The inexplicable war on objective reality sank to a new low recently, when the Republican National Committee sought to redefine the assault on the Capitol that took place Jan. 6, 2021, as “legitimate political discourse.” The attempt at doublespeak came as the RNC overwhelmingly voted to censure two U.S. representatives from its own party, Rep. Liz Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, for their part in helping a bipartisan panel get to the bottom of what happened that day in Washington, D.C. In a piece of political spin that boggles the mind, the RNC claimed that by helping investigate the events that day, Cheney and Kinzinger are doing work that “has been destructive to the institution of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican Party and our republic.”
To anyone who has taken even a cursory look at the violence perpetrated that day in an effort to overturn the result of a fairly conducted election, the RNC’s statement is absurd. The irresponsible lies and violence-mongering by those seeking to subvert the will of the American people were responsible for a death and many serious injuries among rioters and police alike.
Fortunately, two members of Alaska’s Washington, D.C., delegation have had the decency to stand up to their own party in the name of the continued existence of our republic. “We must not legitimize those actions which resulted in loss of life and we must learn from that horrible event so history does not repeat itself,” wrote Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “As Americans we must acknowledge those tragic events, and we cannot allow a false narrative to be created.”
Rep. Don Young struck a similar note: “I was appalled at the violence and destruction at the Capitol on January 6th,” he wrote on Twitter. “What transpired was criminal, un-American, and cannot be considered legitimate protest.”
Those seeking to defend the RNC’s censure of Cheney and Kinzinger have flaccidly claimed that the “legitimate political discourse” mentioned in the censure resolution referred to those who protested peacefully in Washington D.C., that day. But you can read it yourself: The resolution makes no attempt to distinguish between those who only attended former President Donald Trump’s rally and those who stormed the Capitol, beating police officers, stealing from Congress members’ offices and smearing feces on the walls. More to the point, the Jan. 6 committee isn’t investigating those who abided by the law; its members are trying to determine how and whether the violent attempt at insurrection was organized. Kinzinger and Cheney should be lauded for their part in trying to unravel that issue, not declared persona non grata by their party brass.
After initially declining comment despite repeated requests by the ADN for a statement, Sen. Dan Sullivan offered a later, more muted response to the RNC’s censure resolution, condemning the violence at the Capitol and saying that violence can never be considered legitimate political discourse, but refraining from comment on the party’s action in censuring Cheney and Kinzinger and following up by saying that the important thing is to rein in the Biden administration. Sen. Sullivan should speak out more forcefully, and show the courage of Sen. Murkowski and Rep. Young.
Murkowski and Young, by virtue of their longevity and stature, have earned a reputation for periodically bucking their party on issues like this one. But chalking their stance up simply to their political capital doesn’t tell the whole story. There’s a deeper tradition in it, of doing the right thing for Alaska and its people rather than going along to get along. It might serve both of their political fortunes better to be in good with the RNC and its deep-pocketed donors, but who does it serve to undermine the foundation of American democracy?
Even in the depths of partisanship we find ourselves in, there must be some bright lines that can never be crossed — and violently overturning the results of a free and fair election must never be rebranded as legitimate discourse.
CORRECTION: An initial version of this editorial stated Sen. Dan Sullivan had not yet offered comment on the RNC’s resolution; he has done so.