Who among us, at some point during our adolescence, didn’t approach our parents with something we desperately wanted to do and then, as if it would seal the deal, added, “All my friends are doing it”?

And then the response, which we’re sure has been uttered since cave dwellers roamed the earth, has been a predictable, “If all your friends decided to jump off a cliff would you want to do that, too?”

Peer pressure can be an awesome thing — for good or bad.

We remember the Wichita County High School football team coming together earlier in the school year and everyone decided they would wear face masks because they were determined not to let anything get in the way of their quest for a state championship.

There was no politics. No questioning the science. No one pointing to students in another school and complaining, “They aren’t doing this.” It was a simple matter of everyone doing the right thing because they shared a common goal.

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy or popular. It’s become even more difficult these days because of too much social media, too many people burrowing into QAnon rabbit holes and too many people making political nonsense out of mole hills.

Republican politicians in Topeka and Washington, D.C., have abandoned any desire to do the right thing because they’ve decided it’s not good politics.

Tax cuts that favor the wealthiest Americans and corporations, refusing to expand Medicaid health coverage for lower-income individuals, refusing to support broad economic relief for those hit hardest by the pandemic, embracing a white supremacist ideology, turning a blind eye to Russian interference in our elections, denying climate science, passing laws that make it more difficult for targeted individuals to vote and ... well, you get the point.

They’ve become the party of appeasement rather than ideas.

In each of these instances, and many others, Republicans could have chosen to do the right thing to help lift many Americans out of poverty, encourage greater participation in our democracy and stand for greater equality among all people.

Instead, any chance for human decency is repeatedly overwhelmed by their lust for power.

That made the decision by a huge majority of Republicans to reject the formation of a Jan. 6 commission sadly predictable.

Republicans have revealed that their greatest fears are facing the wrath of uninformed voters and being confronted with the truth. A bipartisan 9/11-style commission threatens them with both.

It was Franklin D. Roosevelt who famously inspired a nation following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor by declaring, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Roosevelt and this nation were confronting fascists in Europe and imperialists in Japan. Americans overcame their fears and claimed victories on both fronts. Apparently they had it easy compared to today’s Republican Party, which cowers at the feet of a disgraced and defeated grifter of a president in Florida and his MAGA-hat wearing sycophants.

To paraphrase FDR, “The only thing we have to fear is truth itself” — a reality which the five GOP congressmen from Kansas are unwilling to face. Each of them voted against forming a Jan. 6 commission to look into the events leading up to and that occurred the day insurrectionists stormed the Capitol Building in hopes of bringing down our democracy.

Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was killed while defending lawmakers from the mob, and dozens of Capitol police were injured. After meeting with 15 Republican senators this week, Sandra Garza, the late officer’s partner, was appalled by their indifference to seeking the truth — let alone justice for Sicknick’s death.

“Why would they not want to get to the bottom of such horrific violence?” she said. “It just boggles my mind.”

Rather than seek the truth, Republicans have done everything they can to downplay the events of Jan. 6.

GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde described rioters using flag poles as weapons and beating police officers as “tourists.”

GOP Rep. Paul Gosar (Arizona) has declared the people who stormed the Capitol were “peaceful patriots” who are being harassed by the Department of Justice.

It’s time to quit pretending that Reps. Gosar, Marjorie Taylor Greene (Florida), Matt Gaetz and others in the Republican Party are outliers. When Kansas Sens. Roger Marshall and Jerry Moran, along with Reps. Tracey Mann, Ron Estes and Jake LaTurner have no interest in learning the truth about insurrectionists within our own nation, then our grand experiment is in peril.

It’s not enough that Republicans are willing to jump off a cliff with their friends, but they’re taking our democracy with them.

 

Rod Haxton is publisher of The Scott County Record. He can be reached at editor@screcord.com.

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