RNC Censure Backfiring on GOP?

The rumblings began before the ink was even dry on Friday’s GOP censure of Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger: in the case of this blundering censure, bad publicity might actually be worse than no publicity at all.

To recap: On Friday, 2/4/22, RNC members were faced with yet another proof-of-fealty vote between patriotism and former President Donald Trump. They voted overwhelmingly to censure Cheney and Kinzinger, in a resolution which “slam[ed] Ms. Cheney and Mr. Kinzinger for taking part in the House investigation of the assault, saying they were participating in “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.” 

But even Friday, dissenting members of the Republican National Committee were speaking out against the move. National committee member Bill Palatucci told Fox that “Focusing on Liz Cheney at a national RNC meeting is distracting and counterproductive. We should be shooting at Democrats, not Republicans,” while former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney scolded the RNC in a Tweet: “Shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol. Honor attaches to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for seeking truth even when doing so comes at great personal cost.”

By Monday, a group of nearly 150 Republican former officials—defense officials, members of Congress, a White House counsel to President Reagan—released this statement denouncing the censure as well as vigorously criticizing the current state of the Republican Party. It read, in part, “History will mark this censure as a turning point for the RNC – a time of choosing between civility and patriotism, on the one hand, and conspiracy and political violence on the other. We stand firmly for the first set of values. We stand proudly next to principled leaders such as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. And we stand united against efforts to defile our democracy.”

And Tuesday, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected the censure to reporters after meeting with other Republican Senators at their caucus’s weekly closed-door lunch. Like Romney, McConnell objected to language suggesting that the January 6th rioters were engaging in “legitimate political discourse,” telling reporters: “We saw it happen. It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election, from one administration to the next. That’s what it was.” And, like Palatucci, McConnell was clearly annoyed at Republicans’ unforced error—that the RNC’s censure had given the media a week of covering Republican infighting rather than focusing on areas of perceived Democrat weakness like inflation or Ukraine. “Traditionally, the view of the national party committees is that we support all members of our party, regardless of their positions on some issues,” he said. “The issue is whether or not the R.N.C. should be sort of singling out members of our party who may have different views of the majority. That’s not the job of the R.N.C.”

The headlines covering that infighting continued Wednesday, with The New York Times publishing an op-ed asserting that “Punishing Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger was a blunder, many in the party say,” and The Washington Post publishing one of their own, this one entitled: “The RNC’s provocative response to its censure critics; This rift apparently isn’t ending anytime soon. And it embodies the Trump-era GOP’s dilemma.”

(Republican infighting this week wasn’t limited to the topic of the censure, by the way. On a Monday installment of his radio program, Fox News Host Brian Kilmeade referred to Trump’s claim of a stolen election in Arizona as “an outright lie,” and, “please stop wasting our time like that.”)

But the RNC remained resolute in their maneuver against Cheney and Kinzinger. According to the above-linked article, the RNC’s communications director Danielle Alvarez told The Washington Post “Outside of the D.C. bubble, our grass roots are very supportive of the decision to hold Cheney and Kinzinger accountable.”

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