Most of us have had fantasies about how we would behave in certain scenarios. We flatter ourselves that we would be the ones to stand up to the Nazis had history put us in Germany in the 1930s. We tell ourselves that we would be the ones to stand up to the racists had circumstance and chance placed us in Selma, Alabama, in 1965. It’s a hypothetical no one can answer definitively and therefore a claim that cannot be repudiated. But if statistics are any indication the answer is we are, most of us, probably wrong about our own courage. If we’re like most people we’d go right along with everyone else.
Whatever that something is, that X factor, the rare human ingredient that makes the difference between people of courage and conscience and the rest of us, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger have it. Most of us have never been faced with true tests of actual courage in the name of righteousness in opposition to the cowardice of our peers. We can only claim what we would do, given the chance. Cheney and Kinzinger have actually done it.
Today (as I write this) marks the official end of their respective careers in Congress. Adam Kinzinger by choice and Liz Cheney by the consequence of an election in which she was primaried. Both former Representatives were officially censured by the Republican Party.
You read that right. On February 4, 2022, in a craven act of self-abasement to the disgusting shit-weasel Donald Trump, the repulsive members of the Republican National Committee gaslighted the nation when they proclaimed the mob-fuelled events of January 6, 2021, as “legitimate political discourse.” They then overwhelmingly voted by voice vote to censure Kinzinger and Cheney for taking part in the House investigation of the Capitol assault.
Read the previous paragraph again in case you missed its outrageous implications. Now permit me to say it another way: For participating in an investigation into a violent assault on the nation’s Capitol building, for being part of a legitimate select committee that interviewed Republicans about what happened on January 6, 2021, Cheney and Kinzinger were formally and publicly condemned. Members of Congress who have been censured are required to give up any committee chairs they hold.
It should also be noted by contrast that on January 29, 2021, Democratic Representatives Nikema Williams and Sara Jacobs introduced a resolution to censure representative Marjorie Taylor Greene for making threatening comments to her colleagues. That resolution went nowhere. Nobody was interested in censuring Greene for threatening her colleagues. Cheney and Kinzinger, on the other hand, were censured for daring to find out why American Democracy was violently assaulted.
So Cheney and Kinzinger have had to endure official condemnation by members of their own party. It is known through leaked conversation and private confessions that many of the people who voted to condemn Cheney and Kinzinger secretly agreed with them. But they didn’t want to lose their jobs and they didn’t want to be made pariahs of their own party. They were also terrified of Donald Trump and his rancorous and hateful retribution. So they shamefully kept silent and went along with the crowd.
But then, who among us hasn’t kept silent when a colleague at work was being unfairly persecuted by management? Who among us hasn’t looked the other way or crossed the street at the approach of a homeless person? Courage like Cheney’s and Kinzinger’s, deserves to be acknowledged and praised for its scarcity. Yes, they are Republicans. But they have something most of us don’t. They have real performative courage. And for that they deserve to be recognised and commended. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.