For those who haven’t been keeping up with the Congressional Clown Car, a quick update:
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created a special committee to investigate the Jan. 6 — take your pick — mostly peaceful protest/riot/insurrection.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appointed five Republicans to the 12-member committee, including Jim Banks of Indiana’s Third District.
Pelosi rejected two of them, including Banks, because (in the words of more than one news account) they “had voted to overturn President Joe Biden’s election” and it therefore would be ludicrous to expect them to be objective.
McCarthy then announced that Republicans would boycott the whole process.
Imagine, members of Congress participating in a congressional investigation not being objective.
If I may, an interpretation of what is going on: Pelosi wants the committee to declare that Trump is an evil man whose anarchic followers want to destroy everything this country stands for. McCarthy wants Trump to be seen as the heroic victim of a rigged system run by statist zealots who want to destroy everything this country stands for.
That analysis seems indisputable to me, but I can hear the shouts of dissent from across the great divide. Democrats are supporting the fairness of elections and defending the Constitution. Republicans are supporting the integrity of elections and defending the Constitution.
I don’t mind the pathological partisanship. Well, actually I do, but I accept it as an unavoidable force animating today’s politics.
But I wish we could at least agree to argue about the right thing.
President Trump did not, in point of fact, ask Vice President Mike Pence to reject the electoral votes resulting from the November balloting, therefore Banks and the other Trump-supporting nominee (Jim Jordan of Ohio) were not supporting efforts to “overturn the election.”
The Constitution gives states the authority over the selection of electoral votes, based on state legislatures’ duly authorized procedures. In several states, notably ones Trump lost by dubious margins or under suspicious circumstances, governors or election officials ignored those procedures and made up new rules on the fly.
Legislators from some of the states asked — formally, in letters — for more time so they could determine whether the illegal conduct was enough reason to toss the existing certification of electors and submit new slates more accurately reflecting the states’ votes.
There is not a consensus among constitutional scholars over what powers the vice president might or might not have over electoral disputes, so we can have a legitimate and (we can only hope) respectful debate over the issue. But to be clear: He was being asked to give those legislatures more time. He wasn’t being asked to overturn anything.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not claiming the election was stolen or even that there was massive fraud, and won’t unless there is compelling evidence. I’m saying there were actions bound to make reasonable people suspect the election wasn’t honest.
And maintaining trust in our election process should be important to everyone. This is, or should be, about more than Donald Trump, even for the most partisan Democrat.
In fairness, I would add that Republicans looking to the future should also be careful about not making everything about one man, making Trump a cult hero merely because the other side paints him as the devil incarnate.
Banks is the new chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a powerful House group tasked with charting the GOP’s future. Trump was by no stretch of the imagination a conservative, but his agenda championed many conservative ideas, and he build a solid record of accomplishment on those ideas. But he was too brash and unorthodox to survive his success.
The conservative ideas still remain, however. They are worth defending and advocating, and they are the most deserving of Banks’ main focus. The side with the best ideas should win, not the side better able to wage a war of personalities.
And that will still be true long after the echoes of Jan. 6 have faded.
Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.