The Future of Our Party
By Matthew Johnson
I write to all of you, my fellow Republicans and members of the Party of Lincoln, with a heavy heart and deep frustration as to the current state of our party.
In light of the attack on the Capitol, I feel as though it is my solemn obligation to share with you, my fellow patriots, what unfortunately appears to be an unpopular opinion.
President Trump violated his oath of office by inciting an insurrection designed to prevent a peaceful transfer of power. His failure to immediately call in the National Guard as rioters ransacked our temple of democracy and tried to overturn a legitimate election was in violation of his oath to support and defend the Constitution.
I had supported President Trump since he became the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party back in 2016, but I can no longer do so in good faith. He was never my first choice, but as for many conservatives, he was a means to an end, a conduit for conservative policies. I applauded him for his Supreme Court nominations, criminal justice reform, tax cuts, and foreign policy initiatives. And while I supported many of his policies, I never considered him a principled conservative. I knew for him, the Republican Party was simply the vehicle through which he secured the keys to the White House, but I never thought his desire for power would endanger the foundation of our democracy. I was mistaken.
We witnessed last Wednesday the first splintering crack in that foundation when supporters of the President, emboldened by his claims of a rigged election, stormed the Capitol and disrupted the lawful certification of election results. These thugs smashed windows, damaged federal property, occupied the halls of the Capitol, and sought to prevent Congress from certifying a free and fair election. This was a traitorous coup, an insurrection, designed to overthrow the will of the people. And while we all condemn the actions of those domestic terrorists and insurrectionists, we must not forget how we ended up here.
The events that unfolded on Wednesday didn’t just happen in a vacuum; this wasn’t some organic, spontaneous insurrection. Wednesday’s events are a direct manifestation of the President’s false claims of a rigged election. Had he not spent two months lying to the public about voter fraud, no one in that mob would have felt as though the election was stolen. Had he accepted the legitimate results of this free and fair election, Congress would not have fled the Capitol and been forced to postpone certifying a peaceful transfer of power.
At a certain point, we must be honest with ourselves. We have to acknowledge that President Trump’s words have consequences, that the bully pulpit he holds influences millions. For months, he lied about wide-spread voter fraud, and yet many believed him. When that crowd gathered in D.C., just hours before besieging the Capitol, he continued riling them up with these lies. And as these thugs stormed the Capitol, our temple of democracy, and disrupted constitutionally-mandated procedures, he watched, refusing to immediately call in the National Guard. His actions and, more importantly, his inaction crossed a line, and as a party of integrity, we must call for his conviction in the Senate impeachment trial.
To those who say the President bears no responsibility, I ask you, “Where do you draw the line? At what point, will you place your love of country above your fidelity to this man?”
To those who say the President responded appropriately, I remind them that it took hours for national law enforcement to be deployed and even then, reports claim the Vice President, not President Trump, called in the National Guard.
To those who would like to derail this much needed national conversation with questions about Democrats and their responsibility for BLM riots, I ask you to please stop playing politics. We cannot excuse President Trump’s actions and inactions by always diverting attention to our political opponents.
I am frankly disappointed to see how some in our party refuse to place even a modicum of responsibility for last Wednesday’s events with the President.
As a young person in politics, I gravitated toward the Republican Party because of its values, principles, and most of all integrity. I found solace in a party that placed the rule of law above any one individual, that valued limited government, that cherished our founding documents, and that revered our democratic institutions. I admired its consistent adherence to these principles and its honorable history as the party that freed the slaves and saved the Union. But in the midst of these recent events, I believe our party is changing and not for the better. I worry we are watching our party, a party of decency, rationality, and most of all integrity, become one solely committed to appeasing Donald Trump.
We all know in our heart of hearts that we would be appalled if any Democrat did just half of what Donald Trump has done for the past two months. Had Hillary Clinton waged a two-month-long campaign alleging wide-spread voter fraud without any substantial evidence, we would be furious. And if thugs, riled up by her rhetoric, invaded the Capitol, preventing President Trump from being certified, we would be calling for her resignation. But, because of our party’s unfettered devotion to this man, some are either incapable or too afraid to stand up to this president when he has crossed a line. And for this, we risk losing the integrity that drew me and many others to the party.
While I pray for our party and will do everything in my power to steer it back toward those principles that attracted me, I still have hope. I have faith, not in Trump, but in the honorable Republicans and secretaries of state who are defending the sanctity of our vote. I have faith in the countless number of Trump-appointed judges who found no validity to these claims of voter fraud. I have faith in the poll workers who despite a global pandemic rushed to the frontlines to administer our elections. I have faith in former Trump administration officials like Bill Barr and Chris Krebs who have publicly refuted claims of wide-spread voter fraud. And I have faith in the men and women of law enforcement who restored law and order to Capitol Hill after thugs tried to undermine one of our country’s most cherished traditions: a peaceful transfer of power. We are a party of these patriots, not of Trump.
Matthew Johnson is a member of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee