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How Does The GOP Move Forward After Capitol Breach, Trump Presidency?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's been an eventful week for Josh Hawley. The 41-year-old United States senator from Missouri began the week as a rising Republican star. He was a leader in raising bogus objections to the 2020 election. It was part of the incitement of a riot. Shortly before the mob attacked the U.S. Capitol this week, Senator Hawley gave them a raised fist salute. Even after the attack on the Capitol left five people dead, Senator Hawley continued his spurious objections. That was on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Hawley's publisher dropped his book deal. In response, Hawley made a statement complaining of the left-wing woke mob - his words - with no apparent irony about the use of the word mob.

But it's hard to blame the woke mob for John Danforth. The esteemed senior Republican says supporting Hawley is, quote, "the worst mistake I've ever made." A donor who spent $2 million electing Hawley now says he's, quote, "a political opportunist willing to subvert the Constitution" - all of which raises the question of which way the Republican Party goes now.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch and a regular guest on this program. Jonah, welcome back.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Always great to be here. Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: What did this week's events reveal about the Republican Party?

GOLDBERG: Revealed that you can't spend four years fueling populism and enabling a populist president with no regard for the norms and traditions of a democracy without paying a terrible price. And in almost cinematic fashion, this thing ended with flourish of a mob taking over one of the foremost symbols of democracy in the world. And I would hope that what the Republican Party takes away from this is that they have to stop the kind of pandering and fomenting of this stuff that Josh Hawley has clearly committed his entire political persona to. Josh Hawley - in a more morally ordered Republican Party, Josh Hawley would be at least censured by his peers if not expelled from the Senate.

INSKEEP: I find - and censure is something, by the way, that his $2 million donor has raised. And censure is something that only takes a simple majority of senators to do.

I find it interesting, though, the way that Hawley and some others have framed their objections to the election was essentially, there are these allegations of fraud; we need to give the people something. What does that say about the cycle here? You tell people lies. The people believe the lies. The people then demand action on the lies. And then even if maybe you weren't quite buying the lie yourself at the beginning, you have to pretend that you do.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, no. I mean, look. I mean, I've spent, as a conservative, a lot of time over the last 20 years giving the left a hard time about sort of postmodern approaches to truth and moral relativism and constructing narratives that don't align with facts. And the Republican Party now is soaked through with that kind of thing, where they make up something or the sort of - the feedback loop of right-wing paranoid media that tries to monetize dopamine clicks by telling people what they want to hear creates a paranoid fantasy. Then the - certain Republicans, like Hawley and Cruz and others, feed into it. They exploit it, they raise money off of it. And then they say, look. This is the - it's a reality. You know, they socially construct a pernicious reality for their own benefit. And it is appalling.

And this is something - this is one of the problems with the way Wednesday played out. And I don't mean to minimize people's deaths and all the other things which were so tragic. But if that crowd had been peaceful - if Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, who called for winning this by trial by combat - if all of that had been ended peacefully and they simply went on a nice little march around the Capitol and did nothing else, it still would have been outrageous because what Donald Trump was trying to do was put pressure on Mike Pence and the Senate Republicans to, in effect, steal an election illegitimately and unconstitutionally by putting popular pressure on that institution and on those people.

And you don't have to smash in doors for that to be outrageous. But there's this ratchet effect where one outrage tends to eclipse the one before it, and the one before it then looks, in retrospect, kind of normal.

INSKEEP: Yeah. We've just got a few seconds left, but I want to ask about the future. President Trump is on his way out - 12 days. He even said in a video that he seems - more or less, that he acknowledged that he's on his way out the door. Yet Republicans seem to think they're in good position for 2022 or 2024. Are they in good position for the next couple of elections?

GOLDBERG: I think that depends entirely on the Democrats. The Republican Party isn't as popular as a lot of Republicans think, but the Democrats aren't either. We have two minority parties. If the Democratic Party gives in to its own caricatures, that will empower Republicans.

INSKEEP: Jonah Goldberg, editor-in-chief of The Dispatch and a columnist for The LA Times.

It's always a pleasure talking with you. Thank you so much.

GOLDBERG: Great to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.