The Blog: A traditional Republican’s reaction to the Trump insurrection

Editor’s note: This is the most recent installment of the Second Wave blog. We have been asking for insights from people from across the community who have something to say about their experiences, the ongoing state of affairs, or their lives that will speak to our current time together. Today we hear from Kevin McCarthy. If you would like to contribute please let us know. — Kathy Jennings, Managing Editor, Southwest Michigan's Second Wave

Beginning in 1972 when I cast my first ballot for Richard Nixon and continuing through 2012 when I voted for Mitt Romney I was a moderate, active Republican. In 2000, I led the campaign against a proposed living wage ordinance in Kalamazoo. In 2001, I introduced President George W. Bush (for whom I had voted) at a speech he made at WMU.  I was then the Board Chair of the Chamber and later served on the board of the Michigan Chamber. I am not and never have been a liberal, progressive, socialist, or radical of any kind.  

My political mindset changed in 2016 when I decided I could not vote for Donald Trump. I thought — no, I knew — he would be a disaster and endanger the nation in multiple ways. By 2020, having seen how most GOP officeholders, even on the local level, had become enablers of Trump, I went a step further and chose for the first time to vote a straight Democrat ticket, even though I am still not a Democrat. I no longer call myself a Republican. My Party of Lincoln is now the Party of Trump.

Kevin McCarthyAll my fears of how Trump and his hardcore followers would endanger the country came to fruition on Jan. 6, 2021. It was Trump who invited the MAGA mob to travel to Washington D.C. for a Jan. 6 event that he promised, “will be wild” and who, along with Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump, Jr., fired up the crowd for their assault on the Capitol.

In the chaos that Trump enabled, five people died, including a police officer who was murdered by the MAGA mob. After Trump turned against his vice president, the insurrectionists ran through the Capitol chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.” The purpose of this attack was clearly to subvert the constitutional and statutory processes of an American presidential election. Remarkably, it was initiated and encouraged by a sitting president of the United States. It was an unlawful insurrection and a black day in the history of America and democracy.

Despite all this, I have hope for our collective future for several reasons. 

The vast majority of Americans firmly and clearly oppose this insurrection. Post-Jan. 6 polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans feel this attack was wrong, with roughly 2/3 blaming Trump for it. Only 8% supported the attack. One poll found that 56% of the public supports Trump’s removal from office before Jan. 20.

Although Trump applied significant pressure on the Republican governor and secretary of state in Georgia, the U.S. attorney in Atlanta, and Vice President Pence, thankfully and to their everlasting credit, these men all stood firm and rejected Trump’s illegal demands.

Our governmental institutions, though much-maligned, are strong. Our judiciary did its job of deciding election challenges on the basis of the law, not for political reasons. Post-Jan. 6, some Republican elected officials have repudiated the actions of Trump and his MAGA mob. Trump Administration officials, including two Cabinet officers, have resigned in protest of his role in the insurrection. The insurrectionists are being brought to justice.

There is much to be done to address the divide in our splintered country that led to this attack and to threats to kill Mike Pence, Nancy Pelosi, governors, and other public officials. 

As freedom-loving Americans, we must do what we can in upcoming days, months, and years to heal our divisions. Conservative, pro-Trump political leaders must recognize the need for them to quit spreading lies. Collectively, we must elect more principled leaders. Individually, we must be careful to not intentionally or otherwise disseminate “facts” that are in reality lies. It is easy before posting a meme online to verify its accuracy. We must fight fiction with facts.

The politicians who have enabled Trump and Trumpism must be voted out of office or otherwise removed by legal means. Trump must be held personally accountable, both civilly and criminally.

There will always be differences of opinion among us, but let’s engage in them respectfully and factually, not with name-calling, threats, or lies. Illegal threats and actions, however, must be met with strong law enforcement and judicial action and vociferous public condemnation.

We must speak up on important issues and not give comfort to those who would destroy our country in the false name of patriotism. It is our duty as good citizens to do so. We can’t be silent. Edward R. Murrow gave us guidance on how to deal with the spread of “the big lie” (propaganda used for political purposes). In a national news broadcast in 1954, Murrow said this of the systematic lies about innocent Americans by Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

"This is no time for men who oppose Sen. McCarthy's methods to keep silent.  .  . We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation, we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
The actions of the junior senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully."

Substitute “Trump” for “McCarthy” and “president” for “junior senator from Wisconsin” and see how it sounds today. Sen. McCarthy and McCarthyism were brought down in large part because of Murrow’s comments. We need to react in the same way today to eliminate Trump and Trumpism.

Kevin M. McCarthy, of Portage, should not be confused with politician Kevin O. McCarthy, minority leader (Republican) in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kevin M. McCarthy was a practicing attorney in Southwest Michigan for 39 years before retiring in 2018. He was a founder and principal of the McCarthy Smith Law Group until 2014 when that firm was merged into Warner Norcross & Judd. He was, on many occasions, listed among the state’s top attorneys in labor and employment law. Since 2017 he has authored a blog titled The Madly Militant Moderate found here