Why does any of this matter? Because people are starting to learn that it’s possible to push back against the MAGA clowns without paying a price. They did it, and nothing bad happened to them; no effective crackdown materialized. This gives them (and others) more hope, confidence, and latitude to fight back. It’s like the first time Rocky made the Russian, Ivan Drago, bleed in Rocky IV. Success begets more success. Their actions provide momentum. They have created a permission structure that invites and enables others to defy Trumpism without fear of fatal ramifications.
From a psychological standpoint, the creation of this permission structure is an important step. Think of “normal” Republicans as coming out of an abusive relationship. This is not to absolve them of their sins. They are simultaneously victims and complicit (think Patty Hearst) in their captor’s sins. When finally given the chance to escape their attacker, they defend him. Are they in on it? Brainwashed? Suffering from PTSD? Or are they still terrified of their abuser (even after they are liberated from him)? Within the GOP caucus, there are probably members who represent this entire spectrum. For the people who were operating out of fear, they now have evidence that escape is possible. And the sooner they realize it, the sooner they can muster the courage to make a break for it. What they need are leaders.
There’s another reason why these examples of courage are important: Radicals and populists, almost by definition, come across as strong and romantic. People defending liberal democracy unfortunately have a harder time doing the same, but it’s vital because voters are attracted to strength. So it’s crucial that people defending a conservative or centrist position not be temperamentally weak. As Bill Clinton once said, “When people are insecure, they’d rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who’s weak and right.”