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An attack on the Capitol is not ‘legitimate political discourse’

SHARE An attack on the Capitol is not ‘legitimate political discourse’
House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, wears a mask while working in the House chamber at the Capitol.

House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, wears a mask while working in the House chamber during the Utah general legislative session at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Last week the Republican National Committee met in Salt Lake City for its winter meeting. It formally censured Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the two GOP members of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, for serving on that committee.

The censure stated the mob that stormed the Capitol was “engaged in legitimate political discourse.” But this attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election was simply an authoritarian attack on our Constitution. How does the GOP censure not officially support that attack? 

Article IV, Section 10 of the Utah Constitution requires me and all other state officers to support, obey, and defend the federal and state constitutions. How should elected officials respond to this RNC resolution that condemns those trying to get to the bottom of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack?

In my time at the state Capitol, I have heard many of my colleagues talk about the need to defend our imperiled Constitution. Yet I have been struck by the lack of voices in our Legislature condemning Jan. 6 and assorted other authoritarian attempts to overthrow the Constitution.

Some have raised their voices. I was glad to hear Sen. Mitt Romney’s comment that “shame falls on a party that would censure persons of conscience, who seek truth in the face of vitriol.” I join him in condemning a party that opposes the search for the truth about Jan. 6. 

It is particularly important that political parties prevent opportunistic hucksters or extremists from taking over the party agenda. Frank and principled discussion between the tribe’s own members is more likely to help a party stay true to its worthy ideals than criticism from nonbelievers. When political parties cease to act with integrity about the values they claim to believe in, they are not worthy of support. 

The tradition of the predominant religion in Utah, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is that God inspired our Constitution and that it plays a key role in the future of this world. The church teaches its members to defend the Constitution against enemies both external and internal. 

The April 2021 general conference address from President Dallin H. Oaksis titled “Defending Our Divinely Inspired Constitution.” I do not believe it was a coincidence that President Oaks’ comments were delivered in the first Latter-day Saint general conference after Jan. 6.

Whether or not you are a Latter-day Saint, President Oaks’ address is worth reading. And its point that the Constitution must be upheld and defended is especially important to internalize if, like me, you are bound by oath of office to do exactly that. 

Which brings me back to the Republican National Committee’s formal censure of two GOP House members who were willing to serve on the House Select Committee to investigate Jan. 6. One of the two major parties is working to sabotage bipartisan efforts to defend our Constitution from authoritarian takeover.

As a Utah legislator, I condemn attempts to cast aside the results of the free and fair 2020 presidential election. I also encourage and support the hard work that many people — Republicans, Democrats, those from other parties, and unaffiliated voters — are doing to gather information about the Jan. 6 attack.

Finally, we must oppose the effort of any group or individual to terminate or interfere with an investigation that allows our country to get to the bottom of the Jan. 6 attack on our country and Constitution. I ask all Utahns to join me in raising their voices to accomplish this.  

Rep. Brian King is a Democrat representing District 28 in the Utah House of Representatives where he serves as minority leader.