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Jan. 6th Hearings: A Lesson in Political Courage

Republicans everywhere should learn from those who paid a real price for standing up for the truth and the rule of law.
June 24, 2022
Jan. 6th Hearings: A Lesson in Political Courage
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 21: Former U.S. President Donald Trump is displayed on a screen during the fourth hearing on the January 6th investigation in the Cannon House Office Building on June 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. The bipartisan committee, which has been gathering evidence for almost a year related to the January 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, is presenting its findings in a series of televised hearings. On January 6, 2021, supporters of former President Donald Trump attacked the U.S. Capitol Building during an attempt to disrupt a congressional vote to confirm the electoral college win for President Joe Biden. (Photo by Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

I am a lifelong Republican. My parents and grandparents were as well, and they taught me that our party was defined by the principles of respect for the rule of law and faithful service to the Constitution.

The hearings of the House January 6th Committee, particularly this past Tuesday’s hearing, have been a master class in upholding those principles.

With calm integrity, Republican state and local election officials told the committee—and our country—how they withstood immense pressure from former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the will of the people in the 2020 election.

When they did the right thing and stood by the accurate results in their states, they and their families were harassed and threatened.

“It is painful to have friends who have been such a help to me turn on me with such rancor,” Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers said, quoting from a personal journal he kept at the time. “I do not want to be a winner by cheating.”

To a degree, every Republican can relate to the pressures they felt. After all, both Bowers and Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state of Georgia, testified that they had hoped Trump would win re-election. Bowers even said he would vote for Trump again if he were given the GOP nomination in 2024 for a race against Joe Biden. Such accommodations to the realities of party politics are complicated—but ultimately, relatable for many conservatives.

But there’s a time for normal political tug-of-war and there’s a time when bigger things are at stake. What’s at stake now is our democracy. So it’s time for all Republicans to find in themselves the kind of courage that was on display in that hearing room.

Quietly supporting the Jan. 6th Committee’s work is not enough. Privately knowing the difference between right and wrong is not enough.

Courage means speaking out loudly to counter the lies that are still being spread about the 2020 election. It means praising the witnesses who defended the rule of law at their personal expense. It means standing up for the integrity of future elections.

Now is the time for Republicans to put themselves on the record with strong support for democracy and the truth. This is not politics as usual. People’s lives are being put in danger.

And it’s not just elected officials or Republicans who have faced abuse. In heartbreaking testimony on Tuesday, Shaye Moss, a Georgia election worker, described a disinformation campaign against her and her family, including from the president himself.

As a result, Moss said she no longer introduces herself by name and can’t go to the grocery store. Her mother was told by the FBI that her home wasn’t safe. Her grandmother was confronted by an angry mob at her home.

“This turned my life upside down,” Moss said.

In their actions in November and December 2020, Moss and the three Republican officials who testified on Tuesday were each doing their part to uphold American democracy—to administer elections fairly and count the votes accurately. This commitment to the principles of the Constitution merits our praise and admiration.

They were simply doing their jobs and doing them well. That’s another principle that Republicans used to be able to say was part of the party DNA.

All four deserve better than a campaign of disinformation and bullying. They deserve our commendation and our protection. We should have their backs. As we should have the backs of the other state and local officials, and the countless volunteers, who run our elections—many of whom now report feeling unsafe in their jobs.

That means supporting candidates of both parties who believe in truth in elections. And for Republicans in particular, it means recognizing that our democracy is in grave danger, and that we have a special responsibility to save it.

We must once again embrace our principles of commitment to the rule of law and the Constitution. Our voices are the only tool powerful enough to counter the lies that seek to destroy our American system and put our communities at risk. We must use those voices now.

Christine Todd Whitman

Christine Todd Whitman is a former governor of New Jersey and administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush. She serves as the co-chair to States United Action. Twitter: @GovCTW.