Apparently, Adam Kinzinger’s family hates him now. Alexander Hamilton would not be surprised.
Like many in the generation of America’s founding, he saw political parties as something that “grows naturally out of the rival passions of Men” — but also as a threat to national cohesion. He called them a popular government’s “most common and ... most fatal disease.” Thomas Jefferson concurred. “I am no believer in the amalgamation of parties,” he said. And George Washington warned of their “baneful effects.” All feared the day loyalty to factions would supersede — or, if you will, trump — loyalty to the nation and its interests.
That that day is well and truly upon us is something to which Kinzinger, a six-term Republican representative from Illinois, could readily attest. After calling for Donald Trump’s removal from office for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 rampage at the Capitol, he was sent an extraordinary letter by members of his family, who pronounced themselves “thoroughly disgusted” with him. The letter, published this week by The New York Times, begins as follows:
“Oh my, what a disappointment you are to us and to God! We were once so proud of your accomplishments! Instead, you go against your Christian principals (sic) and join ‘the devil’s army’ (Democrats and the fake news media.)”
It doesn’t get better from there.
Kinzinger, it should be pointed out, is no flaming liberal. He opposes reproductive rights and the Affordable Care Act and supports Trump’s border wall and massive tax cut. But his fatal deviation from orthodoxy was to be clear-eyed and true about Trump’s manifest unfitness. He later joined nine other House Republicans in voting for impeachment.
Though most have thus far been spared the indignity of public rebuke by their own kin, those 10 representatives — along with the seven GOP senators who supported Trump’s conviction — have found themselves berated, condemned and even formally censured by their own party. What some of us see as moral courage, Republicans view as treason against the One. Pennsylvania party official David Ball perhaps said more than he knew when he said of apostate GOP senator Pat Toomey, “We did not send him there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to do the right thing . . .”
It is instructive to note that, as this is going on, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, once lionized for offering straight talk about the pandemic while the White House was speaking babble, is being slammed for charges that his administration underreported COVID-19 fatalities for political purposes. Much of the incoming fire is from fellow Democrats.
Which invites a stark, if obvious, comparison. One party is willing to hold its hero to account for a self-serving lie. The other is unwilling to do so even after he nearly got many of them killed.
Cults are notoriously difficult to define. One woman’s cult, after all, is another’s religion. But if the word has any meaning, surely it applies here, to people so slavishly devoted to one man that they’ll abandon family, conscience and country on his behalf. We are told that 120 former Republican officials recently met to discuss formation of a new center-right party. For their country’s sake, one hopes they hurry.
Because the danger the founders foresaw has come to chilling fruition in the moral rot of the GOP. More than Islamic radicals or Russian bots, these people are a clear and present danger. And the reason is simple. They believe in Donald Trump, which means they do not believe in America.
One wonders if they ever really did.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. firstname.lastname@example.org