I do not consider this post to be an expression of political opinion. Political opinion would be if I were to say that a particular set of policies was good or bad, or that a particular candidate or group of candidates should be voted in or voted out. I do not put what I’m about to say in the category of expressing a political opinion; rather, I feel that I am simply showing an awareness of an obvious crisis in this country.
It should be remembered that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created a special committee to investigate last year’s January 6 attack on the Capitol. The attack, it should remember, was by a crowd that had just listened to a speech by then-president Donald Trump declaring that the election was fraudulent, that Congress was acting wrongfully by certifying the election results, and that they should all be furious. Members of the crowd gained entry into the Capitol building, assaulted law enforcement officers (one officer was killed, as were several other people), and expressed the intention of physically assaulting members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence. House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (the one who would be Speaker of the House if the Republicans had the majority, and who will become Speaker if the Republicans get the majority in the next election) refused to appoint any Republicans to the special committee after Speaker Pelosi refused to let him appoint two congressmen who had voted to reject the election results. Pelosi then proceeded to appoint two Republicans herself: Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, both of whom voted to impeach Trump for his involvement that day. The committee has been at work since last summer; among other aspects of the attack, the committee is probing Trump’s behavior and his communications surrounding that day.
On Friday, February 4, 2022, the Republican National Committee, meeting at Salt Lake City, voted to censure Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger for their participation in that committee’s work. In effect, it’s a resolution calling them bad Republicans. In the resolution, the RNC called the investigation “a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”
This is dangerous. When things are normal, the Republican Party represents ideologies and policy preferences that one can legitimately agree or disagree with. As an instructor of American government, I have no difficulty whatsoever talking about debate over public policy without putting any emphasis on my own opinions, or even giving a clue to what my opinions are. That’s when things are normal. But I cannot pretend to see two sides to the question of whether it’s a huge danger to the stability of our country and its institutions when we have one party signing itself over to a cult of personality and willfully pretending that things are one way when they’re really another. The attack on the Capitol was not “legitimate political discourse,” and “legitimate political discourse” is not what that committee in the House is probing. People have the right to say that they wish Donald Trump had won the election. In fact, they have a right to say that Donald Trump did win the election, although they’re engaging in willful self-delusion when they say it. The committee is not investigating people for expressing opinions; it’s investigating a physical attack on the Capitol by a mob where people were killed and more people’s lives were put in danger, and it’s investigating the role that the president of the United States played in instigating that attack.
What the RNC is showing, purely and simply, is that it is totally dominated by loyal disciples of Donald Trump, and whatever Trump wants from them, Trump will get. I would feel both foolish and dishonest if I pretended to see two ways of looking at it. Get me on the subject of what social welfare policy should be, what the response to Russia’s actions toward Ukraine should be, what gun laws should be, whether there should be Affirmative Action in higher education, whether a baker should be required to make a wedding cake for a gay couple–get me on any of those subjects, and I’ll be glad to say to the class, “Well, this side feels one way, that side feels another; it’s a debate.” But on the subject of whether it’s dangerous that the Republican Party has been taken over by the cult of personal loyalty to Donald Trump, no, I do not recognize two sides and I won’t pretend to. Trump is just dangerous, as are all of the people in positions of power and influence who are aiding and abetting this danger.
Article in Politico, February 4, 2022
Report on NPR, February 4, 2022