Bye-bye, Larry Hogan. On Sunday, the former Maryland governor finally answered a question nobody was asking, except maybe his family: No, he will not challenge Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
“I did give it serious consideration, and I talked to people everywhere, and I talked to my family and it was a tough decision,” the comparative centrist told CBS. Hogan’s departure is only a minor news story, but it raises two big questions about the 2024 GOP field.
First, Hogan rightly fears that a crowded primary could have the result it did in 2016: splitting the field among career politicians and clearing a lane for Trump. Others share that concern. But they do not share his frank account of what the Jan.6 insurrection represented for the party, and for Trump.
“It was an insurrection. It was the worst assault on democracy in our country’s history,” he recently told a Maryland reporter.
And anybody who says “it was tourists” or “protests” is not being honest or they’re delusional. Because there’s no question about what happened on Jan. 6.…
Mike Pence is in the basement of the Capitol. They were threatening his life. And the president just sat there and did nothing to even protect his own vice president who had been so loyal for the whole four years. He didn’t care about members of Congress being threatened, the law enforcement officers who were being attacked, and he let it continue to go on.…
I was taking actions all day, for hours, while the president sat in the White House doing nothing. And I’m the next-door governor. Why is it up to me to save the Capitol? But it was. It’s unreal.
Hogan is an ally of Pence’s and is considered likely to endorse him if he does make a run. But the former governor has far sharper words for Trump, and other riot-supporting Republicans, than the man does whose life was endangered.
And what Hogan calls the “the worst assault on democracy in our country’s history” 2024 contender Nikki Haley merely calls “a sad day for America.” Like a lot of prominent Republicans, she went on record the day after the insurrection and told fellow Republicans that “Trump’s actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.”
Maybe the biggest coward is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who published a book last week designed to introduce him to GOP primary voters. While he praises Trump for his “star power,” there’s not a single mention of January 6 in the entire tome.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised here. For a lot of us, January 6 was a before-and-after day, after which you can’t look away from the rot and corruption we’ve tolerated for too many decades—all the hate, all the violence and all the guns. The doublespeak. The birther jokes about Barack Obama. The barely suppressed white rage at his presidency.
But I thought January 6 would resonate, and maybe even make change, because Republicans were threatened too. Capitol rioters were chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” not just “Where”s Nancy?” Faux-insurrectionist Senator Josh Hawley was later seen hauling ass to safety from the rioters he’d once cheered on. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and then–House minority leader Kevin McCarthy were rightly afraid for their lives. But you know how it is: The sense of danger fades. The potential for consequences does too. McCarthy told his caucus he was going to advise the president to resign; instead, he went to Mar-a-Lago to kiss his… ring. And everything went back to normal.
So now, polls are showing that two years after the riot, the percentage of Americans who care about it is declining. Among Republicans, the share who fault Trump supporters for invading the Capitol has fallen from 74 percent just afterward to 43 percent, according to a recent Economist/YouGov poll. Two years ago, only 9 percent of Americans supported the carnage; two years later, 20 percent do.
Trump’s own approach to January 6 was seen in all its carny glory at last week’s Conservative Political Action Committee gathering. It was Trump’s show. Micki Witthoeft, the mother of protester Ashli Babbitt, shot and killed breaking down a Capitol door, shared a stage with Donald Trump Jr. A breakout session titled “True Stories of January 6: The Prosecuted Speak” drew a standing-room-only crowd. “I am your retribution,” the former president told the assorted sad sacks.
“I can tell you that just interacting with a lot of the activists here, there is concern that the violations of protocol and civil rights around the January 6 issue haven’t gotten sufficient attention from the Congress, and that’s really a matter for us in the House majority more so than 2024 candidates,” Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said on the sidelines of CPAC.
Good luck with that, Matt.
Two years ago, failed 2016 candidate and former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker said the events of January 6 deserved condemnation. Now, he says going after Trump is “a huge risk,” telling Politico that “nobody cares.” I’m not sure anyone’s taking political advice from Walker. But the extent to which this has become a nonevent for the GOP should frighten all of us.