Commentary

Commentary: Personal responsibility? Any Tennessee Republican leader ready?

January 11, 2021 5:00 am
Thousands of President Donald Trump's supporters storm the U.S. Capitol building following a "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. The protesters stormed the historic building, breaking windows and clashing with police. Trump supporters had gathered in the nation's capital to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters storm the U.S. Capitol building following a “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C. The protesters stormed the historic building, breaking windows and clashing with police. Trump supporters had gathered in the nation’s capital to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“Personal responsibility” is a favorite slogan for Tennessee Republican political leaders.

Until it comes to their own words and actions.

After the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday Tennessee GOP leaders issued their obligatory statements of condemnation.  

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 09: Senator-elect Bill Hagerty (R-TN) meets with the media on November 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Senate is reconvening for the first time after the 2020 presidential election and a coronavirus relief package is high on their list of priorities. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)
Senator-elect Bill Hagerty (R-TN) meets with the media on Nov. 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty said: 

“Yesterday was a shocking day of lawlessness… Last night we reconvened with our Senate colleagues to fulfill our constitutional duty to certify the 2020 election results and prepare for a peaceful transition of power.”

Absent was any acceptance of personal responsibility or accountability for the day’s madness.

One wonders what they were thinking Wednesday night as they sat there like the backbenchers they are, and will be for the foreseeable future, as U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney spoke:

“The objectors have claimed they are doing so on behalf of the voters. Have an audit, they say, to satisfy the many people who believe that the election was stolen. Please! No Congressional-led audit will ever convince those voters, particularly when the President will continue to claim that the election was stolen. The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth. That is the burden, and the duty, of leadership.” 

But it is not just the two senators.  The list of those Republicans failing Romney’s test of leadership begins with former U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and includes Gov. Bill Lee, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, Tennessee Attorney General Herb Slattery and all the Republican state lawmakers who signed the two letters after the election pledging their fealty to President Trump.

Let’s be clear, these are smart individuals.  They knew the President’s election con from the beginning was as principled as a three-card-Monte street hustle.  This was not an allegation on the order of the election fraud of the Crump or the Ford machines in Memphis, or Gene “Little Evil” Jacobs in Nashville.

A protester holds a Trump flag inside the US Capitol Building on the steps outside the Senate Chamber on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A protester holds a Trump flag inside the US Capitol Building near the Senate Chamber on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

To believe Rudy Guliani and Sidney Powell, one had to imagine a conspiracy spanning the states of Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia with the active participation of local and state Democratic and Republican election officials, not to mention election machine company staff and technicians.

No, these Tennessean Republican leaders chose not to respect their own voters with artfully worded dodges.  On Nov. 20, Alexander had this to say:

“Recounting votes and resolving disputes after a close election is not unprecedented and should reassure Americans that election results are valid.

“Al Gore finally conceded 37 days after the 2000 election, and then made the best speech of his life accepting the result.

“My hope is that the loser of this presidential election will follow Al Gore’s example, put the country first, congratulate the winner and help him to a good beginning of the new term.”

We know now how that “hope” turned out.

Words do have consequences, and the failure to speak words of truth and fact has consequences as well.

The continued failure of the Tennessee Republican leadership to accept their responsibility for the mob attacking and ransacking the Capitol is not a promising sign for the body politic of the Volunteer State.

 

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Jim O'Hara
Jim O'Hara

Jim O’Hara served as Associate Commissioner for Public Affairs at the Food and Drug Administration from 1993-1997 and Associate Administrator for External Affairs at the Environmental Protection Agency from 2012-2013.

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