Local Republican Parties are cracking down on Washington politicians who have refused to support Donald Trump in his impeachment fight. The LaSalle County, Ill., GOP voted overwhelmingly to censure Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) for his vote to impeach the former president. And the Nebraska Republican Party is set to censure Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) whose anti-Trump statements are prominently covered in the mainstream media.
In Kinzinger’s case, Trump carried his district by 16 points in 2020 so it’s no surprise that 88 percent of the La Salle County Republican Central Committee voted to censure the congressman. Trump carried Sasse’s state, Nebraska, by nearly 20 points. But other congressmen who voted for Trump’s impeachment are also facing party discipline as the GOP purge of anti-Trump members continues.
County GOP Chair Larry Smith said in a statement the congressman’s actions were “contrary to the values” of the party. He also said committee members had echoed complaints that Kinzinger had not met with the GOP group in more than six years.
Smith said that Kinzinger’s vote had opened a “Pandora’s Box of criticism” for the committee.
“The La Salle County Republicans have received hundreds upon hundreds of emails, text messages and phone calls from our county and beyond expressing their frustration and a lot more with Congressman Kinzinger’s actions and statements the past few months,” Smith said.
Kinzinger has carried his anti-Trump crusade further than almost anyone else. He has created a PAC he says will put “country first” and will attempt to “take back” the GOP from Trump.
Kinzinger, who represents a district in the central and eastern parts of northern Illinois, argues, “The Republican Party has lost its way. If we are to lead again, we need to muster the courage to remember who we are. We need to remember what we believe and why we believe it. Looking in the mirror can be hard, but the time has come to choose what kind of party we will be and what kind of future we’ll fight to bring about.”
The congressman, who was first elected to Congress as part of the conservative Tea Party wave of 2010, lamented that “today’s Republican Party is not the one I joined.”
“The party that always spoke about a brighter tomorrow no longer does. It talks about a dark future instead. Hope has given way to fear. Outrage has replaced opportunity. And worst of all, our deep convictions are ignored. They’ve been replaced by poisonous conspiracies and lies. This is not the Republican road and now we know exactly where [this] new and dangerous road leads. It leads to insurrection and an armed attack on the Capitol,” he argued.
In addition to Kinzinger and Sasse, Liz Cheney was censured by the Arizona GOP and the South Carolina party censured Rep. Tom Price (R-S.C.) for his vote in favor of impeachment.
The Nebraska Republican Party actually listed Sasse’s sins against Trump a la Emile Zola in J’Accuse.
Whereas, on 15 October 2020, in a Washington Post story – ‘GOP Sen. Sasse says Trump mistreats women, flirts with white supremacy and secretly mocks evangelicals’ – WP reporter Colby Itkowitz wrote the following: Sen. Ben Sasse eviscerated President Trump during a phone call with constituents, in which the Nebraska Republican accused the president of cozying up to dictators, mistreating women, flirting with white supremacists, and irresponsibly handling the coronavirus pandemic.
That and several other examples of Sasse’s apostasy are in a referendum on which the county party will vote on February 1.
Whether you believe his charges are true or not, the issue is party discipline. How far should the party go to protect its leader? And does disagreeing with the leader disqualify someone from party membership?
Trumpbots in the Republican Party are making it crystal clear that only full-throated support for their hero will be countenanced. Anything less invites censure. It’s certainly not the way to grow a political party. But it’s an excellent way to turn a party into a personality cult.