“The Republican Party, both in this state and nationally, is a broad party,” Reagan said. “There is room in our tent for many views; indeed, the divergence of views is one of our strengths.”
Five decades on, in the era of Donald Trump, the Republican Party has wholly abandoned Reagan’s call for a big-tent party. In its place has emerged calls for utter party purity — or, more accurately, demands of total and utter fealty to the former president of the United States.
The latest example of this shrinkage came Wednesday when CNN reported that Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, a vocal Trump supporter and member of the House Freedom Caucus, planned to circulate a letter to his colleagues calling on Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger to be officially removed from the House GOP conference because of their decision to serve on the January commission, which is investigating the insurrection at the US Capitol earlier this year.
As Biggs writes in the letter, a draft copy of which was obtained by CNN:
“This proposal is not because of a policy or political difference, but because some members have chosen to work with the Democrats to investigate and potentially remove Republican Members from the House. Republican Conference meetings are an opportunity for elected House Republicans to come together and strategize the most effective path to push back on the radical policies of Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and the Democrats.”
So, because Cheney and Kinzinger agreed to serve on a committee aimed at getting to the bottom of a riot that left five people dead and more than 100 police officers injured, Biggs wants them booted out of the Republican conference entirely? Even though he acknowledges that his call for their removal “is not because of a policy or political difference”?
Let’s remember how we got here, shall we?
A bill that would have created a bipartisan independent commission to study January 6 passed the House, with 35 Republicans — including Cheney and Kinzinger — voting for it. It then died in the Senate — thanks to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s opposition.
With a bipartisan commission — along the lines of the 9/11 commission — out of the question, Speaker Nancy Pelosi created a special select committee to study how we go to January 6. She offered slots to Cheney and Kinzinger, both of whom had been outspoken in their belief that Trump (and the Trumpist) wing of the GOP bore some serious amount of blame for that day.
That Cheney and Kinzinger accepted that role was too much for Biggs who, not for nothing, was one of 139 House Republicans to vote against certifying the 2020 election results — despite the fact that there is zero evidence of widespread fraud in the balloting process. (Cheney, of course, has already been punished for voting to impeach Trump over January 6; she was stripped of her leadership post in May.)
Biggs’ vision of the Republican Party appears to be one in which only people who believe a) the election was stolen b) January 6 was no big deal and c) Donald Trump is the reigning king of the GOP belong. Such a vision would shrink the party to true believers and conspiracy theorists — just the sort of party Trump would like to lord over.
Republicans would do well to take a breath and remember Reagan’s assertion of who was welcomed into the GOP. It worked out pretty well for the Gipper — and the GOP.