Justin Thulin: In replacing Cheney, GOP chooses the Big Lie and power over truth and democracy

FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally in Washington. Arguments begin Tuesday, Feb. 9, in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump on allegations that he incited the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

On Wednesday the GOP voted to replace Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, as the No. 3 Republican leader because of Cheney’s confrontations with Donald Trump over the 2020 election.

Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, recently wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post, “The GOP is at a turning point. History is watching us” in which she makes the argument for truth, fidelity to the Constitution and the rule of law. She outlines the damaging consequences to the GOP and our country should the GOP continue to embrace the Big Lie:

“I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law. Each of us swears an oath before God to uphold our Constitution. The electoral college has spoken. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president’s arguments, and refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud.”

Cheney first recommends that we “support the ongoing Justice Department criminal investigations of the Jan. 6 attack. Those investigations must be comprehensive and objective; neither the White House nor any member of Congress should interfere.”

At the time of the insurrection, Cheney said, “The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack … There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

On Jan. 13, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy left no doubt in his public remarks. He said: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”

After the impeachment trial, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who nevertheless voted to acquit the former president — confirmed this reality: “Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty. … There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. … The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.”

As lead impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, asked, “if Trump’s seditious efforts to overturn the election were not an impeachable offense, what is?”

Trump’s acquittal by all Republicans except 10 representatives and seven senators (Mitt Romney voted to convict. Mike Lee voted to acquit.) after an unprecedented effort to overthrow U.S. democracy harshly exposes how surprisingly fragile our democracy is. Unfortunately, the threat to our democracy has not waned since Trump’s departure on Jan. 20.

Rather, the GOP, with a few notable exceptions, has embraced the Big Lie that the election was stolen to justify both further voter suppression and the changing of electoral rules making it easier for political officials to overrule the vote of citizens if they find the results not to their liking. In 43 states across the country, Republican lawmakers have proposed at least 250 laws that would limit mail, early in-person and Election Day voting with such constraints as stricter ID requirements, limited hours or narrower eligibility to vote absentee, according to data compiled as of Feb. 19 by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. Even more proposals have been introduced since then.

So, what can we citizens do to protect our democracy when our political leaders won’t?

Cheney recommends that “we must support a parallel bipartisan review by a commission with subpoena power to seek and find facts; it will describe for all Americans what happened. This is critical to defeat the misinformation and nonsense circulating in the press and on social media. No currently serving member of Congress — with an eye to the upcoming election cycle — should participate. We should appoint former officials, members of the judiciary and other prominent Americans who can be objective, just as we did after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The commission should be focused on the Jan. 6 attacks. The Black Lives Matter and antifa violence of last summer was illegal and reprehensible, but it is a different problem with a different solution.”

Cheney also recommends that we must “steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.” Instead, “Republicans need to stand for genuinely conservative principles such as the rule of law, limited government, strong national defense, and in prosperity and opportunity brought by low taxes and fiscally conservative policies.”

While some of us have policy differences with Cheney, we share a common concern for the threat to democracy that those who champion the Big Lie pose.

Unfortunately, this morning House Republicans ousted Cheney by using a voice vote. This means we don’t know how our representatives voted. This lack of transparency suggests that our Utah congressional representatives may think they can evade accountability. But they shouldn’t.

Our representatives need to state publicly whether they support the Big Lie and subservience to the MAGA cult leader or whether they support rule of law and American democracy. It appears that they don’t want to admit publicly and for the record that in voting against Cheney, they are voting against American democracy. It’s important to confirm whether this is true.

Call or email your congressional representative. Ask them how they voted and make them defend their vote if they voted against Cheney. If they voted against the long-term interests of democracy that Cheney is fighting to protect, then we must go to the ballot box in 2022 and vote them out. If we don’t, it’s on us. Because slowly, before our very eyes, democracy is dying in America.

Justin F. Thulin, M.D., is a dermatologist practicing in Salt Lake City.

Justin F. Thulin, M.D., is a dermatologist practicing in Salt Lake City.

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