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Political purists bring 'cancel culture' to the Republican Party

Political purists bring 'cancel culture' to the Republican Party
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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 TrumpBiden to sign executive order aimed at increasing voting access Albany Times Union editorial board calls for Cuomo's resignation Advocates warn restrictive voting bills could end Georgia's record turnout 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.

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I certainly understand and respect why thoughtful Republicans such as Reps. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyMarjorie Taylor Greene's delay tactics frustrate GOP Paul Ryan to host fundraiser for Cheney amid GOP tensions Republicans, please save your party MORE (R-Wyo.) and Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerMarjorie Taylor Greene's delay tactics frustrate GOP Republicans, please save your party House GOP campaign chief: Not helpful for Trump to meddle in primaries MORE (R-Ill.) voted to impeach and Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyTrump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC Republicans, please save your party Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra 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 McConnellBiden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package GOP votes in unison against COVID-19 relief bill Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote 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.

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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.