Of the U.S. House's 211 Republican members, only three of them voted to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election, hold Donald Trump accountable for inciting an insurrectionist attack, and strip Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments. One of the three -- Illinois' Adam Kinzinger -- wrote a new Washington Post op-ed, making the case for convicting the former president.
[T]his isn't a waste of time. It's a matter of accountability. If the GOP doesn't take a stand, the chaos of the past few months, and the past four years, could quickly return. The future of our party and our country depends on confronting what happened — so it doesn't happen again.
Kinzinger has been working his way toward this point for a while. After months of urging his party to be responsible, the Illinois Republican seemed to adopt an even more assertive posture in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. When House Democratic leaders, for example, pushed a resolution calling on then-Vice President Mike Pence and the White House cabinet to remove Donald Trump from office, Kinzinger was literally the only GOP member to vote for it.
Soon after, reflecting on his vote to impeach his party's president, the Illinois congressman conceded that he was prepared to sacrifice his political career over the underlying principles.
And now, Kinzinger is taking a rather unreserved approach to Trump's culpability.
The immediate cause for Trump's impeachment was Jan. 6. But the president's rally and resulting riot on Capitol Hill didn't come out of nowhere. They were the result of four-plus years of anger, outrage and outright lies. Perhaps the most dangerous lie — or at least the most recent — was that the election was stolen. Of course it wasn't, but a huge number of Republican leaders encouraged the belief that it was. Every time that lie was repeated, the riots of Jan. 6 became more likely.
He added that many Republicans, even now, "refuse to admit what happened," and feed on the anger that led to the deadly Jan. 6 attack.
"Impeachment offers a chance to say enough is enough," Kinzinger went on to argue. "It ought to force every American, regardless of party affiliation, to remember not only what happened on Jan. 6, but also the path that led there. After all, the situation could get much, much worse — with more violence and more division that cannot be overcome. The further down this road we go, the closer we come to the end of America as we know it."
He added, "I firmly believe the majority of Americans — Republican, Democrat, independent, you name it — reject the madness of the past four years. But we'll never move forward by ignoring what happened or refusing to hold accountable those responsible. That will embolden the few who led us here and dishearten the many who know America is better than this."
Kinzinger concluded that a Senate vote to convict Trump would help "save America from going further down a sad, dangerous road."
It's possible that some will see an op-ed like this and reflexively assume that Kinzinger is a rare Republican moderate, and perhaps even someone who'd consider switching parties.
That's not quite right. While the Illinois congressman clearly seems concerned about the GOP's direction, let's not forget the fact that Kinzinger voted with Trump's position in recent years more than 90% of the time. When he launched his career, the Republican welcomed the support of Sarah Palin and Tea Party groups.
Those on the left looking to Kinzinger as an ally on substantive issues are likely to be disappointed.
But the fact remains that the congressman appears to still care about principles and recognizes the dangers posed by Trump. There's no reason to assume Senate Republicans will even read Kinzinger's recommendations, especially as they relate to this week's impeachment trial, but his is a perspective his party ought to take seriously.