One of the biggest defenses from Republicans who voted not to certify the 2020 presidential election is that they were just trying to start a debate about “voter fraud.” Nothing more, nothing less.
In this reading of the matter, these conservatives were not traitorous insurrectionists, but decent public servants trying to raise awareness about a key issue. Everyone from our own Rep. Mike Garcia to Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley has tried to hide behind this line of argument.
However, even if you assume they are telling the truth, their actions still represent one of the greatest acts of political cowardice in American history. During the three months following the election, President Donald Trump falsely stated that victory was stolen from him by radical Democrats who rigged the vote count and other processes. He was, in essence, accusing the left of staging a coup, an illegitimate takeover of the White House.
In any democracy, there is no more serious allegation that can be made. As anyone who has taken civics knows, the legitimacy of a democratic government rests on the consent of the governed — in other words, that the will of the people is what places leaders in office.
Politicians who come to power by other, unethical means, cannot be said to have genuine authority. We rightfully refer to them as tyrants. Trump’s basic argument was the incoming Joe Biden administration, through voter fraud, fell under this category.
That reckless, unfounded claim was like a wrecking ball at our civic life, an invitation to chaos and disorder. In recent years, we have seen throughout the globe, in places like Belarus, Iran and Russia, the violent upheavals that occur when citizens believe their country is being stolen from them.
The former president, by falsely stoking this sentiment from the White House, was openly threatening our collective stability.
What we needed from congressional Republicans was principled leadership in this crisis. Instead, they stayed quiet, then voted to decertify the election, all in the name of starting a “debate” about the matter.
Each of these decisions were unforgivable. By not speaking out against the MAGA attempt to undermine democracy, conservatives inherently gave their support to the effort.
Silence is complicity, as the old saying goes.
Furthermore when an authoritarian president starts spewing nonsense about massive voter fraud, the proper response isn’t to have a debate about the allegations in Congress. For, by doing so, the GOP implied Trump’s lies were credible enough to deserve serious consideration.
The last time America faced such grave danger to its democratic institutions was during the secession crisis of 1860, when the South tried to overthrow the republic in the service of slavery.
Imagine if Abraham Lincoln, instead of offering his beautiful mind in defense of the Union, told folks, “Let’s debate the merit of secession.”
There would be no statute of him in Washington if that had taken place, I can assure you. And there will be no statues of the Republicans who dishonored themselves during this time period, either.
Taken as a whole, the costs of all this corruption were unspeakably great. Trump, through his lies, brought the temper of his base to a boiling point. His party was unwilling to stop him and tell the truth — many indeed contributed to the chaos — and the domestic terrorism at the Capitol was the inevitable result.
When faced with a grave emergency, you’re supposed to speak up. Take action. Meet the moment. Not feebly play along as congressional Republicans so shamefully did.
After the dust settled, many on the right decried the harsh criticism they received for their actions.
Garcia has pointed to his war record to deflect from such attacks, writing on Facebook, “The lies from the far left are starting early in an effort to score political points. My condemning QAnon last year and the Jan. 6 riots isn’t enough truth for them. What else is to be expected from (Nancy) Pelosi’s groups who call a successful combat veteran a traitor and coward? It’s time to say enough is enough and ignore the lies.”
Yet, when confronted with such rhetoric, one must ask: what about the military heroism of officer Brian Sicknick, congressman? Like you, Mr. Sicknick was a decorated veteran, who served a crucial role as a staff sergeant in Afghanistan after 9/11.
He died soon after defending the Capitol. Does this hero not deserve consideration?
In this crisis, you have been criticized for your actions as a public servant, sir. Mr. Sicknick will never experience another criticism again, nor a holiday with beloved family and friends, the pleasures of Saturday morning, or the poignant comforts of old age.
May I suggest, in this dark hour of our country’s history, that it is his service that we need to honor, congressman. And we can do that by ensuring every Republican who contributed to the domestic terrorism of last January never serves another term in office again.
Joshua Heath is a Santa Clarita resident. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among local Democrats.