“Legitimate Political Discourse”

The Republican National Committee on February 3, 2022 adopted a resolution condemning fellow Republicans Liz Cheney (R, Wyoming) and Adam Kinzinger (R, Illinois) because that are serving on the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attempted insurrection. The Republican National Committee said “Cheney and Kinzinger are participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.” (Emphasis added.)

Even in the Trump Era of Republican politics, that’s an extraordinary characterization of a a full-blown attempt the overthrow the American government. But let’s follow it through.

“The Five Representatives Who Were Wounded in House Shooting Yesterday,” New York Times, March 2, 1954, p. 16

The last group to violently invade the Capitol involved Puerto Rican separatists. On March 1, 1954, four Puerto Rican nationalists fired shots from the visitors’ gallery in the House of Representatives of the United States Capitol during a full floor debate, wounding five Congressmen, one seriously. All four attackers were charged with sedition, tried and convicted in federal court and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Of course, those were Puerto Ricans, e.g. they had brown skins, and the 2021 insurrectionists had white skins. But would the Republican National Committee agree those independence-loving Puerto Ricans were engaged in “legitimate political discourse”? The 2021 carnage was much worse: seven people died in connection with the attack, and 140 police officers were injured. Was the attempted assassination in 1954 “legitimate political discourse”? No?

The United States Capitol after the burning of Washington, D.C. in the War of 1812. Watercolor and ink depiction by George Munger from 1814, restored.

Before that, the last group to violently visit the Capitol was the British Army, who on August 24, 1814, invaded “Washington City” and burned a number of public buildings, including the Capitol. The Superintendent of the Public Buildings of the City of Washington, Thomas Munroe, concluded that the loss to the Capitol amounted to $787,163.28. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $12.5 million today. The British were more civilized than the 2021 insurrectionists; there were no reported injuries or deaths involved in the British invasion. Were the British engaged in “legitimate political discourse”? Was the burning of many of the public buildings by the British “legitimate political discourse”? No?

The RNC resolution was too much for U.S. Senate Minority Leader and former Hypocrite of the Year Mitch McConnell. He announced on February 8, “It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next. That’s what it was.” But then WC has seen gaffed halibut that didn’t flop around as much at Mitch McConnell.

Senator Mitt Romney also had mild criticism for the Republican National Committee Chairwoman, who is his niece, Ronna McDaniel. “It could not have been a more inappropriate message. One, to sanction people of character as they did. But number two, to suggest that a violent attack on the seat of democracy is legitimate political discourse is so far from accurate.”

If violence has become “legitimate public discourse” then a stick a fork in the United States. We’re done.