By Ben Jealous
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is officially letting Americans know that it is more committed to former President Donald Trump than to democracy, the rule of law, and the truth.
Some people might say Republicans have been letting us know that ever since Donald Trump became the party’s standard-bearer in 2016. And there’s some truth to that. Even so, the party reached a new low on Feb. 4.
The RNC accused the congressional committee investigating the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol of “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.” It called the investigation an effort to “destroy President Trump.” And it formally censured the two Republican members of the committee, Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, cutting them off from any future support from the party.
This is disgusting. It is also dangerous.
Keep in mind that the insurrection was meant to stop Congress from confirming the results of the presidential election as they are required to do by the U.S. Constitution.
Keep in mind that members of Congress were targets. They could easily have been among the dead if U.S. Capitol Police had not kept violent attackers from reaching them.
And keep in mind that congressional Republicans had an opportunity to create and participate in a bipartisan commission to investigate what happened. But Republican leaders didn’t want an investigation that might reveal embarrassing truths about Trump, his allies, and some of their Republican colleagues. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell may have criticized the recent RNC resolution, but that doesn’t change the fact that he blocked the creation of a bipartisan commission to get at the truth.
Fortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi then moved to create a special House committee to investigate the insurrection. We should all be grateful for her leadership. We should all be grateful for the investigative work being carried out by the committee.
And we should all be grateful to Reps. Cheney and Kinzinger. No matter how strongly we may disagree with their conservative positions, they have modeled an important principle: Some things are more important than partisan politics—like democracy and the rule of law.
While the RNC resolution is disturbing, it’s not exactly surprising. Republican officials have desperately tried to deflect attention from the assault on our democracy by Trump, his lawyers, and his followers.
Republican officials have actively tried to disrupt efforts to learn the truth. And they have resorted to lawbreaking—refusing to respond to congressional subpoenas—to resist any effort to hold Trump and his henchmen accountable.
The latest RNC resolution is a sad indication of Trump’s grip on the GOP. It demonstrates how few elected officials are willing to stand up to Trump and his supporters, even when they are promoting harmful lies and conspiracy theories. One Republican member of Congress went so far as to defend the RNC’s resolution by equating the attack on the capital with racial justice protests that took place after the killing of George Floyd in 2020.
Meanwhile, Trump is talking about pardoning the insurrectionists if he gets reelected. And right-wing Republicans are telling us what they’ll do if they get congressional majorities in this year’s elections. Not only will they stop the investigation of Jan. 6. They will instead use their power to promote conspiracy theories about the elections and the COVID-19 pandemic and target their political opponents.
It’s an election year. We have been warned.
Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice in the Africana Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania where he teaches leadership. Jealous has decades of experience as a leader, coalition builder, campaigner for social justice and seasoned nonprofit executive. In 2008, he was chosen as the youngest-ever president and CEO of the NAACP. He is a graduate of Columbia University and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and he has taught at Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania.
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