Nebraska GOP Senator Breaks From Party Over ‘Legit Political Discourse’


This week, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) joined those who’ve been expressing outrage at a resolution passed by Republican Party officials that appeared to characterize at least some of the events of January 6 as “legitimate political discourse.” That resolution — a censure move targeting Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) for their participation in the House committee investigating the Capitol riot — claimed that Kinzinger and Cheney, as members of that panel, are “participating in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse” — which is a profoundly deceptive way to describe what’s going on here.

Even accepting the argument from Republican Party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel that the resolution’s language was not meant to refer to rioters who attacked the Capitol, the notion that Republican Party leaders are willing to gloss over the reality of January 6 to the point of essentially ignoring that brutal violence is itself disturbing. It points to a broader willingness to ultimately accept what happened — even though the day was marked by, among other things, hundreds of savage assaults on police officers and threats to the lives of top government officials. An unequivocal condemnation of these things shouldn’t be so difficult! Sasse, meanwhile, commented as follows:

‘January 6th was not ‘legitimate political discourse’ and I’ll say it again: It was shameful mob violence to disrupt a constitutionally-mandated meeting of Congress to affirm the peaceful transfer of power.’

A statement from McDaniel insisted that Cheney and Kinzinger “chose to join Nancy Pelosi in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens who engaged in legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol” — although the censure resolution itself made no such distinction between those with a hand in the violence and those without such a role. A party spokesperson pointed to a right-wing claim that most subpoenas from the committee don’t even relate to the violence in defense of McDaniel’s argument, but this assessment of the supposed lack of any meaningful relationship between most of the subpoena targets and the riot doesn’t appear to be correct. The idea seems to be that individuals involved in the January 6 rally in D.C. that immediately preceded the Capitol attack should be perceived as not having any connection to violence, but that’s simply not realistic. People went from the rally to the Capitol, and Trump — at the rally — called for a march to those premises.

Meanwhile, Cheney and Kinzinger aren’t fazed by the Republican Party’s decision to censure them. Censure merely constitutes a formal rebuke, anyway — it doesn’t have a considerable amount of substantive force. Cheney said that she does “not recognize those in my party who have abandoned the Constitution to embrace Donald Trump,” adding: “History will be their judge. I will never stop fighting for our constitutional republic. No matter what.”