The lesson lawmakers should have learned after the riotous attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 is that violent words can incite violent acts. When lawmakers cross this line, the rebuke should come swiftly.
With the exceptions of Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, congressional Republicans have been troublingly silent on North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s inflammatory warning that there will be “bloodshed” if elections continue to be “rigged.” Cawthorn’s comments to supporters in late August blatantly perpetuated Donald Trump’s lie that the November 2020 presidential election was stolen. And Cawthorn even suggested he might join in a violent clash if it came to that.
“I will tell you, as much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all cost, there is nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American,” he said to supporters.
Cawthorn’s bombastic remarks are disturbing, as is the timing. Later this month, the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other extremists are expected to take part in a rally in Washington to demand “justice” for the hundreds of people who have been charged in connection with January’s insurrection.
GOP leadership has to come to grips that this isn’t benign. Recently, the editorial board of The Charlotte Observer wrote that Cawthorn’s actions have “moved from awful to alarming” and that “it’s time to pay attention again.” The newspaper also called on Republicans to “join Democrats in condemning Cawthorn and, in a bipartisan effort, censuring him in the U.S. House.”
And the newspaper cut to the heart of the matter, adding that “Cawthorn can no longer be dismissed as a silly Congressman braying from the mountains of North Carolina. His rhetoric is dangerous, not only to his party but his country.” Case in point. When a supporter asked Cawthorn when he was going to “call us to Washington again,” he said: “We have a few plans in motion I can’t make public right now, but this is something that we’re working on.”
Responsible voices who know that Jan. 6 was a dangerous moment in American history and should never want to see it repeated are too few in number and conviction. Cheney, a vice chair of the select committee investigating Jan. 6, said “every member ought to condemn that, and I’d like to see Leader (Kevin) McCarthy very clearly condemn it and explain how dangerous that is.” And in a tweet, Kinzinger, the other Republican on the committee, echoed Cheney’s sentiments. “This is insane. Based on a total lie. This must stop.”
Yes, it must stop and it is dangerous. But it won’t stop until GOP leadership puts the country ahead of politics. The collective hush from McCarthy and GOP leadership is further indication that our nation’s political polarization has tongue tied those who know the truth.
The Dallas Morning News