“One man with courage makes a majority.”
— President Andrew Jackson
During the hours that the U.S. Capitol was still a scene of chaos and violence on Jan. 6, 2021, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler encountered two capitol police officers who “had the you-know-what beat out of them.”
At that point, still under siege, having just been evacuated from the House floor, Herrera Beutler was trying to find out if President Donald Trump had spoken out against the bloody and deadly attack on the Capitol by his supporters.
She asked if Trump had made any statements on TV or tweeted out anything to halt the violence. These two officers, beaten and battered by their fellow Americans at the urging of a president who would foment revolution before accepting the truth about his clear election loss, just shrugged — defeat crushing their faces and attitude.
“I was so angry at that moment,” Herrera Beutler later said. “I just thought, why defend that? There’s nothing about that that’s Republican. There’s nothing about that that’s conservative. That’s us centering around the ego of one person.”
A week later, she and fellow Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse were among the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach President Donald Trump. They did honor to their vows to protect and defend the Constitution with this vote.
The evidence to impeach was overwhelming. Members of Congress had seen their own president, a sore loser rather than a statesman, undermine our democracy and call for a fight. They had seen the U.S. Capitol breached in an attempt to overthrow 232 years of precedent and perhaps our nation’s greatest accomplishment: the peaceful transfer of power.
That President Trump had lost the election was undeniable. Unfortunately, Trump is not a man willing to accept the reality of defeat. Sadly, he is not a man who puts our nation — or the truth — ahead of his own interests and ego.
Despite dozens of lawsuits, every judge threw out his fanciful and far-fetched claims of fraud. As recently as last week, a distinguished group of longtime conservatives published a report called “Lost, not Stolen,” that confirms the 2020 election was fairly conducted.
“There is absolutely no evidence of fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election on the magnitude necessary to shift the result in any state, let alone the nation as a whole. In fact, there was no fraud that changed the outcome in even a single precinct,” the group of distinguished conservatives wrote.
Profiles in courage
The vote by Herrera Beutler and Newhouse to impeach a president of their own party — a president they had in fact voted for — reminds me of a book by John F. Kennedy, “Profiles in Courage.”
The book is an inspiring look at the long, often lonely road of a handful of senators across the centuries who pushed back against “the contempt of mankind” to cast the hardest votes of their careers.
Among them: war hero Sam Houston, the first senator ever elected from the new state of Texas. In 1854 he spoke out as the only Southern Democrat to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, which reopened the slavery question in a vast swath of America and pushed America toward the coming Civil War. Fellow Democrats in Texas, which had 150,000 slaves at that time, were outraged. The Dallas Herald demanded that their state’s hero resign his seat.
“It was,” Houston later remarked, “the most unpopular vote I ever gave (but) the wisest and most patriotic.”
Herrera Beutler’s vote will stand next to Sam Houston and the other patriots that John Kennedy profiled.
“I am not afraid of losing my job but I am afraid that our country will fail. ... But truth — truth sets us free from fear,” Herrera Beutler said on the House floor. “My vote to impeach our sitting president is not a fear-based decision. I am not choosing a side, I am choosing truth. Truth is the only way to defeat fear.”
The blowback to her impeachment vote was fast and furious. People who center their politics around support for former President Trump have vowed to defeat her in the primary to punish her.
I encourage loyal Americans to push back on that spirit of retaliation, and to vote in support of Herrera Beutler.
Most votes we cast each election day are based on party, or policy, or a person’s character.
That’s as it should be.
A few times in our lives, however, there are elections that simply are about defining who we are as a nation.
Do we want to be represented by a statesman? Do we want to reward political courage?
Or will we punish those who stood up for our American ideals?
This is that kind of election. We have a representative, Jaime Herrera Beutler, who deserves our support for standing strong against the forces of violence, deception and political selfishness.
I’m calling on people across the political spectrum — left, right and center, including my Democratic countrymen and my dear loved ones who voted for President Trump — to show that we believe in the ideals that our Founding Fathers envisioned when they created this democratic republic.
Let’s reward her courage by giving her our support in this year’s election.
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s impeachment vote will resound through the ages as an act of patriotism — of allegiance not to a man, but to our nation.
Whether she wins or loses reelection, she can hold her head high.
Now it’s our time to decide whether our votes will allow us to do the same.
Brian Mittge is a fourth-generation Lewis County resident who has covered life in his hometown for The Chronicle since 2000. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.