. I saw insurrectionist rhetoric everywhere I looked, and Covid lockdowns took it to new heights. I dug deep asking myself if this line of thinking was justified. I concluded it is not. I want to make America great through the democratic process, not authoritarian revolt.
I want to make America great through the democratic process, not authoritarian revolt.
By the time the hearings started, I had already concluded that the American Right needed to break from Trump and Trump-style politics. I wrote a piece on it in April.
The details emerging from the hearings have strengthened my conviction. It is clear January 6th was the culmination of a synchronized, multi-pronged plan to interfere with the electoral process.
What frustrates me more than anything is the way Trump treats his own people. He led his own supporters into a dangerous situation that destroyed lives. He grifted off of working people in the guise of an election defense fund. He threw former staffers like Cassidy Hutchinson under the bus the moment they testified. He created a highly threatening situation for his own Vice President, not to mention the Capitol Police.
The dynamics that fueled January 6th do not exist in a vacuum. America is in a sort of Weimar dialectic, and we all have to do our part to heal the broader dysfunction. For Republicans like me, this means recognizing what happened and learning from it. It means moving the party thoroughly and decisively post-Trump, and recommitting to the democratic processes that hold our country together.
I am as passionate as any MAGA voter about fixing our border crisis, addressing inflation, and pushing back against the excesses of woke ideology.
But right now there is something deeper to address: ourselves.