Playing the political discourse game – By Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

 Remember those playground rumbles after school? “You’re wrong!” “No! I’m right and everybody knows it.” In case you’re wondering, this back-and-forth wasn’t between a couple of kids arguing over kickball. This was the former President and Vice President arguing over the United States constitution. Will this conversation be quoted by future generations? Who knows? Maybe it’ll sound like Shakespeare given how the Republican National Committee (RNC) is trying to redefine the violence of the Jan. 6 Capital riot.

The RNC condemned the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 and censured Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) for participating in the almost 400 interviews about the “Stop the Steal rally” that day.  The investigation was called a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in “legitimate political discourse”.

The RNC tried to give itself some wiggle room when the push back got fierce. Folks were enraged by attempts to call the rioters “peaceful protestors” while ignoring the zip ties, gallows, a noose, bear spray, guns, knives, tasers, steel poles, and Molotov cocktails. Not to mention the gallows set up to hang Pence. Equally unconvincing were the conspiracy theories claiming that the rioters were actually Democrats and Antifa trying to make the GOP look bad. And since those theories fell flat, the riot is now being blamed on Nancy Pelosi.

So, it wasn’t surprising that the Twitter crowd freaked out when reminded last week of GOP claims that “The Republican Party is the party of Law and Order.” Tweeters listed the numbers of   criminal indictments from zero in Obama’s administration to 215 in Trump’s administration.

Then they got more specific and pointed out that Republicans voted No for additional funding for law enforcement and No for honoring Capitol police who were killed. A multitude of tweets objected to the GOP’s support of people chanting “Kill him with his own gun,” while beating cops with an American flag and calling it patriotism. They were indignant over ignored subpoenas that were served legally by the Jan. 6 investigating committee.

If you’re looking for the GOP’s discussion of Jan. 6, don’t bother going to the GOP Twitter account. There’s total silence on the topic with tweets predictably, but ironically, calling Biden, “Divider-in-Chief.” I expected that, but did not anticipate the promotion of the Republican Party as more diverse, inclusive and equity-driven than Democrats. The frequent use of the tag #BlackHistoryMonth is accompanied by reports that over 40 Black Republicans are running in GOP primaries for both local and federal office.

The response to that was not a positive one. Someone pointed out that 40 Black Republicans running in 519,682 offices is only .007%.  An historian added that there were many more Black Republican legislators during Reconstruction after the Civil War.  Tweeters also noted that Republicans blocked the passage of a bill making lynching a federal crime, that state GOP legislatures are hampering voting by African American, and that Republican Tom Cotton said that “Slavery was a Necessary Evil”.

Few responded to the GOP tweet stating that the RNC Chairwoman is leading the way for Black engagement in the GOP. The silence implied there was a sense of being played. And in the end, it’s like labeling Jan. 6 as legitimate political discourse. It’s a school-yard rumble, designed to deflect and offset the reality checks of the investigating committee. Yes, these attempts are more sophisticated than “I’m right and everyone knows it”.  But we should recognize them as the same game.  And when future generations write our history, they should, too.

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