Pelosi reiterated her aim: “Our select committee will seek the truth. It’s our patriotic duty to do so. And we do not come into our work worried about what the other side, who has been afraid of this — maybe the Republicans can’t handle the truth, but we have a responsibility to seek it, to find it and in a way that retains the confidence of the American people.”
The presence of Republicans on the committee will certainly not persuade the MAGA crowd to accept its findings, but it will force the media to describe the committee accurately as bipartisan. Moreover, these Republican committee members might have leads on evidence and witnesses that Democrats do not. They could at the very least fill the committee in on what House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said and did during the siege at the Capitol.
Republicans refer to Pelosi’s rejection of two of McCarthy’s appointees — both of whom were unserious and openly contemptuous of the committee’s work — as “unprecedented.” But it is also unprecedented for a speaker to choose members of the opposite party for a critical committee. She easily could have put more Democrats on the committee or just left the seats vacant. One cannot imagine McCarthy behaving as Pelosi has if the shoe were on the other foot.
Most House and Senate Republicans remain peeved that the committee will force them to look backward at the violent insurrection to overthrow the government. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) groused on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the committee will keep Jan. 6 in the news for partisan advantage. Toomey’s suggestion is so lacking in good faith and moral sobriety that one has to marvel at why a retiring U.S. senator feels compelled to dissemble on behalf of anti-democratic forces. He remains scornful of the notion that we should learn all we can about the worst insurrection since the Civil War.
Perhaps Toomey does not care, but millions of Americans would like to know what the disgraced former president was doing during the attack; what Republican lawmakers did to try to get him to defend them; what assistance, if any, members of Congress provided to the insurrectionists; how the insurrection was funded and organized; why so many police and ex-military people were involved in the assault; what motivated the insurrectionists; and how we can combat the rising threat from violent white nationalism.
While Cheney and Kinzinger can bring their perspectives, knowledge and credibility to the committee, I would hope they — especially Cheney — can also learn something from working alongside serious-minded, patriotic and intellectually impressive members such as Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Elaine Luria (D-Va.). Republicans serving on the committee might come to see that their own party has not only betrayed our democracy, but also that it lacks the honor, seriousness and loyalty to the Constitution that Democrats frequently display. Cheney and Kinzinger might see how large of a gap has formed between the two parties in terms of trustworthiness and competence.
No one should expect Kinzinger, and certainly not Cheney, to switch parties. Nevertheless, I hope the experience gives them pause about remaining in the GOP and working for a Republican House majority that would deliver the speakership to McCarthy and hand committee gavels over to the likes of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), whom Pelosi refused to allow on the committee (a move Cheney praised).
Cheney and Kinzinger could well lose their seats in 2022 (most likely in the primaries). If they do, they might consider a new party that reflects their policy views, embraces integrity, remains devoted to the rule of law, rejects neo-Confederate mythology and respects the sanctity of elections. Alternatively, they might lend their talents to keeping the worst anti-democratic cranks out of government, pursuing pro-democracy reforms and working to break the right-wing echo chamber that misleads and endangers so many Republicans.
We are short on opportunities in which Americans of wildly different perspectives can work together to defend the Constitution and the rule of law. In that regard, Cheney and Kinzinger — together with the Jan. 6 committee’s Democratic members — can set an example for others to follow. That alone would be an achievement.