As congressional Democrats move forward with plans to censure Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, much of the attention in recent days has been on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has options for dealing with the far-right Arizonan, but who's instead said nothing.
If the would-be House Speaker is looking for a Profile in Courage Award, he's going to be disappointed.
As for the rest of the GOP conference, it would be an exaggeration to say literally no Republicans have spoken up. Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, for example, who recently announced that he isn't running for re-election, this week lamented Gosar's misconduct and urged his party to "condemn this proactively."
Yesterday, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney made similar comments to the Associated Press, not only endorsing Gosar's censure, but also pressing Republican leaders to step up and do the right thing.
"It's a real symbol of his lack of strength, the lack of leadership in our conference right now, and the extent to which he and other leaders seem to have lost their moral compass," the congresswoman said. Cheney went on to marvel at the fact that McCarthy "will not stand against" an "avowed white nationalist in Rep. Gosar who has posted a video advocating the killing of another member."
But Kinzinger and Cheney are the exceptions among House Republicans. Of the 213 members of the House GOP conference, we can count the number of Republicans who've publicly criticized Gosar this week on one hand. The AP report helped summarize why this matters:
Less than a year after former President Donald Trump's supporters staged a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in an effort to halt the peaceful transition of power, the GOP's refusal to broadly and forcefully condemn more recent examples of disturbing rhetoric and behavior suggests an unsettling shift. One of the nation's two major political parties appears increasingly tolerant of at least some persistent level of violence in American discourse, or at least willing to turn a blind eye to it.
That's an extraordinary sentence to see in an Associated Press report: The United States only has two major political parties, and as the Gosar controversy helps demonstrate, one of them "appears increasingly tolerant of at least some persistent level of violence in American discourse, or at least willing to turn a blind eye to it."
The AP's report went on to note Republicans' "reluctance to crack down on — or even mildly criticize — violent rhetoric" in their own ranks.
The political calculus should be obvious: The more Republicans accept extremists in their ranks who tolerate political violence, the more dangerous the political conditions become for all of us.
It's been easier for GOP members to remain silent this week because there have been no legislative activities on Capitol Hill. It's one thing to ignore the Gosar controversy while in their home districts; it's something else to refuse to comment when reporters ask for reactions in person in a congressional hallway.
Perhaps Republicans will have more to say after returning to work next week? I live in hope.