“Ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”
This is how the Republican National Committee is describing the mob of Trump supporters that broke into and vandalized the Capitol last Jan. 6, resulting in five deaths and dozens of injured police officers. The very, very kind frame of the violent effort to subvert democracy comes in an RNC resolution to censure Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for “persecuting” these “ordinary citizens” by serving on the Jan. 6 committee. The RNC formally approved the resolution, and its euphemistic language about the tragedy at the Capitol, on Friday afternoon.
“The primary mission of the Republican Party is to elect Republicans who support the United States Constitution and share our values,” writes the party who has supported efforts to overturn the results of a free and fair presidential election. The resolution was reportedly penned by RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Trumpworld mainstay David Bossie. Its initial version called for Cheney and Kinzinger to be kicked out of the party entirely, but it was watered down to a mere censure after receiving some pushback from within the RNC.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and a few other establishment Republicans criticized the censure, but most of its members tacitly condoned what happened last Jan. 6 by staying silent. Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has already been rebranded as an establishment RINO after carrying Trump’s fetid water for a half a decade, didn’t address the censure on Friday, but he did slam his former boss while speaking before the Federalist Society. “President Trump is wrong,” Pence of Trump’s belief he could have stopped the certification of the Electoral College. “I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone.”
“Frankly there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one president could choose the American president,” he added, calling Jan. 6 a “dark day.”
This didn’t used to be a controversial statement, but such is now the case within Pence’s own party, which has spent the past year trying to convince Americans that the 2020 election was rigged and that the attack on the Capitol, during which rioters called for Pence to be hanged, was no big deal. The GOP codified it as a “legitimate” act on Friday, regardless of McDaniel’s ludicrous attempt to qualify the resolution’s language. “Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger crossed a line,” she said in a statement, according to The New York Times. “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 actual resolution the party approved, however, uses “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse” as a blanket statement to describe the Jan. 6 committee work, which has focused on the events leading up to, during, and following the riot at the Capitol — and which were very much rooted in violence.
The move to punish Cheney and Kinzinger may seem ceremonial, but it does have some real-world impact. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the Wyoming GOP has signed onto a letter allowing the national party to fund the campaign of Cheney’s Trump-backed primary challenger Harriet Hageman. “Wyoming Party Chairman Frank Eathorne and the Republican National Committee are trying to assert their will and take away the voice of the people of Wyoming before a single vote has even been cast,” a spokesperson for Cheney said in response, according to the Post.
Newly released financial disclosures reveal that Cheney is fundraising laps around Hageman (Cheney has around $5 million in cash on hand compared to Hageman’s $380,000). Cheney is one of seven House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump following Jan. 6 who are out-raising their primary opponents. Kinzinger is not among them, as he announced in October that he is not running for reelection. He’s one of three House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump who have since said they no longer want anything to do with Congress.
Despite the abuse he’s received from Trump and his allies, Kinzinger tweeted on Thursday that he has “no regrets” about his “decision to uphold my oath of office and defend the Constitution,” and that he will “continue to focus my efforts on standing for truth and working to fight the political matrix that’s led us to where we find ourselves today.”
Cheney’s response to the resolution was a little more pointed, going directly after her party’s subservience to the former president. “The leaders of the Republican Party have made themselves willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon Jan. 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy,” she wrote. “I’m a constitutional conservative and I do not recognize those in my party who have abandoned the Constitution to embrace Donald Trump. History will be their judge. I will never stop fighting for our constitutional republic. No matter what.”
The degree to which Republicans have abandoned the Constitution, fidelity to facts, and any sense of shame since last Jan. 6 is stunning. The RNC formally censured Cheney and Kinzinger on Friday for trying to get to the bottom of the something McDaniel and most of the rest of the party were appalled by at the time. “What these violent protesters are doing is the opposite of patriotism,” McDaniel tweeted on the afternoon of the attack on the Capitol. “It is shameful and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”
One year later, the McDaniel-endorsed party line, quite literally, is that these protesters were simply citizens engaging in legitimate political discourse. The attack on the Capitol, as the GOP sees it, was not only justifiable, it was something that shouldn’t even be considered out of the ordinary.
This post has been updated.