Normalizing Political Violence

In their censure of Cheney and Kinzinger the GOP wants to rewrite history.

A clause in the Republican National Committee’s censure of Representatives Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) explicitly classifies the 1/6 investigation thusly: “a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

This is stunning.

To be clear: the committee in question is investigating the insurrectionist riot that took place on the grounds of the US Capitol wherein a mob disrupted the formal process of counting the electoral votes.

It was decidedly not “legitimate political discourse” and to attempt and recast it as such is to valorize a violent disruption of a constitutional process. This is not hyperbole; it is an empirical description of what happened on that day.

This is one of our two (and we only have two) viable political parties describing, in an official document, the events of January 6, 20121 as I fear must repeat, “legitimate political discourse.”

This is damaging to the very fabric of democracy. It is a set of Republican leaders deciding that because there could be negative political fallout from a thorough investigation of political violence aimed at the US Congress during a constitutionally mandated procedure that they would rather redefine (that is, lie about) the events of 1/6.

There is no fidelity to the truth here.

There is no allegiance to democratic discourse.

It is worth remembering that the events of that day were clearly violent and full of illegality. Further, they were bad enough that Fox News personalities were sending texts to Trump administration officials begging them to get Trump to call off the mob. The events were bad enough that many GOP politicians and allies attempted to immediately try and deflect any association with their supporters by claiming the violence was from Antifa.

Moreover, people like Lindsay Graham and Kevin McCarthy initially were so shaken that they condemned the mob and Trump himself. Now, all of that is to be memory-holed and Cheney and Kinzinger are to be censured for participating in an investigation of the events of that day after GOP leadership decided that they wanted nothing to do with any kind of actual fact-finding about those events. I would remind us all that the Senate GOP filibustered legislation to create a bipartisan commission to study that day.

This is a further shameful, distrurbing, and reckless act by the Republican Party as it relates to January 6th.

Also, for the record, let me remind again:

It has become cliché to talk of gaslighting, but this ongoing attempt to try and make us all forget the events of 1/6/21 feels like gaslighting in the extreme.

And statements like this one are just more dissembling (via the NYT):

“Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger crossed a line,” Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, said in a statement. “They chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.”

But, as the NYT report notes in regards to McDaniel’s attempt to parse:

the censure, which was carefully negotiated in private among party members, made no such distinction, nor is the House committee investigating the attack examining any normal political debate. It was the latest and most forceful effort by the Republican Party to minimize what happened and the broader attempt by Mr. Trump and his allies to invalidate the results of the 2020 election. In approving it and opting to punish two of its own, Republicans seemed to embrace a position that many of them have only hinted at: that the assault and the actions that preceded it were acceptable.

And, I would note, her Ms. McDaniel’s uncle sees the censure for what it is:

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, wrote on Twitter, “Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol. Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.”

These are decidely difficult times for American democracy.

FILED UNDER: Democracy, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. CSK says:

    McDaniel–or someone–will excuse what she said on the grounds that she was referring only to those people who assembled to hear Trump’s speech, not the Capitol mob.

    Bet on it.

  2. @CSK: I think that was the exact intent of her statement.

  3. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Well, if they all went home after the speech, how then are they being persecuted?

  4. @CSK: I am not defending her–I am agreeing with your assessment, and more specifically stating that she is trying to pretend like the 1/6 commission is going after people who never went to the capitol.

  5. @CSK: Put another way: her positions nonsencial and indefensible.

  6. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Oh, I didn’t think you were defending her. It was a rhetorical question.

  7. Ken_L says:

    I noted this story last week:

    The Senate Republicans’ campaign and fundraising arm is launching a new podcast — with Donald Trump as its debut guest and donor lure.

    It’s past time for expressing surprise that the Republican Party is endorsing the January 6 riot. It’s very obviously the Trump Republican Party now; a movement that backs 100% the claim that Trump won the 2020 election and the protesters on January 6 were doing no more than expressing their justifiable outrage that Congress wasn’t going to “stop the steal”. The handful of Republican members of Congress who still dissent from this position are a small and shrinking minority in the party. I’ve not seen even one Republican rebuke for Trump’s call for his supporters to stage the biggest protest ever if he is indicted for white collar crimes.

    America is in an unprecedented situation. It’s not easy to see how things don’t continue to fall apart. The best long-term hope is that the Trump Republican Party fragments and collapses into in-fighting following Trump’s death or incapacity. The readiness with which members of the movement attack any perceived disloyalty provides some reason to think it’s not a vain hope. However the Democrats have their own problems of cohesion and purpose, meaning America might end up with a two party system and no viable national parties.

  8. Dude Kembro says:


    However the Democrats have their own problems of cohesion and purpose, meaning America might end up with a two party system and no viable national parties.

    America’s primary problem is this false equivalency.

    Although you are correct to deplore Republicans selling out to Trump, there is no good faith comparison between Democratic congressional unity on combating climate change and helping familes with healthcare and childcare, save for two corrupt and dishonest senators, vs. Republicans normalizing Trump’s incitement of a mob, to assassinate his vice-president based on sore loser election lies.

    Our democratic republic is on the line, so we all need to cut our intellectually lazy bOtHsiDeSiS crap until after 2024.

  9. DK says:

    @CSK: The contrast between Republicans and Democrats could not be more stark, after the RNC’s bizarre and dangerous censure statement.

    It seems to truly upset Republicans and the media to see America winning thanks to vaccines, Biden’s Recovery Act, and the infrastructure bill. Yet again a Democratic president is fixing Republican economic disaster — this time overcoming far right extremist lies, hate, obstruction, and antivaxxing to do it.

    Meanwhile, our fascist GQP is in disarray: book banningd and burnings, defending the Jan 6 terrorists, a War on Schools, and another Texas power outage (albeit smaller). To vote Republican right now is to vote against America.

  10. drj says:

    A quibble:

    It was decidedly not “legitimate political discourse”

    Depends on one’s perspective:

    I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice!

    If an America-hating minority* wants to destroy the country then 1/6 is a reasonable response.

    * To wit: “silent majority,” “moral majority,” “real America,” and if all else fails “a republic, not a democracy.”

    What I’m saying is that these people do not share our reality. Not because they are unable to, but because they don’t want to. It’s too uncomfortable.

    Rather than admitting that their political preferences are no longer popular, they redefine who “the People” are, because, for them, that’s way better than to either give up power or change with the times.

  11. Fog says:

    We owe the RNC a debt of gratitude. The day before yesterday, there was debate, opinion, and no small degree of confusion over the future of the GOP. Today we have clarity and a bright line. Making Donald Trump the officially sanctioned voice of the Republican Party is an epic own-goal. He doesn’t have the brains to keep his mouth shut for anything, so the next few weeks should be very interesting.

  12. Matt Bernius says:

    Sarah Long well on Twitter:

    I was disagreeing with a friend about politics last night. I got so annoyed that I bear-sprayed him and beat him with a flagpole. I was surprised when he objected since we were obviously engaging in legitimate political discourse.

  13. Scott F. says:

    @Matt Bernius:
    I can think of numerous GOP pols who would benefit from experiencing legitimate political discourse good and hard.

  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    …her positions nonsencial and indefensible.

    And even so, 40-some% of the population will agree with her, even if only to support their party. Yeah, it’s definitely broken.

  15. dazedandconfused says:

    The relationship between Trump and the RNC reminds of the one that existed between Don King and the Nevada State Boxing Commission.