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John Nichols: Tiffany, Fitzgerald and Johnson are just as guilty as Trump

John Nichols: Tiffany, Fitzgerald and Johnson are just as guilty as Trump

FBI warns of plans for nationwide armed protests next week (copy) (copy)

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol, in Washington. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Members of Congress began their terms on Jan. 3 by swearing an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Within days of pledging to “bear true faith and allegiance” to that oath, however, dozens of those members embraced the agenda of a president who incited mobs to attack the U.S. Capitol in a violent attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

These are the facts of what happened on Jan. 6. The question, now, is whether members of Congress — Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives — who respect their oaths of office will respond appropriately to colleagues who aligned themselves with the American fascists who stormed the Capitol in an attack that led to death, destruction and the interruption to the certification of Joe Biden’s election as president.

What U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, accurately describes as “an ugly and deadly act of domestic terrorism” occurred on Jan. 6. The congresswoman reminds us that “the actions of these violent looters at the Capitol were incited by Donald Trump in concert with numerous of his close, radical, right-wing Republican friends.”

And the incitement did not end when forces loyal to the republic finally forced the mob out of the Capitol. On Wednesday evening, eight senators and 139 representatives voted to sustain one or both of the objections to the election results that were under consideration when the Trump supporters attacked.

“Amidst all this misinformation driven chaos, destruction and violence, and despite strong opposition from Senate Leader Mitch McConnell,” Moore said in a statement, “(the Republican senators and representatives) voted not to certify election results in an attempt to install Trump as America’s first non-democratically elected leader since the American Revolution.”

Among the 139 representatives who joined what is being referred to as “the sedition caucus” were Wisconsin Republicans Tom Tiffany and Scott Fitzgerald. While other Republicans and all the Democrats in the Wisconsin delegation rejected challenges to entirely legitimate election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania, Tiffany and Fitzgerald embraced the lies and conspiracy theories that animated the mob.

Their votes were so shameful that two of the state’s largest newspapers, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal, called for the resignations of Tiffany and Fitzgerald, as well as Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. Though Johnson joined Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in rejecting the objections on Wednesday night, Johnson had spent months amplifying the worst of the conspiracy theories and whipping up the furor.

Unfortunately, calling on members of “the sedition caucus” to resign is an empty gesture. These career politicians are no more likely to respond to a demand that they do the right thing than is the president.

The House is moving to impeach Trump, as is appropriate and necessary considering the threat he continues to pose. But what of representatives who have done every bit as much harm as Trump?

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution mandates, in Section 3, that, “No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Section 5 of the amendment declares, “The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

Missouri Rep. Cori Bush, a newly-elected Democrat who takes seriously her oath of office, is now proposing the appropriate legislation, in the form of “a resolution to investigate and expel the members who attempted to overturn the presidential election and incited a white supremacist coup attempt.”

Specifically, Bush’s resolution directs the Committee on House Administration and the Committee on Ethics “to investigate, and issue a report on, whether those members of the House who have sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election have violated their oath of office to uphold the Constitution or the rules of the House of Representatives and should face sanction, including removal from the House of Representatives.”

Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, a Town of Vermont Democrat, is a cosponsor of Bush’s legislation, as are many of the House’s other prominent progressives. Even with that support, it will be challenging to hold Trump’s co-conspirators to account. House leaders in both parties are cautious about sanctioning their own. Already, Republicans and some Democrats are peddling nonsense about the need to “heal” — as if healing can occur without accountability.

There will be suggestions that the Republicans who objected to the certification of the results were merely standing by their party’s president. But that insults the Republicans who had the courage and the foresight to distance themselves from Trump when he urged on what Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul has referred to as “a fascist riot incited by a lame-duck president desperately and illegitimately trying to cling to power.”

That’s an absurd defense. As former Republican President Theodore Roosevelt said a century ago, “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country.”

Trump did not stand by the country, he harmed it, grievously, and he threatens to do more harm. For this, he must be held to account, as must his all too willing co-conspirators.

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. jnichols@madison.com and @NicholsUprising. 

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Unfortunately, calling on members of “the sedition caucus” to resign is an empty gesture. These career politicians are no more likely to respond to a demand that they do the right thing than is the president.

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