RICHMOND — Many things in the political world are puzzling, but one of the most curious is the inability of Republicans to accept that their confreres have a right to think. A right to vote as each sees it, that is.
So, North Carolina Republicans censure their own Sen. Richard Burr because he voted to convict the former president. And Wyoming Republicans censured Liz Cheney because she voted to impeach the then-president. In Louisiana, Sen. Bill Cassidy was censured by the Republican Legislature because he decided the ex-president was guilty.
In Utah, however, where the trial created a split, the Republican Party issued a statement about the health of diversity, supporting the totally logical idea that it was fine for their senators, Mitt Romney and Mike Lee, to go their opposite ways on the vote. How amazing — but should it be?
Lockstep voting in legislatures might be mandatory in an authoritarian government under Big Brother. Otherwise, some of the best decisions are made when people don’t agree and talk it through to an answer that the opponents can live with.
A very small example comes to mind.
As a selectman in Richmond, I served for a while with two civic-minded men who did not always agree with each other or with me. My kids were in elementary school and must have been introduced to parliamentary procedure because they wanted to know if the three of us selectmen sat around a table and made motions and seconded them — or what. They could not picture three people, usually alone in the room, going through such formalities.
We didn’t, in fact, say “I move” or “second.” On anything that needed to be formally recorded, the minutes noted our stances. But, we were able to hash stuff out until we agreed on something that would work for the town — and be acceptable for each of us. It was not a tug of war — it was a discussion with a workable conclusion. But, Republican committees across the country have dug in their heels to harshly criticize their senators, basically because they didn’t fall into line.
Susan Collins was chided in Maine by the Republican bosses, and she reminded them that she had more votes than the president they were defending. They called her service to Mainers “unrivaled,” but were still moved to announce her wrongdoing in voting for impeachment.
Collins mentioned her Republican heritage going back to her great-great-grandfather and said, “The decisions I made in both trials were based on the Constitution and the evidence before me, not on my membership in a political party or any other external factor.” So, there.
In Nebraska, Sen. Ben Sasse was censured for voting to convict. He commented, “The anger’s always been simply about me not bending the knee to one guy.” Previously criticized by Republican leadership at home for not backing the former president enough, he said, “Politics isn’t about the weird worship of one dude.”
In Wyoming, some Republican committees wanted Cheney to resign, some requested that she return money invested in her campaign. She countered with a sane statement about upholding the Constitution and her oath of office.
And in Sen. Adam Kinzinger’s case, it was even worse: A bunch of his cousins have shunned him for his impeachment vote, 11 of them signing a letter calling him “a disappointment to us and to God” and proclaiming it is “embarrassing” to be related. Publicly, he’s shrugged that off.
Obviously, the way to deal with politicians who don’t agree with you is to run against them. With any of the above, that might be a formidable undertaking, so the state party guys scold as if these were their subjects and they could ground them for the weekend.
Oddly, those who want the former president exonerated for what they considered his right to freedom of speech are first in line to censure their confreres for freedom of thought and vote.