The calibrated cowardice of Mark Amodei

well now maybe but then again
Nevada's only Republican in Congress is keen on offending as few Republican primary voters as possible - no matter what they believe. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Ah, but at the pre-insurrection rally, Donald Trump never said “Simon says,” so there.

That is effectively how Rep. Mark Amodei rationalizes his vote against impeaching Trump. 

“We know what the President did and did not say at the rally,“ Amodei said in a statement Wednesday. “And we sadly know what transpired shortly thereafter.”

But “well before the rally on the 6th,” Amodei continued, “significant prior actions on the part of the Capitol perpetrators were being taken.”

“Already we are learning that the perpetrators were recognized, monitored, evaluated, and designated as threats by the intelligence agencies who monitor Internet communications,” Amodei said.

Yes, federal officials, along with anyone else who was paying even casual attention, knew the people gathering in Washington were loaded for bear. 

In fact, intelligence and security officials have long been reporting the rising threat from militias, white supremacists and other ultra-right-wing extremists who share Venn diagram circles with Trump supporters. Trump famously does not read such reports (or much of anything). Just as famously, officials either don’t report the intel to Trump, or if they do they water it down, worried he’ll throw a tantrum if informed the greatest terrorist threat in the U.S. today is posed by people who are his white supremacist supporters.

Amodei concludes his statement by asserting the “fledgling investigation is already verifying that those who led the perpetrators were hardly driven to action within an hour of the riot beginning. I vote no.”

As Amodei knows, the insurrectionists wouldn’t have been in Washington on January 6 in the first place if they hadn’t been whipped into a frenzy — “driven to action” — by their frothing president lying to them. For most of the last year, Trump has deliberately and relentlessly attempted to discredit the election, and democracy, in the U.S. generally, and of course in Amodei’s very own state of Nevada.

Amodei’s niggling focus on the exact words Trump said at the pre-insurrection rally is a contrived distraction. Not only is Amodei ignoring the clear and present danger posed by Trump. More importantly, Amodei, in an ongoing act of cowardice, is deliberately ignoring the clear and looming threat posed by millions of Americans who have embraced delusions and fantasies.

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, a Republican, along with multiple judges in Nevada, every county election official, and the state Supreme Court have all, in one way or another depending on their part in the process, reached the same conclusion: There is no evidence in support of claims from Trump and Trumpers that the election was somehow so flawed that Trump actually won it.

The same conclusion has been reached by: Republican officials in counties and states across the country; multiple Trump-appointed judges, including the three Trump-appointed U.S. Supreme Court justices who did not want to lend credibility to a bizarre suit brought by the Texas attorney general; and the institution in which Amodei sits, Congress, including Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Wall Street Journal (not just the news pages but also the opinion page), Fox News, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal – all reliably (even recklessly) supporters and enablers of Trump for much of the last four years  – have all dismissed Trump’s claims that he won, and declared that he lost.

And yet there is a significant contingent of people in the U.S. and Nevada who don’t care about any of that. Instead they choose to believe wild hateful fantasies spun by the guy who founded Trump University.

Last week hundreds of them launched a deadly invasion of the Capitol, beat Capitol police with a flagpole while the American flag was still on it, chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” and evidently planned to take some of Amodei’s colleagues hostage.

Law enforcement officials nationwide and in Nevada are bracing for what could be more violence in coming days.

With his dainty, precious explanation for failing to vote for Trump’s impeachment, Amodei wasn’t just evading a vote that might hurt him in a Republican primary for governor in 2022. 

He and other Republicans who also voted against impeachment because Trump didn’t say “Simon says” on the morning of January 6 are giving aid and comfort to that day’s “perpetrators,” and to far-right fantasy- and conspiracy-based extremism across the nation.

Trump will be out of the White House next week. But the millions of people who have fallen for his outrageous lies and conspiracy theories will still be around, bubbled up and continuing to practice their knee-jerk rejection of reality. 

Shattering the hellscape Trump did so much to build inside their heads will be difficult, not least because of the insidious backfire effect, documented by social scientists, wherein presenting facts to people who believe an untrue thing just makes them believe that untrue thing harder.

The only best chance to lure them back to the fact-based world is if their return is urged and encouraged by people who just spent the last four years supporting, voting with, covering for, and enabling their beloved leader, Trump. That is, people like Amodei.

“The culture of vengeance” won’t “allow us to move on, or unify our country,” Amodei said in his statement Wednesday. 

He’s right. He should stand up to it. 

Instead he’s calibrating positions to offend as few Republican primary voters as possible – voting against impeachment but to accept the electoral college count, saying “there is blame and responsibility for the President” while tenderly declining to say why.

Amodei should find some guts and explicitly, without equivocation or ambiguity, tell Nevada Trump voters that Trump has been lying to them, and if they hope to “unify the country,” they must courageously accept something no one wants to accept: They’ve been duped by a con man.

Or as another Republican sent to Washington by western state voters, Mitt Romney, put it last week:  “The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth. That is the burden, and the duty, of leadership.”

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.