Kinzinger On Republicans Backing Trump's Big Lie: "I think God Probably Wouldn’t Be Cool With It"

"There's A Sucker Born Every Minute" by Nancy Ohanian

Remember when corporate America vowed to stop funding the 147 Republican incumbents who voted against certifying Biden's election, backing the 1/6 insurrectionists and the Trump coup, on the grounds that voting fraud stole the election from Señor Trumpanzee? Yesterday, NBC News reported that "It was a striking gesture by some of the most familiar names in business but, as it turns out, it was largely an empty one. Six months later, many of those companies have resumed funneling cash to political action committees that benefit the election efforts of lawmakers whether they objected to the election certification or not. When it comes to seeking political influence through corporate giving, business as usual is back, if it ever left. Walmart, Pfizer, Intel, General Electric and AT&T are among companies that announced their pledges on behalf of democracy in the days after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in a violent bid to disrupt the transfer of power."

They may not be giving to the pro-insurrectionist Republicans directly, but they are pouring cash into the right-wing Super PACs that support those incumbents. For example, the moral stand Republican-oriented Walmart. Pfizer and General Electric took after the failed coup, lasted 3 months before the companies' PACs started funding the NRCC and the NRSC again. "For other companies," reported NBC, "the pledges may just be a cynical attempt to look good in the eyes of the public. Few of the companies that made pledges tended to give big donations to individual lawmakers anyway, preferring the big party PACs or dark money groups."

That said, the Washington Post reported yesterday that Republican candidates have largely decided to embrace the insurrection and run on Trump's Big Lie. "[T]he embrace of Trump’s claims is already widespread on the trail and in candidates’ messages to voters. The trend provides fresh evidence of Trump’s continued grip on the GOP, reflecting how a movement inspired by his claims and centered on overturning a democratic election has gained currency in the party since the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Dozens of candidates promoting the baseless notion that the election was rigged are seeking powerful statewide offices-- such as governor, attorney general and secretary of state, which would give them authority over the administration of elections-- in several of the decisive states where Trump and his allies sought to overturn the outcome and engineer his return to the White House...'What’s really frightening right now is the extent of the effort to steal power over future elections,' said Jena Griswold, the Democratic secretary of state in Colorado. 'That’s what we’re seeing across the nation. Literally in almost every swing state, we have someone running for secretary of state who has been fearmongering about the 2020 election or was at the insurrection. Democracy will be on the ballot in 2022.'"

Trump, the most popular figure in the Republican Party, has repeatedly threatened to punish those who do not echo his claims by injecting himself into primaries.
In a recent statement accusing Wisconsin House Speaker Robin Vos of failing to adequately fight to overturn Biden’s win, Trump included a veiled promise to help recruit primary challengers to run against those who have displeased him.
“These REPUBLICAN ‘leaders’ need to step up and support the people who elected them by providing them a full forensic investigation,” he said. “If they don’t, I have little doubt that they will be primaried and quickly run out of office.”
As a result, some candidates and GOP leaders have worked feverishly to ingratiate themselves with the former president. After Trump attacked him, Vos announced that a former state Supreme Court justice would lead a fresh probe of the 2020 election there. In Arizona, energy executive Jim Lamon, who is seeking the GOP nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (D), has embraced baseless claims of election fraud-- and purchased ad time on Fox News in New Jersey, thousands of miles from Arizona primary voters, to win support from Trump while the former president summers at his golf club in Bedminster.
Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who is contemplating a run for governor, recently told Trump that he could engineer a post-election audit in his state like the one underway in Arizona. Like more than a dozen others, Mastriano also traveled to Arizona to witness the recount firsthand, after which Trump issued a statement praising him and calling on the Pennsylvania Senate to heed his call. “The people of Pennsylvania and America deserve to know the truth,” Trump said.
Mark Finchem, a state House member running for Arizona secretary of state, attended the Jan. 6 protest in Washington, and though he said he never came within 500 yards of the Capitol and did not condone the ensuing violence, video footage later emerged showing him in front of the building’s steps after it had been breached.
He also tweeted a picture of people swarming the Capitol steps with the statement, “What happens when the People have been ignored, and Congress refuses to acknowledge rampant fraud.”
Finchem, who did not respond to a request for comment, suggested in a podcast interview in May that he was hopeful that the review of Maricopa County ballots launched by the state Senate could lead to a reversal of Biden’s victory in the state. “We could reclaim our electoral college electors,” he told Zak Payne, a pro-Trump activist whose podcast has provided a platform for QAnon-linked conspiracy theories.
Shawnna Bolick, another Arizona House member running for secretary of state, proposed legislation this year that would give the legislature the power to set aside the popular vote and choose its own presidential electors. Bolick, who also did not respond to a Post inquiry, announced her candidacy last month with a statement that called for securing elections and noted that many Americans “believe cheating likely affected the outcome of the 2020 election.”
...In Washington state, Joe Kent, a U.S. Army veteran, is among a handful of Republicans who have announced plans to challenge Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January.
Kent has repeatedly questioned the outcome of the 2020 presidential race, appearing at “America First” rallies alongside purveyors of baseless conspiracy theories and tweeting in April: “We need to fight for election integrity. Do not reward incumbents that refused to contest the 2020 election.” Kent did not respond to a request for an interview.
In Michigan, Mellissa Carone, a former contractor for the election vendor Dominion Voting Systems who drew ridicule after making outlandish claims of fraud at a legislative hearing in that state last fall, has filed paperwork to run for a state House seat.
Some Republicans are worried that some of these candidates could thwart GOP efforts to pick up seats next year. In Michigan, a state Senate committee issued a report last week denying continuing claims that rigged equipment and other fraud tainted the 2020 result there. Although the report attracted Trump’s ire, it reflected concerns among Republicans that growing calls for post-election audits in numerous counties in the state had the potential to harm the party’s electoral chances next year.
In addition, Michigan state Republicans have been encouraging state Rep. Ann Bollin, the chairwoman of the House Elections Committee, to run for secretary of state. Bollin has said Biden won the state, while another Republican who is seeking the office, Kristina Karamo, has espoused Trump’s unfounded claims.
Democrats and other Trump critics, meanwhile, are expressing alarm that the sheer number of GOP candidates promoting his election falsehoods will put anti-democratic forces in place at multiple levels of government with the power to thwart the will of the voters in future elections.
...“I have real pause about the role the ‘big lie’ will play not only in campaigns next year but in challenges to a fair and accessible election,” said Allison Riggs, an election lawyer with the liberal Southern Coalition for Social Justice, referring to false claims about the 2020 election. “We expect it.”

Over the weekend, the NY Times Magazine ran a piece by David Marchese, Rep. Adam Kinzinger On The Moral Failure Of Republicans And The Big Lie. Kinzinger says he hasn't made any meaningful communication with McCarthy and his leadership team since the failed coup on January 6-- half a year! He noted that McCarthy "gave a great speech the week after that, and then he went to Mar-a-Lago and charged the paddles and brought Trump back to life. That’s the moment when I realized, Oh, man, this is a problem. You come to understand that when the party and party leaders talk about unity, and in the same breath say that Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party, what they’re talking about isn’t unity. They’re talking about capitulation. When under the guise of unity, you act like Jan. 6 was just whatever you want to make of it, that is capitulating to a false narrative and to a dangerous attack on democracy. I will certainly talk to Kevin if he wants to. But I don’t see how we’re ever going to come eye-to-eye on this until there is a recognition that we can’t be the party of insurrection... 'I want to be speaker, and whatever it is on a given day that I’ve got to do, I’ll do it.' Part of me doesn’t blame him, because he’s not going to be a senator, he’s not going to be governor. Being speaker is a huge deal. I think in his mind, once he’s speaker, he will be in a position to maybe lead the party differently. But the problem is that this is the moment where opinions of our base voters and our party are being baked in. This is the moment where history is being written as to whether something like Jan. 6 can happen again. I think he made the decision early on that he will take a fund-raising hit if he turns against Trump, that the Freedom Club will throw him under the bus. Had he done the Mitch McConnell-- Who’s this guy Trump you speak of?-- we probably as a party would be more moved on. But for him, it’s all about how you become speaker."

Marchese asked him if he suspects some members of Congress were in on the coup attempt before it happened. He didn't throw Gosar, Cawthorn, Tuberville or any of the other seditionists under the bus but he said that, while not naming names, "yes, I do have that suspicion. I will say, if you just looked at Twitter-- the whole reason I brought my gun and kept my staff home and told my wife to stay in the apartment was looking at Twitter. I saw the threats. When Lauren Boebert-- I will call her out by name-- tweeted 'Today is 1776,' I don’t know what that meant other than this is the time for revolution. Maybe it was a dumb tweet that she didn’t mean. Fine. I’ll give her that credit for now. But if you have members of Congress who were involved in nurturing an insurrection, heck yeah, we need to know."

Marchese: There’s a strain of contemporary Republican politicians-- people like Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene-- who seem more about performative politics than policy. Do you ever have policy discussions with those folks? Or discussions at all?
Kinzinger: No, not those. Marjorie Taylor Greene, I give her credit for probably achieving what she intended to achieve, which is: I don’t care about the damage I’m doing; I want to be famous and raise money. Congratulations. That’s not a serious legislator. She’s not on committees. She’s a freshman. No offense to freshmen, but I have no legislative need to have conversations with her. I also see what she’s doing as dangerous to the country, and so I have no need to be her friend. I’m not going to go sit down in a corner and convince her of my side. And if I do, then about 10 minutes later she’ll be taken over again by the desire to raise money. But I get along with the vast majority of the Republican conference. I think the vast majority agree with my position; they just aren’t speaking out. I don’t blame them all for that, but I wish more would.
...Marchese: What’s your sense of whether Trump was sui generis or a particularly bad symptom of trends that had already been going on in the Republican Party?
Kinzinger: The best analogy I can give: He’s like a gangrenous limb. But then that limb gets cut off, and now you don’t have a leg. He’s a symptom of what probably was about a quarter of the party that was always kind of conspiracy-driven but was generally suppressed by most normal Republicans. But everybody has fear in their heart, and when somebody, especially somebody in authority, speaks to the darkest parts of your heart, your fears, your racism-- it gives you permission to let those things overtake you. That’s what happened with a lot of the rest of the party.
Marchese: Do you have ideas for how, just in people’s day-to-day lives, we could be talking to one another about politics without descending into vitriol? Or put another way: How do we avoid getting into a situation like the one you wound up in, where members of your own family are sending you a letter accusing you of doing the devil’s work?
Kinzinger: First off, it’s a big failure of the church. There are lots of great pastors, but there are a lot that have failed their flock and convinced them that prophecy said Trump would get back in office and all that kind of stuff. But here’s a start: If you’re on the right and don’t have a friend from the left, go make one. And if you’re on the left and don’t have a friend from the right, go make one. Talk about your fears. Everybody’s fear is the same: There will be no place for me in this country. If a liberal hears a conservative say, “No, we do want you here,” and a conservative hears a liberal say, “You may be a crazy conservative, but I still want you here”-- that’s how you start to build trust.
Marchese: What caused that failure on the part of some pastors?
Kinzinger: When you spend your day thinking about good versus evil and, to you, abortion is the ultimate evil and, in your mind, Donald Trump did good things on abortion, then nothing else matters. You can convince yourself that God has said to tell your flock that on Jan. 6, he’s going to be reinstated. But as I’ve gotten to study in the New Testament, I don’t think Jesus ever talked about the government. The only thing he ever said about that was to give Caesar that coin and give God his coin and live your life. His teachings weren’t about overthrowing the government.
Marchese: Are you hopeful that, moving forward, more evangelical Christians will give as much credence, politically speaking, to teachings about grace and forgiveness as about literally demonizing political opponents?
Kinzinger: Look, there are a lot of great churches. But those that are saying Adam Kinzinger took pieces of silver from Nancy Pelosi because I voted to impeach Trump-- Franklin Graham said that. I look at it as two things. No. 1, I do sense a chilling out a little in the community, particularly from the younger generation. And second, the whole point of Christianity is that we are flawed people and despite those flaws are loved. But I’m going to tell you: If I were the devil, the best thing I could do is use the church to do exactly what’s being done with spreading all these conspiracy theories and stuff and try to discredit it that way.
Marchese: Are politicians who knowingly perpetuate the big lie committing a sin?
Kinzinger: That’s between them and God, but I think God probably wouldn’t be cool with it.