CMR and the Big Lie
How far was she willing to go?
On the afternoon of January 6, 2021, Cathy McMorris Rodgers denounced the violence of the January 6 insurrection as “unlawful and unacceptable”. Now, a year later, she really wants us to forget her support for the Big Lie that the 2020 election was rife with fraud. It is especially important to McMorris Rodgers that we forget her prior statements and actions now that the details of Trump’s multi-pronged attempted coup are becoming clear, thanks to the House January 6th Committee. It should be no surprise that she, along with a majority of House Republicans, voted against formation of a bi-partisan committee. One must presume she worried over what the investigation might reveal, preferring a largely Democratic committee that could be undermined as a “witch hunt”.
In December 2020 less than a month before January 6th, 2021, McMorris Rodgers signed on to a “friend of the court” brief in support of a lawsuit brought by Texas’ attorney general Ken Paxton. Paxton brought the suit to challenge the results of the 2020 election in four states, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. Paxton’s lawsuit was so ill-conceived that even our current uber-conservative Supreme Court refused to hear it. But Paxton’s suit—and McMorris Rodgers’ support of it—served its unvoiced purpose: to bolster suspicion in the public mind that the election was badly flawed, to hint that Trump’s Big Lie that he had won might be true.
On January 5, 2021, McMorris Rodgers declared, “I’m planning to vote to object [to accepting the electoral votes of some states] tomorrow to give voice to millions of Americans that do not have trust and confidence in this election, and to ensure the integrity of our election.” Let’s examine that. That January 5th in Dalton, Georgia, the leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, proclaimed once again, falsely, that he had won the election, pushing his Big Lie. In her statement, McMorris Rodgers lent her support, citing claims of election irregularities that were already thoroughly debunked.
On the morning of January 6th, 2021, the Spokesman Review published Shawn Vestal’s scathing assessment of McMorris Rodgers’ plan to vote against accepting the electoral votes of some states. This should have been a pro forma event in the Capitol, an event she proposed to disrupt. Read the whole piece as a reminder of the mindset of that morning, but here’s how it started:
Was there a specific moment that clearly foretold that Cathy McMorris Rodgers would betray her oath of office, the Constitution, and the most basic principle of American democracy in favor of an attempt to lie, cheat and steal an election?
A single moment when we might have foreseen that McMorris Rodgers would burn her boats on the shores of a land ruled by a mad despot, making it impossible to ever credibly return to the ideological ground of democratic values?
Or was this always who she was? A despicable toady. An abject coward. A traitor to her own promises, and an enemy of the American voter.
At the very least, McMorris Rodgers knew long before the morning of January 6 that Trump’s claims of election fraud were false. Either she knew—or she had not done her civic homework. And yet, that morning she was prepared cast her vote to challenge the legitimacy of selected Electoral College votes that had been duly certified by state legislatures. In what more egregious way could she violate the principle of the Constitutional “States’ Rights” she otherwise claims to defend? Even McMorris Rodgers’ two fellow Congressional Republicans, her former mentee Jaime Herrera Beutler (R, SW Washington) and Dan Newhouse (R, Central WA) declined to support this challenge to our Constitutional procedures.
Here is the assessment of Kim Wyman (R, WA Secretary of State at the time) of McMorris Rodgers’ and her fellow insurgents’ plan:
“I think that we are starting to get on really dangerous ground when members of Congress are going to try to thwart the will of the American people and millions of votes that are cast and basically disregard the Electoral College. It’s a state’s right to determine which electors go and represent their voters in the Electoral College, and I would really caution members of our delegation to be thoughtful about the long-term implications of trying to undermine the Electoral College process.”
Later that same day, January 6, 2020, Trump’s mob descended on the Capitol, killing and injuring its defenders and threatening to kill members of Congress and Vice President Pence (who we now know had declined to go along with the plot of Trump’s coup). McMorris Rodgers, apparently shaken by reality, backpedalled, declaring the violence “unlawful and unacceptable” and withdrawing her promise to vote against acceptance of certain states’ electors.
In keeping with her bland, motherly facade, she sought to backpedal further: “I have been consistent in my belief that Americans should utilize the Constitutional tools and legal processes available to seek answers to their questions about the 2020 election.” Those words sound warm and fuzzy, but the “Constitution tool” she planned to employ against the electoral votes on January 6 and the “legal process” she pursued in the Paxton lawsuit were part of Trump’s plan to breathe life into his Big Lie, divide the country, subvert the will of the voters and seize the presidency, if necessary, by force. She knew—and, if not, she should have known—that both of her actions were anti-democratic aids to an attempted coup. They were in no way an attempt to answer legitimate question about the conduct of the election.
McMorris Rodgers will not lose the support of the rabid wing of the local Republican Party for dancing carefully around this issue, but no one who wishes to uphold our democratic values should be blind to her support of Trump’s Big Lie, a Lie devoted to overturning the result of an election that was clean and fair by any factual measure.
Keep to the high ground,