Republicans have been particularly prescient in pointing out and denouncing the dangers of the “cancel culture” of the left, which is severely inhibiting free speech in academia, the entertainment world, the media and the body politic.
Now, however, some elements of the Republican Party are attempting to impose their own version of cancel culture, by attempting to read out of the party anyone who voted for former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE’s impeachment in the House or his conviction in the Senate. Driven by self-righteousness and zeal, they seemingly are unaware (or are uncaring) of how much their proposed purge emulates the misguided policies of the political left.
Let me be clear: I supported Trump’s reelection and, although I thought he acted irresponsibly from Election Day through the horrors of Jan. 6, I would have voted against impeachment and conviction if I had not retired from the House of Representatives or if I had been a member of the Senate. As indefensible as Trump’s actions and inaction were, I did not believe they rose to an impeachable level. But that was a judgment call — a very close call, unlike the Ukraine impeachment in late 2019 and early 2020, which I believe clearly was politically driven. There also were legitimate questions regarding the constitutionality or the purpose of impeaching a president who is out of office and the precedent that would be set.
I certainly understand and respect why thoughtful Republicans such as Reps. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyTrump sues Jan. 6 panel to block records A pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Liz Cheney is the Margaret Chase Smith of our time MORE (R-Wyo.) and Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerKinzinger defends not supporting voting rights act: 'Democrats have to quit playing politics' Sunday shows preview: Supply chain crisis threaten holiday sales; uncertainty over whether US can sustain nationwide downward trend in COVID-19 cases Illinois Democrats propose new 'maximized' congressional map MORE (R-Ill.) voted to impeach and Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Americans blame politicians, social media for spread of misinformation: poll MORE (R-La.) voted to convict. Their decisions could not have been easy. I know each of them to be thoughtful, conscientious and patriotic.
Now, the concerted attempts to purge them and their colleagues by state party censure resolutions and primary challenges make Republicans appear to be a party of personality cult rather than a party of independent thought and ideas.
Similarly, Trump’s verbal declaration of war against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money — Democrats tee up Senate spending battles with GOP The Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight Treasury to use extraordinary measures despite debt ceiling hike MORE (R-Ky.) and McConnell allies this week is entirely nonproductive.
Not only is all of this a vendetta policy that is philosophically and intellectually vacuous, but it is politically misguided — creating a circular firing squad which can only serve the purposes of the left. History shows how counterproductive this can be. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt made his purge attempt in 1938 against fellow Democrats who he thought to be insufficiently supportive of his New Deal programs, he was unsuccessful in mounting challenges to them in the party’s primaries and the Democrats suffered overwhelming defeats in that November’s elections.
The stakes are too high for Republicans from any wing of the party to support only candidates who satisfy their philosophical purity test.
Strong national defense. Tax relief. Support for the police and the military. Conservative judges. Traditional values. These are all beliefs which Republicans and a majority of Americans share. Unity behind those beliefs and values is the Republican path to victory in 2022 and 2024.
It‘s time for the self-righteous purists to knock it off. Too much is at stake. Disunity within the party caused by a cancel culture mentality will lead us toward totally unnecessary defeats. Let’s stop the Republican fratricide.
Peter King retired in January as the U.S. representative of New York’s 2nd Congressional District. He served 28 years in Congress, including as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.