By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS  – After Memorial Day last year, a nation watched a Minneapolis cop squeeze the life out of George Floyd with a knee on the neck in a video that lasted more than nine minutes. The initial police report prior to the video surfacing described Floyd’s death as a “medical event.” On Jan. 6, Americans witnessed for more than five hours an unprecedented siege of the U.S. Capitol that killed five people and injured 130 police officers, while supporters of President Trump called for the execution of Vice President Mike Pence.

But seeing is no longer believing with a significant part of the Republican rank and file. A CBS/YouGov Poll last weekend revealed that just 46% of Republicans view the conviction of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin as the right verdict, contrasting with 90% of Democrats and 75% of independents who thought it was the right call.

As for the Capitol insurrection, an Atlas Poll conducted from Jan. 15-19 revealed 14% of Republicans backed the “storming” of the Capitol. In a Jan. 10-12 Economist YouGov Poll, 42% of Republicans called the siege “mostly peaceful.” In a Jan. 10-13 Washington Post/ABC News Poll, 51% of Republicans felt that congressional leaders “didn’t go far enough” to overturn the election. In a Nov. 15-17 Economist/YouGov Poll, 80% of Republicans believe that Joe Biden “did not legitimately win the election.” An April 2 Ipsos poll found “55% of Republicans believe (President) Trump’s 2020 election loss resulted from illegal voting or election rigging. Paradoxically, 35% of Republicans agreed with both of the following theories: That the people who gathered at the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6 were peaceful, law-abiding Americans, and that it was actually led by violent left-wing protestors trying to make Trump look bad.”

A Yahoo Poll (April 6-8) found 77% of Republicans believe that the election was stolen from Trump due to rampant fraud.

“Three months after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Republican Party still won’t fully renounce it,” observed Slate’s  Will Saletan. “In Congress, Republicans are opposing an investigation of the attack unless other incidents are included. On Friday, sponsors of a conference at former President Donald Trump’s Miami resort proudly displayed photos of the crowd that had gathered before the attack. On Saturday, Republican donors cheered as Trump boasted about the Jan. 6 crowd and complained that his allies should have fought harder to prevent the certification of his defeat.”

But the polling has its nuances. The NBC Poll from last weekend reveals the risk for the GOP to continue its embrace of Trump. His fav/unfav rating among all adults stands at 32% favorable, 55% unfavorable, which is down from his rating in January (40% favorable, 53% unfavorable among registered voters), as well as where he was in the poll right before the election (43% favorable, 52% unfavorable among registered voters).

Even Trump’s pull within his own party appears to have lessened, with 44% of Republicans saying they’re more supporters of Trump than the GOP, versus 50% who say they’re more supporters of the GOP than the former president. “It’s the first time since July 2019 when party supporters have outnumbered Trump supporters in our poll, and it’s also the first time that party supporters have reached 50% on this question,” noted Meet The Press Daily. “Strikingly, these numbers are coming as the PERCEPTION of Trump’s pull within his party couldn’t be stronger.”

Peter Wehner, the former Bush administration official, writes in The Atlantic, “The hope of many conservative critics of Donald Trump was that soon after his defeat, and especially in the aftermath of the January 6 insurrection, the Republican Party would snap back into its former shape. The Trump presidency would end up being no more than an ugly parenthesis. The GOP would distance itself from Trump and Trumpism, and become a normal party once again. But that dream soon died. The Trump presidency might have been the first act in a longer and even darker political drama, in which the Republican Party is becoming more radicalized. How long this will last is an open question; whether it is happening is not.”

Mark Leibovich, writing in the New York Times Magazine last weekend, describes the Feb. 3 House Republican Conference meeting, three weeks after Conference Chair Liz Cheney became one of 10 members who voted to impeach President Trump. She said of the Jan. 6 insurrection just prior to the Senate impeachment vote, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

After she was censured by the Wyoming Republican Party in early February, Cheney said on Fox News Sunday, “The oath that I took to the Constitution compelled me to vote for impeachment, and it doesn’t bend to partisanship; it doesn’t bend to political pressure. People have been lied to. The extent to which the president, President Trump, for months leading up to Jan. 6 spread the notion that the election had been stolen, or that the notion that the election was rigged, was a lie.”

At the Feb. 3 GOP conference meeting, Leibovich reported that Cheney said she was “deeply, deeply concerned about where our party is headed,” and added, “We cannot become the party of QAnon. We cannot become the party of Holocaust denial. We cannot become the party of white supremacy.

“We all watched in horror what happened on Jan. 6,” Cheney said.

When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy suggested the conference adjourn on Feb. 3, Cheney insisted on a vote to determine her status. She won the secret ballot 145-61. No member of the Indiana Republican delegation has publicly revealed how they voted.

On Tuesday, McCarthy was asked if Cheney was a “good fit” for GOP leadership. McCarthy told a room full of reporters that “if you’re sitting here at a retreat that’s focused on policy, focused on the future of making America next-century, and you’re talking about something else, you’re not being productive.”

That same day, Politico reported on the growing chasm between McCarthy and Cheney. She has called for a commission that needs to be tightly focused on Jan. 6. “If we minimize what happened on Jan. 6 and if we appease it, then we will be in a situation where every election cycle, you could potentially have another constitutional crisis,” she said. McCarthy wants a broader scope that explores all kinds of political violence. 

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, who heads the House Republican Study Committee, told Axios that Cheney's continued criticisms "are an unwelcome distraction." He suggested Cheney could lose her leadership role. Axios also reported that Cheney had called a recent memo by Banks on how the GOP could retain working class voters as "neo-Marxist." Said Banks, "That's what we got out of Liz Cheney, which doesn't help us remain focused on that single goal."

Trump put out a statement on Tuesday, saying, “Liz Cheney is polling sooo low in Wyoming, and has sooo little support, even from the Wyoming Republican Party, that she is looking for a way out of her Congressional race. She’ll either be yet another lobbyist or maybe embarrass her family by running for president, in order to save face. This warmongering fool wants to stay in the Middle East and Afghanistan for another 19 years, but doesn’t consider the big picture – Russia and China!”

The Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes observed Wednesday, “Back in February, I noted that it was worth remembering that Cheney is neither a RINO nor a squish. She is decisively not a Biden-Republican and isn’t making any ideological moves to win the strange new respect of progressives across the aisle or on cable TV.”

FiveThirtyEight explained, “Over her career, she voted with Trump nearly 93% of the time. In his first two years in office she was pro-Trump on nearly 96% of her votes.”

Sykes added, “While she occasionally (and rarely) bucked the president on immigration and spending bills, she loyally backed his legislative agenda, including his attempts to overturn Obamacare. But Cheney did not merely vote to support Trump’s policies, she also lined up to support Trump’s behavior. In February 2019, she voted to uphold Trump’s constitutionally questionable emergency order on funding the Mexican border wall. July, 2019, she voted against a resolution condemning Trump for his racist comments about four Democratic congresswomen. Cheney also opposed the first effort to impeach Trump over his call to the president of Ukraine. "In other words,” Sykes continued, “she was one of the GOP legislators who had signed onto the Faustian bargain with Trump. Whatever her personal doubts, she was a hyper-loyal and reliable foot soldier. Until she wasn’t anymore. And then all her loyalty counted for nothing.”

Republican Accountability Project

This past week, the Republican Accountability Project led by William Kristol (a former aide to Vice President Dan Quayle), Elizabeth Neumann (former deputy Homeland Security secretary under Trump), and former VP Pence national security aide Olivia Troye graded GOP members of Congress on their response to the Jan. 6 Capitol siege and a significant portion of the Indiana delegation flunked.

RAP’s democracy grade is determined by evaluating members of Congress based on four criteria: 

1. Did he or she sign on to the amicus brief filed along with Texas’ lawsuit to the Supreme Court that sought to nullify votes cast in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia? 

2. Did he or she object to the certification of Electoral College votes from at least one state? 

3. Did he or she make public statements that cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election? 

4. Did he or she vote to hold Trump accountable via impeachment or conviction?

Receiving “F” grades were U.S. Reps. Banks, Jim Baird, Jackie Walorski and Greg Pence, whose brother  was an assassination target of the Jan. 6 Capitol MAGA mob. U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon received a “C-” as did U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun, U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz received a “D” (she affirmed all Electoral College votes), and Rep. Trey Hollingsworth a “D-” (he, too, affirmed all EC votes).

Of Sens. Young and Braun, as well as Rep. Bucshon, RAP noted that they did not sign the Texas amicus brief and affirmed certification of all states’ Electoral College votes. But they were panned for not making public statements about the election and voting against Trump’s impeachment.

Indiana members and a 1/6 Commission

Howey Politics Indiana reached out to Indiana’s Republican congressional delegation with this simple question: Where do you stand on the creation of a Jan. 6 commission?

Rep. Walorski is a cosponsor of HR275, to establish the National Commission on the Domestic Terrorist Attack Upon the United States Capitol. “The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and the police officers who protect it was nothing less than a direct assault on our democracy,” Walorski told HPI. We need a 9/11-style bipartisan commission to fully account for what happened and ensure it never happens again. It’s time for Speaker Pelosi to stop playing politics with this serious matter and work in good faith with Republicans.”

U.S. Rep. Banks said in a statement to HPI, “Political violence in America skyrocketed in 2020 and 2021 and Congress must respond. Speaker Pelosi still hasn’t shown Republicans a draft proposal of her January 6 commission, so I can’t say if I’ll support it. But I can say I would support a commission to investigate the riot on Jan. 6, along with the hundreds of other politically motivated riots that destroyed billions of dollars in property and killed dozens of Americans this past year. Every violent rioter should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. If Speaker Pelosi were to focus exclusively on one riot while ignoring the about 570 other violent riots this year, she’d be telling Americans that Congress is only concerned by a certain kind of political violence. That is wrong. Political violence is reprehensible no matter which side is responsible. ”

U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz, who on Jan. 6 had just been sworn into office with an oath vowing to defend the U.S. Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic, explained, “It is important to look into what happened on Jan. 6 to understand why such a breakdown of communication and security occurred, so improvements can be implemented.”

Spartz also wrote Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Jan. 8, saying, “Based on my experience on Jan. 6, 2021, it appears to be that the House of Representatives was not adequately prepared to respond to events that occurred. The House sergeant at arms is responsible for all issues relating to the safety and security of the members of Congress and the House side of the Capitol complex. Please advise what processes were directed by you to provide enhanced security for the joint session of the House and Senate in the House chamber in light of the known and anticipated major public demonstration on Jan. 6.”

A spokesman for Rep. Bucshon told HPI, “The most critical element of any commission is that it be structured in such a way to ensure that the American people accept the findings. That is why Congressman Bucshon believes that any commission set up should be a truly bipartisan commission in the same vein as the 9/11 Commission, not a political propaganda panel set up by Speaker Pelosi to rubber stamp a predetermined outcome that she has chosen.”

Rep. Jim Baird said, “A fully bipartisan commission to investigate what occurred at the Capitol on Jan. 6 is needed, but the commission’s scope must also include other violent acts that have occurred around the Capitol complex to ensure we get a comprehensive overview of all our protocols.”

Sen. Braun responded, “Wherever Speaker Pelosi’s political calculations end up regarding a commission into the events of Jan. 6 in the House of Representatives, my Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch is digging deep into what resources – human and equipment – Capitol Police, Senate sergeant at arms, and architect of the Capitol need to prevent future security breaches and protect the men and women who protect our U.S. Capitol building, and the architect of the Capitol has just started a study under the supervision of the subcommittee to determine what security investments need to be made.”

Sen. Young’s office did not respond to HPI’s request for comment.

INGOP on race

As for the rank and file polling on the Derek Chauvin verdict, the Indiana GOP has attempted to set an inclusive tone, though after Attorney General Curtis Hill’s 2020 convention nomination defeat, has no African-American elected officials at the state and federal levels.

Last August, Gov. Holcomb delivered a statewide address on racial disparities following the murder of George Floyd, declaring race relations in the U.S. and state were at an “inflection point.” Holcomb said, “If you want change, don’t throw a brick; use a brick to lay a foundation for something better. That’s what I and my team intend to do: Shape change.”

Last July, the Indiana Republican Party launched the Indiana Republican Diversity Leadership Series, a seminar and leadership training program that will provide the preparation and resources needed to increase the engagement of minority Republican leaders in Indiana.

“Hoosiers continue to trust Republicans leaders up and down the ballot to lead our state and our communities,” said Chairman Kyle Hupfer. “And with that trust comes a responsibility to provide not just a voice, but real solutions for all Hoosiers. We’re launching this leadership series as the next step of building relationships among diverse communities, helping mentor and empower future government and political leaders from these historically under-represented communities.”

But the INGOP was fending off a Facebook posting on the Brown County Republican page purporting that Black people come from “jungles,” while having “virtually no intellectual achievements” despite best efforts to integrate them into white people’s “majestic civilization.”