Column: Are we surprised? The RNC’s idea of ‘legitimate political discourse’ shows how far gone it is

Congressmembers Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger listen during a hearing
Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) listen as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol meets in October. Republican Party officials voted Friday to punish Cheney and Kinzinger for their participation in the committee.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

My first question: What about the feces?

I don’t mean figuratively, as in “Wow, the Republican National Committee really stepped in [fill in the blank]” or other colorful idioms.

I mean it literally, what about the poop?

GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was forced to clarify part of the resolution, which implied the violence of Jan. 6 was ‘legitimate political discourse.’

Feb. 4, 2022

I should back up. The RNC, the greatest agglomeration of hacks ever seen outside a lumberjack competition, voted to censure Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for serving on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. This was dumb enough. But the stated case for censuring them is that talking about Jan.6 divides Republicans and takes the focus off attacking Democrats. Except the censure itself made Jan. 6 the dominant story for days, forcing Republican politicians to talk about the very thing they don’t want to talk about.

But where the RNC leaders really stepped in it — again, figuratively — is that they wrote the censure resolution so stupidly, people stopped talking about Cheney and Kinzinger and started talking about how the Republican National Committee officially described the Jan. 6 riot as “legitimate political discourse.”

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel insists that the resolution wasn’t meant to describe the violent attack on the Capitol and capitol police as “legitimate political discourse” even though there’s nothing in the resolution’s text to support her claim. But let’s give her the benefit of the doubt for a moment and chalk up the poor phrasing to McDaniel’s trademark incompetence instead of her patented Trump sycophancy (this is the woman who, after all, dropped the name Romney to placate the former president).


Which brings me back to my question. Does McDaniel think tracking and smearing human feces around the halls of Congress qualifies as “legitimate political discourse”? I mean, that wasn’t technically speaking violent activity. Were the Capitol custodians tasked with cleaning up the foulness actually engaged in the rich conversation of American democracy? If someone does that at RNC headquarters, would McDaniel say, “Good for you, exercising your 1st Amendment right to engage in legitimate political discourse”?

And then there’s the problem that the resolution is based on a lie. It states that the Jan. 6 committee is a “Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.” But that’s the cowardly spin deployed by apparatchiks desperate to hide behind mythical ordinary citizens.

Thousands of people attended the pre-riot rally, and they aren’t being persecuted, never mind prosecuted. You can scroll through the Department of Justice’s list of 769 people so far. If protesters didn’t storm the Capitol, participate in violence, steal or destroy property, or conspire to do one of these things, they haven’t been charged.

Perhaps the most telling sign is that even Trump himself doesn’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll win the 2024 GOP nomination.

Dec. 14, 2021

More to the point, the Jan. 6 committee hasn’t charged anybody because that’s not what congressional committees do. The prosecutions have all come from the Justice Department. Yes, the committee has recommended contempt charges to the DOJ for people who refuse to comply with subpoenas. But none of them are “ordinary citizens” persecuted for engaging in legitimate discourse. They’re Trump loyalists stonewalling a committee investigating an effort to overturn an election.

And that is what is so grotesque about this entire exercise.

The Republican National Committee has always largely been a holding pen for boosters, has-beens and other party strivers who need to be placated with a title but little power. It really only has one significant job to do — draft a party platform. But, under Trump, committee members opted to skip that, issuing a brief resolution that basically said the media is bad and Trump is awesome.

Now they apparently think their job is to whitewash an attempted coup and provide fodder for Democratic ads showing cops getting beaten by American flag poles with the narrator saying: “This is what Republicans officially describe as ‘legitimate political discourse.’” And then perhaps the ad will cut to Donald Trump’s recent vow to pardon the goons and vandals, many of whom have argued in court that they were acting on Trump’s wishes.


Traditionally, the RNC stable is cleaned out after a presidential defeat. But it is now so thoroughly infested with Trump loyalists that it’s impossible to get fresh blood in there. Most Republicans do not look favorably on Jan. 6, but the cabal running the party would rather endorse a fringe view, further dividing the party and defend an attempt to steal an election, all to protect a defeated president and his accomplices.

It will take years to clean the stain Trump has smeared on a party he never cared much about in the first place. And the Republican “leaders” have no one to blame but themselves.