Much of my work these days seems to amount to naming evils in politics: hypocrisy, deception, corruption, torture, war crimes, sedition. Today, I want to do the opposite: to recognize goodness.
Far too many elected Republicans have not responded as honest public servants should to the events in Washington last week. Many have not done the bare minimum of acknowledging the responsibility for those events borne by their president, their party, and in some cases themselves.
But a handful of Republicans have done that and more. These GOP lawmakers are too few in number, and they may not always follow their own logic as far as we might like. But they are trying to do right. They are trying to tell the truth, knowing it may risk their seats or even their lives.
The most prominent example is Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), whose political dynasty and position as the third-ranking Republican in her chamber makes her support for impeaching President Trump all the more noteworthy. “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Cheney wrote in an uncompromising statement, calling his “betrayal” unparalleled in American history.
The danger she faces as a consequence of her decision was openly named by another representative who is “strongly considering” voting in favor of impeaching Trump: freshman Peter Meijer (R-Mich.). Among those who plan to impeach, he said on Fox, “there’s an assumption that people will try to kill us.”
Yesterday’s assault on the Capitol didn’t have to happen. Politicians who spread the lies that incited this violence bear responsibility. Politicians who continue to lie in order to shift blame and falsely claim this was Antifa or BLM, are contemptible. More thoughts: pic.twitter.com/ZbMPfPXEi5
— Rep. Peter Meijer (@RepMeijer) January 7, 2021
Terms like “insurrection” and “sedition” are an accurate description of the riot Trump encouraged, Meijer said in an interview with Reason. Those who overran the building did so because they’d been “lied to,” he added, mincing no words as to the identity and complicity of the liars:
They were being misled. Some of my colleagues in Congress, they share responsibility for that. Many of them were fundraising off of this ‘Stop the Steal’ grift. I don’t understand how you can look in the mirror and go to sleep at night without that weighing on your conscience, I fundamentally do not. I’m just at a loss for words about how some of them have acted in ways that are just knowingly, provably false. And they know they’re lying too. [Meijer, via Reason]
As for Trump himself, Meijer went on, “I think it’s very clear that how the president acted towards this whole scenario, his actions leading up to yesterday, and especially his unwillingness to come to grips with reality, is continuing to perpetuate this fraud, this deception, that is rankly unfit.”
Another freshman, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), has confronted lying GOP lawmakers directly, calling out Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for being a “literal QAnon lady” with a “disgust[ing]” reaction to the violence in Washington.
Mace is blunt about Republican responsibility. “I was accosted on the street of D.C. Tuesday night, the eve of the rally, by a constituent who drove all the way from my district, from South Carolina, to attend this ‘peaceful protest,’ which ended up being anything but,” she told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “What I realized, at that moment, is that, one, it was dangerous, but two, it didn’t matter what I said — people were not going to believe the truth, because they’d been lied to.”
“The president of the United States fleeced the American people,” Mace charged, enumerating Trump’s deceits. “People have been lied to for two months now. It’s disturbing. It led to this violence.”
The people who assaulted police officers to break into the Capitol and hold Congress hostage weren’t patriots. They were domestic terrorists. We must stop coddling extremists and rebuild our party as the party that respects rule of law, not violence wrapped in the American flag. pic.twitter.com/rmRwL9KrdI
— Rep. Nancy Mace (@RepNancyMace) January 10, 2021
Mace says she’s a “no” on impeachment, citing procedural problems with the haste of the process and arguing it may exacerbate anger among the president’s supporters and lead to further violence. Still, it’s conceivable Mace might support future votes on accountability for Trump and, as she said on the House floor, for fellow lawmakers who participated in his deception. (Possible options include banning Trump and/or these members from future federal office or expulsion from Congress. My inclination is to say both are long shots.)
The last legislator I’ll highlight is Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). Kinzinger backed impeaching Trump, called on the Trump administration to invoke the 25th Amendment, and “condemn[ed] the president for allowing [the violence] to happen” by “encouraging conspiracy theories” and “bully[ing] the entire Republican Party to overthrow the will of the people.”
Amid the chaos, my statement here: pic.twitter.com/6CMZHeYhPq
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) January 6, 2021
What stands out with Kinzinger is his look beyond Trump and Congress to the faith leaders, especially white evangelicals, who made Trump’s political career viable and failed to denounce his lies. “I believe there is a huge burden now on Christian leaders, especially those who entertained the conspiracies, to lead the flock back into the truth,” Kinzinger tweeted, sharing articles from evangelical Trump critics Russell Moore and David French.
“You will hear people saying that for the sake of ‘unity’ we should quietly” let those responsible for what happened at the Capitol escape consequence for their actions, Moore wrote in the piece Kinzinger promoted. “God forbid. The unity of the people cannot come with a lack of accountability.”
Meijer on Saturday said the same, refusing to “paper over the assault on the Capitol with empty calls for ‘unity.’ Unless my party faces the truth of what happened and holds those responsible to account, we will never regain the public’s trust and earn the honor of leading the nation forward.” I’m a little less confident about the durability of public memory, but honesty and accountability are needful regardless. Other Republicans should follow this righteous lead.