Standing at the Alamo of Decency and Democracy

Published: February 4, 2021

By Jim Lichtman
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According to folklore, a man approached the Jewish sage Hillel the Elder with a proposal: If he could explain the principles of his faith in a single sentence the man would convert to Judaism.

Hillel responded, “What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow man; this is the whole Law the rest is mere commentary.”

During the attack on the Capitol on January 6, Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was struck and killed by a fire extinguisher thrown by one of the insurgents. In a rare honor, Sicknick’s remains were placed in the Capitol dome Tuesday evening for a memorial service.

“Blessed are the peacekeepers like Brian,” Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer said. “Let us be the peacekeepers now in his memory.”

There is little evidence of peace or the Golden Rule on Capitol Hill.

During the attack, hundreds of insurrectionists walked through the halls and offices looking for Congressmembers. Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told a harrowing story of hiding in her office bathroom as she heard attackers pounding on doors shouting, “Where is she?”

“I thought I was going to die,” Ocasio-Cortez told a reporter.

Illinois Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger called the attack on the Capitol “a coup attempt,” and has spoken out in the past about Trump’s behavior most of which has fallen on the deaf ears of his colleagues. He is one of only 10 Republicans to vote for the former president’s impeachment.

Offended with the direction his colleagues are taking, Kinzinger started a political action committee. “The ‘Country 1st’ PAC, unveiled in a six-minute video released Sunday, will challenge the current direction of a GOP that Kinzinger says has wrongly become a ‘Trump-first party’ to the detriment of the nation, as seen by the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol,” an ABC news affiliate in Chicago reports (Jan. 31).

“The Illinois congressman cited most Republicans’ seeming unwillingness to hold Trump accountable for his role in encouraging the violent protests, as well as the party’s support of lawmakers such as Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.”

While Taylor Greene has avoided accountability from her own party for her “looney lies,” as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calls them, Congresswoman Liz Cheney’s fate is being decided by Republican leadership because she chose conscience over cowardice in voting to impeach Trump.

Just like the wild fights in the streets of Verona between the Capulets and Montagues, Republicans are divided into two camps: those who continue to support Donald Trump and those who oppose but remain largely silent. However, unlike the prince in Romeo and Juliet who stood as the ultimate arbiter threatening death to whomever breaks the peace, Republican leadership has ceded its authority to the reprobate at Mar-a-Lago.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is now so wedded to Trump that after his comments of condemnation of Trump’s incitement, he reversed himself and flew down to Florida to make amends. Now, he refuses to take any action against holding Greene accountable for her contemptible words and theories lest he offend the mouth that determines his fate.

At the opposite end of the integrity spectrum stands Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney.

“Cheney,” The New York Times writes (Feb. 3), “the No. 3-ranking Republican in the House, is the most visible and imperiled target of the pro-Trump majority in the G.O.P., which wants to make actions like hers a disqualifying offense for any party member seeking office.”

That’s right. You now must take a loyalty oath or face banishment.

However, as Cheney discovered, “…many more Republicans share her disgust with how seriously Mr. Trump undermined confidence in the country’s electoral system.

“As she watched Mr. Trump and his supporters peddle conspiracy theories and promote what she called ‘the big lie,’ Ms. Cheney became deeply unsettled by how many of her colleagues seemed so cavalier about Mr. Trump’s actions…. She was also bothered by the way Republicans cheered and mimicked the kind of behavior she expected of a foreign authoritarian leader but never from an American president.”

The GOP has an identity crisis on its hands: Greene on one hand, Cheney on the other; one believes in “looney lies,” the other demonstrates loyalty to principle..

Kinzinger and Cheney are the most vocal Republicans standing at the Alamo of decency and democracy. Brian Sicknick gave his life for that democracy.

If Trump Republicans have an ounce of morality, they should stand under the same dome where Brian Sicknick was honored Tuesday evening and contemplate who they want to be: a model of democratic leadership or a sycophant to a demagogue.

As Rep. Adam Kinzinger indicates, “They’re waiting to see if Trump collapses, and then if he does, they’ll be like, ‘I’ve never been with Trump, ever.’ ”

As Hillel the Elder said centuries ago, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”


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