In today’s political climate, a Republican leader simply telling the truth is a shocking act—and apparently a disqualification to serve in public office in the eyes of many Republican voters.
In announcing he’s leaving Congress, Ken Buck said: “Our nation is on a collision course with reality. And a steadfast commitment to truth, even uncomfortable truths, is the only way forward.
“Too many Republican leaders are lying to America, claiming that the 2020 election was stolen, describing January 6 as an ‘unguided tour’ of the Capitol, and asserting that the ensuing prosecutions are a weaponization of our justice system. These insidious narratives breed widespread cynicism and erode Americans’ confidence in the rule of law.
“It is impossible for the Republican Party to confront our problems, and offer a course correction for the future, while being obsessively fixated on retribution and vengeance for contrived injustices of the past. This trend among Republicans is a significant departure from the enduring principles of conservatism. We belong to the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. Our movement has always been fueled by immutable truths about human nature, individual liberty, and economic freedoms. The Republican Party of today, however, is ignoring self-evident truths about the rule of law and limited government in exchange for self-serving lies.”
Some have called Buck the Liz Cheney of Colorado. In my book, that’s one of the highest compliments one can pay a Republican politician. But that is not how anti-reality conspiracy mongering “Republicans” imagine things.
Donald Trump, of course, celebrated Buck’s announcement, calling Buck a “Super RINO.” In today’s topsy-turvy world, those who have abandoned all pretense of Republican conservatism rooted in economic reality, republican norms, and the rule of just law claim without blinking that others are “Republican in name only.” Such anti-Republicans are nihilists pining for authoritarianism.
In October, Buck faced considerable pressure from his party to support Jim Jordan for House speaker. But Buck wouldn’t budge, citing Jordan’s claim that the presidential election was stolen. This apparently prompted the party leasing Buck his main state office to evict the Congressman.
Buck subsequently relented and supported Mike Johnson for Speaker, even though Johnson previously said that “election-fraud [was] happening across the country all simultaneously.” Buck told CNN that Johnson was a “very good” candidate. He said that, while Jordan was involved in incidents of “election denialism in their highest degree,” Johnson “was not.” Buck referred to Johnson’s vote not to certify the election results as a forgivable “mistake.”
Readers can decide whether Johnson’s position on the presidential election results is substantially different from that of Jordan. More obvious is that Johnson is a religious authoritarian who has called homosexuality “inherently unnatural,” condemned gay marriage as leading to “chaos and sexual anarchy,” and advocated a total abortion ban. So I am not among those who cheer Buck’s support for Johnson, even apart from Johnson’s stance on the election.
Still, Buck deserves praise from actual Republicans and from genuine conservatives for standing up for election realism and for the peaceful transfer of power. Shockingly, many Republican “leaders” refuse to rise above that very low bar.
An open field
Buck’s surprise departure has various other Republicans scrambling for his seat. Voters in the district will have an opportunity to select someone less clownish than “MAGA KING” Trent Leisy, who continues to proclaim on social media that the presidential election was “rigged.” This is even after Colorado-based Trump attorney Jenna Ellis “pleaded guilty . . . to a felony charge over efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia,” as the AP reports.
Yet it’s certainly not obvious that whoever replaces Buck will be grounded in reality. In a recent interview, Rep. Richard Holtorf, another potential candidate, had to clarify that he wasn’t literally saying that Buck is guilty of treason. He said, “No, he hasn’t committed a treason, in fact. And I’m not saying that. I’m saying to me it feels like it’s treasonous.” To me, Holtorf’s verbal ejaculation well-illustrates the blind emotionalism of today’s Republican party, in which terms like “treason” are thrown around to refer to someone who does not swallow absurd Trumpian conspiracist fantasies.
Perhaps the most serious potential candidate is former prosecutor George Brauchler, who agrees with Buck that conspiracy mongering about a “stolen” election is “dangerous for our democracy.” However, even though Brauchler recognizes “the cult of personality” surrounding Trump, he promised to vote for Trump again should the former president win the nomination.
Even as Lauren Boebert faces a serious Republican primary in her own district—former Governor Bill Owens endorsed Jeff Hurd—as well as a well-funded Democratic opponent, voters in Buck’s district have the chance to replace Buck with Boebert-lite. Alternately, they could get serious about Republican values and about fidelity to reality.
Ari Armstrong writes regularly for Complete Colorado and is the author of books about Ayn Rand, Harry Potter, and classical liberalism. He can be reached at ari at ariarmstrong dot com.
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