Day 6·Q&A

Following violence at U.S. Capitol, Republicans are looking toward a future without Trumpism, says commentator

Conservative journalist and radio host Charlie Sykes says that Wednesday's violence at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., has shown that some Republicans are considering what the party will look like post-Trump.

'He may be banned from Facebook and Twitter, but he still controls the nuclear codes': Charlie Sykes

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the rally that preceded throngs of his followers descending on the Capitol building on Wednesday. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

Conservative journalist and radio host Charlie Sykes says that after violence at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., some Republicans are "testing the waters" of breaking from Trumpism.

Hundreds of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, with some entering the building, in an effort to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College votes for president-elect Joe Biden.

Opponents and politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have charged that the U.S. president himself incited the violence, and in the days since, several high-profile allies have publicly criticized Trump and resigned their posts.

Late on Thursday, Trump, in a recorded video posted to Twitter, condemned the violence and acknowledged that the inauguration of Biden will take place on Jan. 20.

Sykes, who has opposed Trump from the beginning of his presidency, is the founder and editor-at-large of The Bulwark. Here is part of his conversation with Day 6 host Brent Bambury about what is next for the Republican Party.

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After Wednesday's events in Washington, you wrote on the Bulwark site, "it was always going to end this way, wasn't it?" But is it over in the short term or in the long term? Is this the end?

No, it's not over either in the short term or the long term. You know that the hardcore Trumpists are going to continue to contest this right up until and through Jan. 20. 

I guess that's one of the big questions: was this sort of a last final spasm? Or was it, in fact, a prologue for more dissension and division in this country? And we don't know yet.

After the Capitol was secured on Wednesday night, Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley decided that they were going to continue their Trump-adjacent strategy to delegitimize the election. Were you surprised by that or did you think that was exactly what was going to happen?

That was exactly what anyone would have expected if you followed the career of Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley, who will always put their own personal ambitions ahead of their own party and even of the country. What I found even more stunning, though, was the fact that 138 members of the House of Representatives, all Republicans, in the case of the challenge of Pennsylvania voted to disenfranchise more than seven million voters. 

This is after everything that's been happening, all of the lies. And you had about 65 per cent of the House Republican caucus going along with the president's lies and trying to overturn an election, and that was a stunning moment. 

The one thing that gives me a little bit of hope is the split screen between the House of Representatives which went with Trump, and what happened in the United States Senate. Because you mentioned Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, but overwhelmingly members of the United States Senate broke with Donald Trump, and that suggests that at least some elements of his party are moving very quickly into a post-Trump era.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a staunch Trump ally, criticized the U.S. president on Wednesday ahead of a vote to certify president-elect Joe Biden after the Capitol was secured following violence. (Kevin Dietsch/Reuters)

But who goes where? Cruz and Hawley will continue to vie for Trump's base, and others like [Sen.] Tom Cotton and [Rep.] Adam Kinzinger are forcefully turning the page. So who will the party follow?

Look at what's happened in the last week and a half here. You have had Republicans willing to distance themselves from Trump and Trumpism. 

They overwhelmingly overrode the veto of the defence bill. They defied the president on sending out the [relief package] cheques. They defied the president on the coup. You have Mike Pence, his loyal vice president, breaking with him. You have Mitch McConnell being critical. Even Lindsey Graham.

At least right now, I think what you have is some Republicans testing the water. Is there a Trumpism after Trump? 

The question is, what does the Republican base in this country do? Are they still in this alternative reality, because the problem of the Republican Party cannot be explained simply as a leadership problem. They do have a leadership problem, but they also have a followership problem, which is the base — and the base has wanted the kinds of things that they've gotten from Donald Trump. 

So the calculus was that if you broke with Donald Trump or Trumpism, that you were committing political suicide in the Republican Party. Clearly, a number of major national figures have decided that may no longer be true.

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The CBC's Carole MacNeil speaks to Thomas Balcerski, associate professor of history at Eastern Connecticut State University, on whether the 25th Amendment could be invoked against U.S. President Donald Trump. 6:59

Let's just talk about Mike Pence for a minute, because there's a lot of speculation about what was going to happen leading up to Wednesday. And as you mentioned, he's now part of a long list of people who got burned by Donald Trump.

But what about you and other moderates in the Republican Party? Are you ready to welcome them back into the fold of the Republican Party? Do you think that he redeemed himself on Wednesday in the way that he played his hand?

No, he's got a long way to go to do that. I mean, simply doing your duty is a pretty low bar and certainly doesn't make up for four years of robotic sycophancy. But having said that, it was gratifying to see him draw the line and say: OK, you know what? If I have to choose between the Constitution and Donald Trump, I'm choosing the Constitution.

Now, this shouldn't be a big deal. It shouldn't be a sign of courage. But I was glad he did it. 

But when you see these loyalists who are now willing to call out the president ... the attorney general Bill Barr who issued a very, very strong statement. There was a comment from the former chief of staff, former secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly saying that he thought that they ought to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Donald Trump from the presidency, and that if he was in the cabinet now, he would vote to remove Donald Trump. Now, this is remarkable. 

For somebody like me, the last three or four days have really been extraordinary.

You've been counting down the days left in Trump's presidency, Charlie. How do you feel about the next 11?

It's a very long time. People are very much aware of how dangerous Donald Trump is, how desperate he is, how unhinged he is, and how unmoored to normal standards of decency or democratic polity he is. I think that's why you're seeing things like this letter from all of the former living secretaries of defence warning the military don't get involved. 

Keep in mind that he may be banned from Facebook and Twitter, but he still controls the nuclear codes. 


Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Pedro Sanchez.

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