One year ago today, after former President Donald Trump's months-long smear campaign against the validity of the 2020 election, a mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the United States Capitol. They shattered windows, ransacked offices, smeared excrement across the walls, beat police officers, and called for the execution of any elected official they deemed disloyal to Trump.
The deadly failed insurrection had even Trump's most devout loyalists in Congress shaken. When the joint congressional session that the riots disrupted finally reconvened, members of Congress on all sides fervently condemned the violence.
In the year since, however, the Republican playbook has evolved to repeatedly downplay the insurrection and even promote absurd conspiracy theories regarding its origins. Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin insisted the riots were nonviolent. GOP Congressman Andrew Clyde of Georgia likened the insurrectionists to tourists. Far-right Fox News host Tucker Carlson has devoted an entire documentary series to the fantasy that the riots were organized by intelligence officials to suppress Republican voices.
But in a Senate committee hearing earlier this week, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas—who eagerly promoted Trump's election lies and objected to the electoral votes of swing states Trump lost—stepped out of line.
"We are approaching a solemn anniversary this week. It is an anniversary of a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol, where we saw the men and women of law enforcement demonstrate incredible courage, incredible bravery, risk their lives to defend the men and women who serve in this Capitol."
Normally, a Republican elected official showering law enforcement with praise is far from controversial.
But to conservatives scrambling to deny the GOP's culpability in the attack, this talk made Cruz a traitor.
Critics of Cruz on the left haven't forgotten his own embrace of the lies that incited the attack.
Cruz was one of only a handful of Senators who continued with objections to certified electoral votes even after the attack.