“Based on demonstrated public behavior, of course Jan. 6 was a step toward authoritarianism,” Mr. Meijer said. But he has tempered such statements with criticism of Democrats, saying, “authoritarian populism is alive and well in both parties.”
“The system is not providing the recourse that we need,” Mr. Meijer said, tying together Jan. 6 and racial justice protests in 2020 that sometimes turned violent. “That’s the through line between the riots of last summer, Jan. 6 and now. The system itself has been delegitimized.”
Ms. Cheney, by contrast, laid the responsibility with Republicans alone.
“Our party has to choose,” she said. “We can either be loyal to Donald Trump, or we can be loyal to the Constitution, but we cannot be both. And right now, there are far too many Republicans who are trying to enable the former president, embrace the former president, look the other way and hope that the former president goes away.”
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For now, he is very much present. Senate Republicans had an opportunity to banish Mr. Trump permanently from politics; if 17 of them had joined Democrats in voting to convict him at this impeachment trial, it would have yielded the two-thirds majority needed to remove him and paved the way for a separate vote to bar him from office. But only seven Republicans voted to convict.
One of them, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, lamented that in her party’s haste to “get this behind us,” Republicans lost the opportunity to do just that.
Like so many of her House Republican counterparts, Ms. Murkowski is facing a primary challenge this year from a Trump-endorsed candidate.
“I am ever the optimist when it comes to the greatness of our country, and I want to continue to have that level of optimism, that when we get too close to the brink, we have the ability to pull ourselves back,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons that I’m signing up to run again — because I feel it’s important to be one of those voices that hopefully can pull us back.”