Republicans and Reality

Dr. Malcolm Cross

What happened on January 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington—a riot, or an exercise in “legitimate political discourse?”  The Republican National Committee seems to be saying the latter.  In doing so it’s doing itself and the Party of which it’s the governing board a grave disservice.  The RNC is simultaneously making a patently false and absurd statement, reducing the credibility with which the GOP can claim to be the “Law and Order” party, and creating divisions within the party which could reduce its effectiveness in its efforts to take back the Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024.  To begin to reverse the damage its causing, the RNC must become more reality based in its public policy pronouncements.

At issue is a resolution passed by the RNC at a meeting last February 8.  The relevant portion reads as follows:

WHEREAS, Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led

persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse , and they are both

utilizing their past professed political affiliation to mask Democrat abuse of prosecutorial power

for partisan purposes, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Republican National Committee hereby formally censures Representatives

Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and shall immediately cease any and all

support of them as members of the Republican Party for their behavior which has been

destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our

republic, and is inconsistent with the position of the Conference.

Defending the RNC’s actions, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said, as quoted by the New York Times, that “Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger crossed a line.  They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.”

The distinction Chairwoman McDaniel makes between “legitimate political discourse” and “violence at the capitol” is well taken.  Of the 10,000 demonstrators in Washington on 1/6/21, 95% were indeed engaged in “legitimate political discourse.”  They were exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble peacefully and voice their dissatisfaction with the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, and their conduct should not be investigated or questioned.   Only a tiny fraction of the demonstrators engaged in the riot and the violence against people and property which are the scope of House investigating committee.  

But the RNC resolution fails to make that distinction or acknowledge that the House committee is investigating only the violence and not the peaceful protest.  By making no mention of the riot and the ensuing violence, the RNC implies either that the riot never happened, or that the riot itself was “legitimate political discourse.”  

Either position is an absurdity, and an assault on the truth.  This alone should be offensive to those, whether they be Democrats or Republicans, who believe in facts and reason, and reject statements which deny objective reality.  

Moreover, the RNC is undermining the credibility the GOP needs if the voters are to support its policies over those of the Democrats.  For example, not every Democrat is soft on crime.  Democratic Mayor Eric Adams is taking a realistic law and order approach to crime-plagued New York City, and Democratic mayors London Breed of San Francisco and Lori Lightfoot of Chicago are beginning to show signs that they must become more devoted to law and order too if they’re to prevent their cities from descending into lawless chaos.  But every governor, mayor, and prosecutor who’s tolerated rioting, looting, smash-and-grabbing, and other violence from leftists or just plain crooks is a Democrat, and a ripe target for criticism.  Yet despite the GOP’s past record as the law-and-order party, it can neither credibly exploit Democratic failures nor offer constructive alternative policies promoting law and order 

If it either denies the existence of violence from the right or accepts it as “legitimate political discourse.”

Nor, for that matter, can the GOP be trusted to handle other issues as well.  In one short year the Biden Administration has racked up a stunning record of incompetence—the bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan, the botched planning on covid-19 testing kits, the inability to bring inflation under control.  But how can the American people trust the GOP, no matter how wise its alternative proposals may be, if the RNC can’t demonstrate a basic grasp of reality?

Fortunately, there’s a small but growing band of Republican officials, including Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence, who are trying to make the RNC and the GOP more reality-based.  They’re arguing that violence did occur on January 6, that violence is not the same as peaceful political protest, and that violence does not constitute “legitimate political discourse.”  Will their views prevail, or will they cause a split in the GOP and thereby diminish its chances of retaking control of the government?  It’s too early to tell.  But all who value facts and reason over the denial of reality, and all who want to promote positive policies to counteract the bungling of the Democrats, should wish Mitch and his allies success.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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