Press: Clubbing cops is not ‘legitimate political discourse’

Abraham Lincoln was only 28 years old, a young lawyer in Springfield, Ill., when he gave one of the most important speeches in his life and made one of his most profound reflections on the survival of our democracy. Right at the top of what became known as his “Lyceum Address,” in addressing “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions,” Lincoln raised the question of where the danger to our democracy might someday come from. “If it ever reach us,” he declared, “it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.”  

No words could more accurately describe what happened on Jan. 6, when the greatest threat to our democracy since the Civil War came — not from foreign invaders — but from an armed mob of MAGA zealots sicced on Congress by a power-mad president as the climax of his efforts to overturn an election and destroy our democracy. 

Nor could any words more accurately describe what happened last week in Salt Lake City, when the Republican National Committee (RNC) adopted a resolution censuring two Republican members of Congress — Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — for serving on the House select committee investigating Jan. 6. The RNC condemned Cheney and Kinzinger for “participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in” — and here’s the key phrase: engaged in “legitimate political discourse.” 

Calling the violent attack on the Capitol “legitimate political discourse” defies belief. We know what happened. We saw it live on television. As described by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) in his new book “Unthinkable,” we saw the mob “taunt, push, shove, punch, gouge, scratch, spray, smash, jab, and harass the U.S. Capitol Police force.”  

And when it was over, Raskin continues, the insurrectionists left “at least five people dead (with several more to come by suicide of officers) and more than 140 officers wounded and injured, many of them hospitalized with traumatic brain injuries, concussions, broken arms, broken legs, broken ribs, broken vertebrae, black eyes, broken noses, lost fingers, broken necks, broken jaws, post-traumatic stress syndrome and every manner of emotional and psychological damage.” Only the sickest mind could label such violent assault on police officers “legitimate political discourse.” 

And make no mistake about it. The RNC was not just speaking, as its feckless chair Ronna McDaniel tried to claim, about a handful of peaceful protestors who remained outside the building. Read the language of the resolution. It makes no such distinction. The RNC is dismissing the actions of everybody who participated in the sacking of the Capitol — including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, and QAnon followers — as “legitimate political discourse.” 

Shocked at how far the RNC will go to please Donald Trump by downplaying the violence of Jan. 6, several leading Republicans — including Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Bill Cassidy (La.), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and former RNC Chair Michael Steele — rushed to condemn the RNC’s action. The National Review called it “both morally repellent and politically self-destructive.” 

But the damage has already been done. In reality, the Republican Party barely exists anymore. Certainly not the party of Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. They’re no longer the “law-and-order” party. They’re no longer the party of ideas. They don’t even have a party platform. Today’s Republican Party’s nothing more than a quasi-religious personality cult. Much like Italy under Mussolini (except Mussolini had a better hair job). 

Donald Trump has forced Republicans to choose between being “pro-democracy Republicans” and “anti-democracy Republicans.” Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are on the right side. 

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”  

Tags Adam Kinzinger Bill Cassidy Capitol police Censure Donald Trump Jamie Raskin Jan. 6 capitol riot Lisa Murkowski Liz Cheney Mitt Romney political discourse RNC Ronna McDaniel

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