Conspiracy theories have become a 'cultural problem for the country': Michel Martin

The Powerhouse Roundtable breaks down the latest news on "This Week."
14:39 | 05/30/21

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Transcript for Conspiracy theories have become a 'cultural problem for the country': Michel Martin
We were under assault by the insurrection. If we set up this commission, I think the basic goal of our democratic friends is to keep relitigating in public what happened back on January 6th rather than getting to a quick solution. This vote has made it official. Donald Trump's big lie has now fully enveloped the Republican party. Shame on the Republican party for trying to sweep the horrors of that day under the rug because they're afraid of Donald Trump. Senate Republicans on Friday blocked a commission to investigate the January 6th capitol insurrection. Just six Republicans crossed party lines, short of the ten needed to overcome a filibuster. Let's talk about that with our round table. Jon Karl, political white house correspondent Laura Barone Lopez, the weekend host of NPR's "All things considered," Michelle martin, and Terry Moran. Great to see all of you today. Jon, I want to start with you on that commission. Was it just a foregone conclusion once president trump said he didn't want it, and leadership said they didn't want it? Mitch Mcconnell didn't want to have an investigation that was going to drag into the following year. This one actually had a deadline of the end of the year, and there is still going to be an investigation, Martha. In fact, there already are congressional hearings and committees looking into this, and you know that Nancy Pelosi is all but certain to start a special committee on this just like the Republicans did on Benghazi. The key difference here is that that will be partisan-led. This would have been something that would have had an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, a chair and a vice-chair, Republican and Democrat, and would have had the force of something that could not be seen through a partisan lens. We no longer have that, and there are still questions. There are questions. Where was Donald Trump during those hours? I don't have a sense of what the delay in the National Guard was all about. There are still questions. Those questions will be looked at. Terry, Republicans as Jon mentioned are calling it a real partisan ploy. Mitch Mcconnell clearly doesn't want this affecting the midterms. Lisa murkowski however strongly condemned it saying it was there for short-term political gain, saying, is that really what this is about? One election cycle after another. Is that's what's happening? I think it's bigger than that, and with respect would think murkowski has an outdated view on our politics. The Republican party isn't very Republican. It's not even a party. It's a nationalist trumpist movement right now. Parties are static. They operate within a set of laws and traditions and they compete for policy preferences and movements move. Nationalist movements move to attack the establishment in their own party first, and then everywhere else and anything that gets in the way must be attacked as well. So when democratic laws and traditions and values get in the way, and the basic arithmetic of democracy, gets more votes, you lose, and they attack that too, and that's what's happening. And Laura, as Jon mentioned, there will be other investigations. There will be, but how do you see that going? Clearly it will be seen as partisanship. Pelosi is all but certain to create this select committee. She'll need the support of the majority of her caucus and she's likely to get it. That committee is going to give Democrats subpoena power. They're going to be able to subpoena whoever they want, and Republicans will try to characterize it as a partisan endeavor, but as we all know, they just voted down the independent commission that would have allowed them to appoint half of the panel. It would have been outside experts, and so the reason that they blocked that as Terry was mentioning, is because they're worried about 2022. They're worried about their primaries, being primaried by people that trump is going to support, and they feel they have to pledge loyalty to trump, but -- Should Lisa murkowski be worried about 2022? Lisa murkowski is a unique situation in Alaska. She won as a write-in in the past, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't be worried. She will probably be facing primary challenges. Texas is drafting this bill to make voting in the state far more different. Far more difficult. Several Republican states are doing the same thing. This is all around, it seems, Donald Trump's election lie that they want to look at those people and say, no. We're doing it differently this This is what you raised earlier. About the January 6th commission, and you can argue that sure, the former president is going to have his sights on Lisa murkowski and anybody who opposed him, but the other folks voted this down, and they shouldn't sit easy either. Statewide races are high visibility, and while some people, you know, you can't gerrymander the state, and while some people may say sure, it's in their short-term interest to stick with trump, the fact is other people do still believe in norms and standards and certain values. I was looking at a military times poll in August of 2020. This was taken right before the conventions and they pointed out that at the beginning of trump's presidency, 46% of troops had a favorable impression of him, and at the end, by four years later in 2020, it had completely flipped. Nearly 50% had an favorable view of trump. 38% had a favorable view, and among officers, it was even more pronounced. A majority of those surveyed, had an unfavorable view. This is the our nation's warrior, and tomorrow is memorial day. These are people who generally see themselves as nonpolitical, but adhering to a sense of values. This is more conservative. Generally thought of as more conservative, and generally thought of as a more Republican constituency, and if our nation's warriors believe that they're taking their oath more seriously than elected officials do, these are people who still enjoy the esteem of the public, and while they're not going to come out and sort of campaign for people, the reality of it is that there is a core of people who still think this is wrong, who still care what happens, want to know what happens, and people are willing to understand what happened and take it seriously, and I think this could have a long tale. This is a slam-dunk for people who voted against this. Terry, I want to talk about another alarming poll this week showing that nearly one in four Republicans believe in qanon conspiracy theories. That theory as we all know is that our leaders are all controlled by a group of satan-worshipping pedophiles. What does that say about the Republican party, and what do they do about it? Well, they ride the tiger. That's what they do about it because one of the intoxications of a nationalist movement is you claim you're the real people, the real Americans. You get to determine the sole, legitimate arbiter of the destiny of the nation, and a fact. They called them alternative facts, but you get to determine the reality because, you know, us around here, real Americans. We're fake. We're the fake media, the enemy of the people. You get to determine your own facts and the cognitive dissonance that comes with that, just disappears in the glory of it, and the intoxication of it. That's what happens. We don't have the language of the concepts of the Republican party because it's never happened in our country before. It happened in countries far away. It's happening here now. In Poland, Russians shot down that plane with the president. No, they didn't. In the United States, oh, Donald Trump really won that election. No, he didn't, but it doesn't matter because the alternative facts have become the only facts for the Republican party. The Republican leadership in congress knows this stuff is out of control and frankly insane. The Republican leadership knows the election wasn't stolen, knows that Donald Trump's rants about widespread fraud and voting machines and all this is bunk and ridiculous, but they also know they are this close to taking control. We have the narrowest democratic majority in the house that we have ever seen. Just through districting, Republicans will be on the cusp of taking control in 2022. If you would look at the historic trend, they are quite likely to take over a controlled house, and possibly the senate. So they don't want to see these play out. Like you said, ride the tiger and it's not that they're repeating a lot of it. They don't want to have the inner family fight. What is the track record of democratic governments controlling extremist movements? I mean, how well has that worked out in other countries? Where extremist movements were allowed to flourish because a party or any group of elites thought it was in their interest, and then what happens? Those extremist groups by definition can't be controlled. So I think, you know, they can ride the tiger, but the tiger has its own ideas. It happened inside the trump white house. Because you had his aides, and most senior people arod Donald Trump knew what he was saying was crazy, but then we had January 6th. What concerns me about this is, is this isn't a problem for political parties, but for the country. These conspiracy theories are tearing families apart. People are unwilling to see -- they're unwilling to get vaccinated because they're believing these conspiracies that there's some chip being implanted in their head which means they're not seeing their families. Families are being torn apart by this. This is not just a political problem anymore. This has become a cultural problem for the country. It really has indeed. I want to turn to Biden's legislative agenda, and I want to talk about infrastructure, and you heard Pete buttigieg talk about that. The senate Republicans' counteroffer is still really hundreds of billions of dollars away from Biden's plan, and it includes a very different proposal to pay for it. Yeah, what the Republicans are posing is to use what should be left over from the funds of the covid rescue plan that was passed earlier this year, and the Biden administration is saying, those funds are 95% allocated. Those funds are pretty much out the door. We don't want to use that. They haven't said it's a red line, but it really looks like one, and the other red lines of the administration has is that they don't want to increase taxes on those making under $400,000 a year. It's difficult to see how in this next week they come together, not only because as you said, they're so far apart on the top line number of what this infrastructure package is going to be, but also how they're going to pay for it, and a lot of Democrats are pressuring Biden now to just move on, to go the reconciliation route where you only need democratic support, but Biden at his core wants to get a bipartisan deal, and so he and those around him are still trying to figure out a way to do this. Terry, Biden also released a $6 trillion budget proposal on Friday. It calls for the largest increase in federal spending since World War II, and then we'll talk about the deficit that that would -- is this the time for that? The Republicans have rediscovered their commitment to fiscal probity. That happens when a Democrat is president. It was completely out of control, spending like a drunken sailor, and tax cuts for the rich without a serious plan to pay for anything. Then the pandemic hit, and now if you look at polls, polls show that Americans are really -- they really like the idea of universal child care, child care and pre-k, and a lot of parts of that agenda, they like the idea of taxing rich people in order to get it done. So Biden is -- he's kind of like a throwback, right? His bet as the antidote to this problem that we're talking about is that if you make pragmatic change, the old-fashioned way in people's lives they'll calm down, and so he's negotiating in this way that really doesn't embarrass the other side, that gives him some room to sign on, and, you know, is he going to get a $6 trillion budget? Probably not, but this is really the bet that he's got, that if he does what the American people say they want, and the Republicans come on and get some of the credit, this country will calm down. And Jon, I want to turn to covid. We talked about covid this week and travel is up again, and the numbers of covid cases are way down, but a lot of talk this week about the origin of covid, again. Tom cotton especially and many people in the trump administration said it originated in the lab in Wuhan, China, not with bats. They're taking a second look at that. Some people have egg on their face, and why does this matter? Well, I mean, look. It matters for the same reason we were talking about the January 6th commission. We should find out what happened. This is one of the greatest crises our country has ever faced and the world has ever faced. We need to know how it started and I think a lot of people have egg on their face. This was an idea that was first put forward by Mike Pompeo, secretary of state of Donald Trump, and look. Some things may be true even if Donald Trump said them, and there was -- because Donald Trump was saying so much else, it was just out of control, and because he was, you know, making a frankly racist appeal talking about kung-flu, and the China virus, he put forward this notion that he said flatly this came from that lab, and it was widely dismissed, but actually there is some real reason -- we don't know. By the way, we still don't know. We absolutely don't know, but now serious people are saying it needs a serious inquiry. And Laura, I want to add with you, we have about 30 seconds. Just thoughts on the upcoming summit, and what that will mean for Joe Biden. Well, it's a big deal, right? But they're heading into this summit not expecting any big agreement on anything. It could be an airing of grievances, and so this is about whether or not they're going to be able to find a cooperation on climate change, cooperation on -- on the ongoing warfare in Afghanistan. Usually these things, not a whole lot gets accomplished. It's sort of a meet and greet. So we'll keep our eyes on all that. Thanks very much to all of you. It's great to see you in person.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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