Musings: Requiem for Patriotism

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What were they thinking?

Like many of you, I settled into a chair yesterday afternoon knowing that I was about to watch something that is ordinarily perfunctory and ceremonial perverted into political theater aimed at the lowest common denominator, but nothing could have prepared me for exactly what I was seeing.

Shortly after Ted Cruz concluded his little bit of performative activism, challenging the results of an election in a state he did not live with no evidence to support his specious claims, I was startled to see protestors take the capitol steps. I was even more deeply disturbed when they began banging on doors and windows, and was downright terrified when I saw the doors to the Senate chamber swing open and Secret Service agents sweep Vice President Mike Pence away from the dias to secret him away to safety.

I watched in horror as an angry mob of domestic terrorists laid siege to the People’s House. I thought of friends of mine who have worked and currently work in the building, the members of Congress I’ve been fortunate to help elect to those hallowed halls.

I wasn’t confused about what the insurrectionists were thinking. We all know what they’re thinking. Gassed up on a half decade of lies and disinformation from Donald Trump, the mob that descended on our nation’s capitol wasn’t there to peacefully protest. They were there to storm the building, to stop an injustice that did not exist.

In the process, four lives were lost. A woman was shot and killed in those hallowed halls. Duly elected members of Congress, the majority of whom were re-elected in the same elections they’re now claiming are fraudulent, were forced to cower under seats and behind railings, instructions shouted to them on how to retrieve the gas masks under their seats in case of a exposure to a chemical weapon like the tear gas Capitol Police were forced to deploy on the angry seditionists storming the halls.

I wondered what Ted Cruz, Louie Gohmert and their traitorous running buddies were thinking. 

That we all watched this happen in the United States of America will be an historical source of deep shame for our entire nation. We are supposed to be an example to the world, the longest surviving constitutional democracy the world has ever known. 

Standing in the Senate chamber yesterday, Ted Cruz had to have known that he was standing on the shoulders of giants. No institution in American public life reveres itself, its history and tradition and its alumni the way the United States Senate does.

From the same body that has debated and produced the most consequential policy our nation has ever known, a place where men and women have worked to perfect our Union for centuries, Cruz sidled up to the microphone to spread falsehoods. 

This is not a stupid man. Educated at Princeton and Harvard, Cruz has argued cases before the United States Supreme Court. As a Senator who knew there was no penalty for perjury in the joint session, he intended to lie with impunity, on its face to support Donald Trump’s seditious ambitions. 

But alas, an old saying proves itself true again. Cruz wasn’t just in the game to ingratiate himself to Trump. He wasn’t just playing the angles on a 2024 presidential primary.

No. In the face of an opportunity Cruz did exactly what Trump taught him to. Never one to look a grift horse in the mouth, Cruz spent hard dollars on Google advertising that pushed an urgent fundraising appeal to the top of Google search results when you popped Cruz’s name into the search engine. 

What did you see if you Googled Ted Cruz as domestic terrorists overtook our Capitol?

An appeal to contribute to a fund supporting his effort to overturn a fair and free election. 

Conservatives who are also aghast at what happened yesterday can no longer harbor any illusion that Ted Cruz is the principled conservative and constitutionalist he has falsely claimed to be all these years. Nothing that happened yesterday honored our nation or it’s constitution, until nightfall hit and the joint session resumed, with Vice President Mike Pence pledging that they would complete the people’s work. 

Think about that for a moment. While Ken Paxton was warming up the crowd at Trump’s rally earlier in the day, Vice President Pence was drawing one final hard line for President Trump, the man who made him his running mate in 2016. Pence could not, and would not, deviate from his constitutionally defined responsibilities and throw the election to Trump.

What was Trump’s response? He told rally goers they should march to the Capitol and make their voices heard.

Within minutes, they were shattering windows as Trump tweeted that Pence didn’t have the courage to do Trump’s bidding.

Minutes later I watched the Secret Service snatch Pence from the podium. 

That Pence was willing to return to carry out his duties after his own President sent an angry mob after him, and that he was joined by folks like Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney in making a full throated defense of American norms and traditions, is a powerful commentary on the precipice Trump forced his party and this nation to.

It is in the spirit of that newfound spine that soon to be Minority Leader McConnell must again put the country first, and immediately move to expel Ted Cruz and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley from the US Senate. 

Cruz and Hawley knowingly spread lies and disinformation about the 2020 elections on social media and the senate floor while not once filing or joining an active lawsuit. Cruz and Hawley did what they could to keep themselves out of a courtroom because they knew lying to the American people was just part of the game, but lying in a court of law carried with it consequences.

These men should still face consequences for what they’ve done. Knowing that they both possess too much moral turpitude to resign, every member of the Senate who cares about preserving the traditions of their body and returning our country to normalcy must work to ensure violent agitators like Cruz and Hawley hold no quarter in American public life. 

We survived last night because a group of Americans were resolved to do what was right. If we want to survive as a Republic and keep our experiment alive a little bit longer, we must do the right thing and protect the American people from Ted Cruz.

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

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