The New York Times has just published the transcript of a focus group with eight GOP voters conducted by Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster. The focus group was primarily about the events of last January 6. Here's how Patrick Healy and Adrian Rivera of the Times describe what it reveals:
Why Republican Voters Think Americans Have to Get Over Jan. 6
Former President Donald Trump may be popular in the Republican Party, but his conduct during the attack on the Capitol last Jan. 6 earned poor marks and stood out as a troubling memory during a discussion among eight G.O.P. voters in a Times Opinion focus group this week.
This transcript of the discussion ... offers a more nuanced portrait of Republican voters and their concerns about American democracy than the typical image of the pro-Trump party base in lock step with the former president....
Some of the Republicans said Mr. Trump could have stopped the attack on Jan. 6 sooner and others blamed him for egging on his supporters.
To Healy and Rivera, these are the most important revelations from the focus group. Oh, and also:
At the same time, several of the Republicans repeated Mr. Trump’s falsehoods about election fraud and traded in other unfounded claims, including about the Jan. 6 riot, news coverage and a Democratic push for Covid-related restrictions to supposedly ensure more mail-in balloting in future elections.
In other words, they believe crazy shit -- which really ought to be Healy and Rivera's lede. But even after acknowledging this, they suggest that what we really need to do is try to grasp where these people are coming from:
Listening to some of the Republicans rationalize their support for the president, and in some cases justify the mob violence at the Capitol, may offer insights into what makes them vote the way they do, and believe what they believe. It’s only by understanding that can we move toward a better, clearer understanding of our fellow citizens.
Here's some of what we need to understand:
Kristen Soltis Anderson: What are some of the biggest things that you remember happening in 2021?
... Sandy (from California): The vaccinations — you have to show your card. It’s almost like we’re having our civil rights taken away.
As Healy and Rivera write, some in the focus group say that "Mr. Trump could have stopped the attack on Jan. 6 sooner and others blamed him for egging on his supporters." But they don't seem particularly upset, with maybe one exception:
Kristen Soltis Anderson: Were there any things that anybody was saying or doing that made what happened on Jan. 6 more likely to occur the way it did?
Judi: People were saying that the states wanted to recount the votes because they saw fraud.
Jill: I would say Trump. Trump saying he lost the election, it was stolen from him, over and over and over again. And I think a lot of people were just getting very angry about it, feeling like the election was stolen.
Joshua: Trump’s speeches and his Twitter.
Kristen Soltis Anderson: I want to know if you think there’s anything that President Trump could have done or should have done to prevent the escalation and what happened on Jan. 6?
Judi: I don’t think you should have had that rally with all the people, with all the protesters. I think he just got everybody more ticked off.
Gayle: I think he could have stopped it earlier somehow. I remember watching it on TV and going, ‘What the hell is going on right now?’ And I was like, ‘Where is Trump during this?’ And that was the only thing that kind of came to mind in that moment, was Trump’s got to come in and do something about this. But he wasn’t, and that was a concern of mine.
But they're sure he didn't want a riot, and they're equally certain that the riot was distasteful to, um, the rioters:
Kristen Soltis Anderson: Based on what you’ve heard and your impressions of President Trump, what do you think was going through his mind when he was seeing all of this on television?
Barney: He wasn’t very happy. For sure. Because Trump’s people don’t act like that. A lot of these people were professional antagonists. I’ve lived in D.C. my whole life. They like to do it.
Sandy: People coming in there and storming and causing a ruckus didn’t achieve his goal.
Judi: His followers were not like that.
(His followers were, in fact, like that.)
Later on, we get a clarification of that reference to "professional antagonists."
Kristen Soltis Anderson: I think, Barney, you may have mentioned people coming in from other places. Who is antifa? Where are they coming in from, in your view?
Barney: I think there’s groups around the country that just — they’re professional hell-raisers, and they like to poke the bear. And they’re funded by, maybe, other countries. I’m not sure. I don’t know. Or maybe by Soros. But they’re always there, and they’re always in front.
No true conservative would have so much as scuffed the floor of the Capitol, even though, y'know, they all had good reason to be ticked off...
Patrick Healy: A show-of-hands question: How many of you believe Joe Biden won the election fair and square?
[Jill raises her hand.]
Patrick Healy: And how many of you believe Trump really won the election?
[All but Jill and Matt raise their hands.]
Patrick Healy: Judi, you made a point at the beginning about your concern about the great political divide in the country. Do you think that Jan. 6 contributed to that political divide, or do you think other factors contribute to that divide?
Judi: I think it has a lot to do with the divide. Because there’s people like us. We feel that Trump should have won. Trump won the election. And there are others that will say no, Biden won fair and square. And that’s what’s dividing this country between the Republicans and the Democrats. I mean, even more so. I mean, really, really dividing us.
We know Trump won, but Democrats and state election authorities and the courts and the media and the majority of Congress insist that he didn't. And that's divisive!
These people also know that the evil libs have pre-stolen the next election:
Lorna: They’re already talking about the mail-in ballots with Covid. You know where that’s going to go.
Sandy: Yeah. It’s like they’re coming up with these — the right to vote thing. I’ve never been turned down to vote. Just show up and go vote. But this whole mail-in ballot thing? I think that should end right away.
Gayle: I’ll be quite frank: I think that the reason that they push Covid so much is because they’re going to try to keep the mail-in ballots. I think that they are putting the fear in people so that they can push Covid as long as possible for 2024. It’s all about control, and they’re keeping Covid as one of their biggest weapons.
Either that or the libs have a plan that's even more nefarious:
Gayle: ... I don’t think [Trump] should run again. It’s a mistake for him to run. If he runs, every Democrat is going to just vote Democrat just to not keep Trump in.
Sneaky Democrats with their sneaky plan to win the next election by casting more votes!
Okay, that's not quite fair. Gayle isn't saying it should be illegal to vote against someone just because you hate him. But those libs are just so mean!
Barney: ... I used to think it was really bad when George Bush II was president. I mean, no matter what he did, he got criticized. If you got a flat tire, it was Bush’s fault. Trump, no matter what, he couldn’t do anything. The Washington Post food critic, because [Trump] likes his steak well done, criticized him for that. What he likes.
Whereas Republicans were so nice to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and didn't call them murderers or rapists or drug dealers or drug addicts or communists or secret Muslims bent on the destruction of American civilization or anything!
And so we come to the final question:
Kristen Soltis Anderson: ... What would you want ... historians, 100 years from now, to know about how you think about Jan. 6?
... Joshua: About how the news was just trying to get out the story as fast as they could have and not worrying about the facts, just changing everything as they went on.
Barney: I hope they include both sides of the story and all the players involved.
Lorna: How the Democrats invaded the White House.
I speak fluent wingnut and I'm not even sure what Lorna means by "How the Democrats invaded the White House." You mean, by getting elected? Which I guess, to Republicans, is an invasion. Oh, dear -- I'm not being very understanding, am I?
Posted with permission from No More Mr. Nice Blog