The Problem With Just “Accountability at the Ballot Box”
Placing the onus of responsibility solely on the voters to deal with the Republican party isn’t the right move, particularly now.
After the transition of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden, I still can’t help reflecting upon the events that took place on January 6th, and the broader implications they have for what’s left of the already fragile democracy here in the United States. After pro-Trump rioters were incited and emboldened to storm the Capitol by the former President himself, engaging in armed standoffs with police and roaming the halls of the building carrying weaponry, Confederate flags, and zip ties, Donald Trump was rightfully impeached by the House of Representatives for incitement of an insurrection. An insurrection that led to the death of some of his supporters who were acting on his behalf, and the lives of his own Vice President and fellow lawmakers being put in jeopardy.
While even Mitch McConnell has hinted at his support for Trump’s impeachment, the question concerning what to do with the other Republican legislators whose conduct also led to what took place on January 6th still remains largely ignored by top Democratic leadership. When asked to do what I would argue is the bare minimum, and call upon Republicans like Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley to resign for their role in the incitement of the riots, Joe Biden responded exactly as one might have expected.
Abby Livingston with The Texas Tribune writes:
“I think they should be just flat beaten the next time they run,” Biden said, when asked if Cruz and another Republican senator, Josh Hawley of Missouri, ought to step down. “I think the American public has a real good clear look at who they are. They’re part of the big lie, the big lie.”
Of course that boils down to nothing more than “accountability at the ballot box”, a phrase literally used by the Human Rights Campaign in response to Cruz, Hawley, and others rejecting the certification of the electoral college votes.
While I am certainly in favor of voters paying attention, flexing their power, and expecting their politicians to represent their best interests, there comes a point where “accountability at the ballot box” — particularly under these circumstances — poses a problem.
Even after all the cards have been stacked in their favor, with the term “democracy” to be used lightly considering all the ways that the will of the people is actively subverted here in the United States, and every advantage they could possibly have baked into the system for them, lawmakers like Cruz and Hawley were willing to set what’s left of the electoral democratic process on fire because they deemed it politically advantageous to do so when the election didn’t turn out how they wanted. They have made it explicitly clear that they do not acknowledge the right of the opposition party to lead, and were willing to put the lives of their fellow lawmakers at risk just so they could have even the slightest chance of getting Trump’s supporters to vote for them when they run for President in 2024.
To lawmakers like Lauren Boebert, Ted Cruz, Tommy Tuberville, Mo Brooks, and Josh Hawley, the rioters with zip ties and guns weren’t violent seditionists, they were potential supporters.
Are we really prepared to say “vote” is an adequate response?
Frankly, “accountability at the ballot box” just seems like a convenient way to place the onus of responsibility for dealing with Republican politicians solely on the voters, and absolving Democrats in power from doing anything at all. As opposed to actually using what tools they have at their disposal — such as the 14th amendment — and the heat of the moment to do everything they can to make sure their Republican colleagues face consequences for their actions, it’s a lot easier to just tell people to “vote”, isn’t it? Telling people to “vote” as though Cruz and Hawley don’t have four more years in office, and rejecting anything Democrats can do in the meantime to get them out seems like perhaps the biggest minimization of what took place that they could ask for. How can we expect people to understand the magnitude of what took place if we’re just being told to vote those responsible out of office, like all they did was push through a bad piece of legislation?
And of course, there’s the obvious question:
What happens if they get re-elected?
As if they weren’t already emboldened enough, are we really willing to risk what Trump’s enablers in office will be expecting to get away with if they’re continuing to hold power, and face no consequences for what happened? Considering the lengths they were willing to go to preserve Donald Trump’s power and delegitimize the electoral victory of his opponent, what are they going to do if its their election and their name at the top of the ticket in 2024 or 2028?
Just because they didn’t succeed this time doesn’t mean they can’t succeed in the future.
Maybe it’s just me, but forcing these lawmakers out of the halls of congress seems like a pretty crucial step in preventing another attempt for these authoritarians and their voters to seize power. Telling people to “vote”, as though any of this is normal, is going to do nothing to prevent them from trying again.