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Once democracy is gone, it’s gone | Column
Saving our constitutional democracy and the rule of law is far more important than any other matter facing the nation.
Witnesses Al Schmidt, former city commissioner of Philadelphia, BJay Pak, former U.S. attorney for the District of Georgia, and Benjamin Ginsburg, an election attorney, are sworn in on Monday, June 13, 2022, to testify before a House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Witnesses Al Schmidt, former city commissioner of Philadelphia, BJay Pak, former U.S. attorney for the District of Georgia, and Benjamin Ginsburg, an election attorney, are sworn in on Monday, June 13, 2022, to testify before a House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. [ KENT NISHIMURA | Los Angeles Times ]
Published Jun. 17

The U.S. House Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection held a prime-time public hearing on June 9 that was viewed by an audience of 20 million. Wyoming Republican Representative Liz Cheney, vice chairperson of the committee, played a key role in laying out the facts.

Richard Cherwitz
Richard Cherwitz [ Provided ]

Rather than offering her own partisan views and speculations, Cheney relied exclusively on the words of members of the Trump team and family, and those who directly experienced the insurrection as evidence for her claims. Her discourse was clinical instead of emotional and sounded like that of a prosecutor, previewing the case against Trump that would be made in upcoming hearings.

History, in my opinion, will recall that Cheney, unlike most of her Republican colleagues in the House and Senate, did the right thing—that principle and morality, not political gamesmanship, motivated her behavior. Cheney rhetorically indicted the overwhelming number of Republicans in Congress who continue to remain silent because of their fealty to and fear of the former president. Her indictment was pointed and profound.

Make no mistake: Cheney had the courage of her convictions. She wasn’t afraid to stand up and speak. Cheney was not influenced by the political reality that in Wyoming she lags behind her Trump-supported opponent in the polls by as much as 30 points. Her love of our country’s democratic republic trumped (no pun intended) political ambition. Sadly, the same cannot be said about most of Cheney’s colleagues.

To be clear, I disagree with Cheney on most issues, including Supreme Court appointments, gun control policies and plans to address current economic problems; ironically, she voted 90% of the time with Trump. Nevertheless, at least for today I am Cheney’s fan and cheerleader. Despite what her detractors are saying, Cheney spoke as an American and not as a politician. It would be hard to refute that.

Why is Cheney’s behavior so remarkable and important? Because saving our constitutional democracy and the rule of law is far more important than any other matter facing the nation. Problems like inflation are temporary, ephemeral and transitory; while painful in the moment, history documents that these problems always abate. By contrast, however, once democracy is lost it is lost — and the consequences last forever, hurting all of us more than rising gas and food prices.

Dr. Richard Cherwitz is the Ernest A. Sharpe Centennial Professor Emeritus in the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin.

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