Moral dilemmas for Republicans
June 22nd 2022
Bryan Zepp Jamieson
Summer’s here, and my time to take the dog for his morning walk has shifted to an earlier hour. Temperatures are no longer at or below freezing (yes, that happens here in May) and this being the mountains, by 9:30, even if it’s still only 65 out, the sun is just beating down. So an earlier summer walk time accommodates both his desire not to freeze, and my desire not to bake.
As we were walking up the lane toward the house, I spotted a neighbor loading construction scrap into a trailer. Nice fellow, about my age, clearly intelligent and articulate. Friendly without being nosy, which is a definite plus in a small town. I had noticed that he had a Gadsden flag on his porch, alongside the American flag, which suggested his politics had a rightward, possibly libertarian bent. Not too uncommon in these parts. I figure if he can tolerate my politics (I’m a senior member of a group whose informal motto is “We’ll tread where we please”, and I fly the Flying Spaghetti Monster flag, which I’m sure some people think is Antifa or BLM) then I can tolerate his.
We chatted for a bit, and I glanced at my watch and said, “I’m going to move on. Have some chores, and I don’t want to miss the meeting.”
“What meeting is that?”
“January 6th Committee. Raffensperger is supposed to testify today.”
He actually snorted. “I’m not paying any attention to that farce.”
Well, OK then. I smiled, said, “Some of the testimony is pretty compelling” and let it go at that. I wasn’t looking for a fight. We exchanged pleasantries and I went home to watch the strongest session yet.
I think that decent Republicans have two choices at this point: refuse to pay attention to the Select Committee, or admit that Trump not only acted criminally, but perhaps treasonously. There’s the mad dogs of the sort that threaten poll workers and email death threats to terminally ill relatives of elected officials who refused to do Trump’s bidding (the centerpiece of the testimony in that session) and eventually America is going to have to deal with those after Trump is finished, but I think their numbers are already dwindling. After just the first three sessions, the percentage of voters who believe Trump should face criminal charges for his actions jumped from 52% to 60%, a huge one-week jump in these polarized times.
I suspect my neighbor will only be able to ignore the findings of the committee for so long. It’s one thing to say that “only” twenty or thirty million people are watching the proceedings, but it doesn’t count the streamers, and those who watched the wrap-up coverage on the evening news. A lot of people who pay scant attention to, or deliberately try to ignore “politics” are going to experience exposure to the meetings through a kind of social osmosis.
It doesn’t work to howl that the committee is nearly all Democrats. Originally, the committee was meant to be 8 Democrats and 7 Republicans but McCarthy tried naming such attack dogs as Gym Jordan and Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs to the committee—howling, vicious demagogues who voted to overturn the election on January 6th. In effect, McCarthy was in the position of naming jurors in a bank robbery trial and thought it would be clever to name some people who drove the getaway car. When Pelosi rejected two of the candidates, McCarthy did something very childish and weird: he withdrew all the Republican nominations.
Even Trump admits that was an own-goal, saying, “Well, I think in retrospect, I think it would have been very smart to put [Republicans on the committee] and again, I wasn’t involved in it from a standpoint so I never looked at it too closely. But I think it would have been good if we had representation. …I think in retrospect [McCarthy should’ve put Republicans on] to just have a voice. The Republicans don’t have a voice. They don’t even have anything to say.”
Anyone who watched the Mueller hearings or Benghazi or Emails knows that the Republicans operate by shouting, interrupting, making ridiculous accusations, and engaging in personal smears. It’s soul-sickening to watch. But the committee that evolved, which included Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, had a group of sober, serious, diligent people.
For all the damning testimony, perhaps the most revelatory thing about the Committee is that it shows the American people what it’s like when the grown-ups are in charge. Witnesses aren’t shouted at, called names, interrupted or deliberately misconstrued. It’s a reminder that yes, democratic governance can work. Which undermines the heart of the fascist philosophy that democracy is weak, and only a strongman can save us.
And while the committee is mostly composed of Democrats, nearly all the witnesses called have been Republicans (with the exception of Lady Ruby). Many were even Trump supporters. Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who gave spellbinding testimony revealing the moral courage it took to stand up to Trump, said he not only had voted for Trump, but would again. And yes, I think that undermines the foundation of his moral stance. But it shows clearly that most of these witnesses were Trump people at one time, and he drove them away with his bullying, corruption, and viciousness.
This session was a very bright spot in some dark times. I only wish my neighbor had watched.