SAN ANTONIO – The chaos that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as a mob stormed the building and laid siege to Congressional chambers was a far cry from the “law and order” mantra President Donald Trump has previously invoked.
So now that a group of his supporters have “defiled the seat of American democracy,” as said by President Trump himself, what happens to the political party he has led?
Reactions among Texas Republicans to the scene have varied. Some, like Rep. Chip Roy and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, rebuked the violence, with Roy tweeting at President Trump during the chaos to “get to a microphone immediately and establish calm and order...It’s the last thing you’ll do that matters as President,” and Crenshaw tweeting “Stop this bulls*** right now.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, on the other hand, having urged the crowd earlier in the day to “keep fighting,” later tweeted out a baseless claim that the violence was actually the work of the radical left-wing group “Antifa.”
In an interview with KSAT on Thursday, Bexar County Republican Party Chairman John Austin also said, “it appears a lot of the rabble rousers were not regular Trump supporters,” echoing the false claim that some of them had been “identified as Antifa.”
Austin said he did not recall what media website on which he had seen that claim, but the person he singled out as “definitely Antifa” was “the one viking guy,” who has been identified as a Qanon conspiracy supporter from Arizona.
When challenged on his statement, Austin said, “Whoever did it, you know, should be held accountable for sure. If it was Trump supporters that did it, they should, you know, be prosecuted just like anybody else that would have done it.”
Austin said, “If it was a militant branch of the Republicans, I’ve never heard of them, and I wouldn’t condone what they did by any means.”
Still, the chairman said he believes the mob was “other agitators, not Trump supporters.”
“It just doesn’t make sense to me, or probably anybody that voted for Trump, that a typical Republican or a Trump supporter would do that,” he said.
In any case, Austin said he does not believe the scene at the Capitol will cost the local party any members.
“I think people can see really the full, you know -- the past four years of President Trump has been really good for the country in general,” he said.
More than 308,000 Bexar County voters cast ballots for the president in November. As for any Republicans in Bexar County who didn’t vote for Trump, Austin said there are still local issues that are important to people.
“And that’s kind of where we’re going to focus our, you know, our strength on, is the local issues,” Austin said. “You know, we think that the mayor overstepped his power to do the lockdown so hard and then pulling the fast one on that curfew over Thanksgiving.”
Republican consultant Tom Marks also believes “there will be a lot more focus on, sort of a hyper-local, specifically because of the fact that you have you have so many people that wanted to get involved.”
The voter turnout in the November election was “unprecedented,” Marks said, and “all politics became local during the pandemic. And I think the the rise of protest movement on both sides is really -- it’s democracy in action. And I think that’s -- whoever can harness that momentum is, you know, probably going to be -- they’re going to be that leader for that movement.”
And while Marks thinks a change in the party began Wednesday, he points to people like Roy and Crenshaw, not the rioters.
“For some of those folks to break ranks right away and say, you know, ‘We are not going to stand,’ you know, ‘We’re not going to stand for this.’ I think that was the very beginning of how it’s going to change,” Marks said. “I think that was the beginning of the rebuild.”
With Joe Biden confirmed as the next president and President Trump delivering a concession speech Thursday night, there’s no doubt things will change -- one way or another.