Jan 06, 2024


Posted Jan 06, 2024 8:10 AM
Steven Howe
Steven Howe

Kansas State Rep. (R-71)

Do Republicans stand for the peaceful transition of power? That is the nagging question that has haunted me since January 6, 2021.

I remember the day clearly. At the time I was State Representative-elect, five days before I was scheduled to take the oath of office where I would publicly proclaim to uphold and defend the Kansas Constitution and the Constitution of the United States, "so help me God". On that cold wintry day I was in the midst of handing-off duties to a new teacher for my 5th grade class for the spring semester. Because of my new position as Representative-elect, it was not possible to continue teaching.

The day before, on January 5th, a longtime friend and Capitol Hill staffer whom I had plans to reconnect with sent me the following text, "The Trump stuff is too raw right now. It consumes everything. It's literally putting friends and family (not to mention our principles and democratic institutions) in harm's way. I'm not currently in a good mindset to talk to folks who have empowered and legitimized this man and his pursuit of power and wealth above EVERYTHING else....even close friends and those I care about. It goes SO far beyond politics. It's about who we are and what we fundamentally believe. So I need things to cool off first."

At the time I did not fully understand the sentiment expressed by my dear friend. I was certainly disappointed that politics had seemed to negatively impact our relationship. After the 2020 general election I literally tuned out from the day-to-day media reports. I was fatigued from the election year so I distanced myself from the political drama - no television news for me.

Nonetheless, the former President continued to beat the drum that the election was "rigged" and "stolen" from the American people, and many Republicans followed suit marching along to the beat. It was a confusing time for many of us.

For years the political divisions and dysfunction, the hubris of politicians, and the arrogance of a governing elite continued to poison the well of the American electorate. Every event, every press conference, every Tweet became a partisan battleground and a potential gotcha-moment. Both major political parties forsook the public good in lieu of advantage, power and self-preservation.

Around mid-day on January 6th, I started receiving real-time updates and concerning text messages from my longtime friend on Capitol Hill. He was worried about his safety, the safety of his family, and the safety of his fellow colleagues.

As you may remember, January 6th was the day in which Congress was tasked with receiving the election certifications from each of the fifty states. The former President and many fellow Republicans continued to tell Americans that the election was stolen and suggested that the Vice President had the constitutional authority to block the congressional certification process.

The former President summoned his supporters to the Washington Mall that day for his “Save America Rally”. In a 70-plus minute speech, the former President spoke about his accomplishments - but he primarily stoked the crowd with a litany of deceit and lies that sowed distrust about our elections, and preyed upon the good nature of his most fervent supporters. It all reached a fever pitch after the crowd converged on the west steps of the U.S. Capitol building complex. Violence, lawlessness and destruction. It is clear that these lies were endorsed and inflamed by the former President. The lies ultimately undermined confidence in the electoral process and the peaceful transfer of power.

Unfortunately, none of this was new for the former President. In the 2012 election between Romney and Obama, he tweeted the following on Twitter (@realDonaldTrump):

“More reports of voting machines switching Romney votes to Obama. Pay close attention to the machines, don't let your vote be stolen.”
1:56 PM · Nov 6, 2012

“This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!" 10:33 PM · Nov 6, 2012

“The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.”
10:45 PM · Nov 6, 2012

The online tweetstorm of falsehoods continued in the Republican 2016 Iowa Caucuses which Senator Ted Cruz won. Then-candidate Trump tweeted:

“Based on the fraud committed by Senator Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucus, either a new election should take place or Cruz results nullified.” 8:28 AM · Feb 3, 2016

Eventually, after securing the Republican nomination and prior to his own successful 2016 general election, he tweeted the following on Twitter (@realDonaldTrump):

“The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary - but also at many polling places - SAD.” 12:01 PM · Oct 16, 2016

“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day. Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!” 7:33 AM · Oct 17, 2016

If history is any indication of future behavior, there is no doubt that Trump would employ falsehoods, slander opponents, and continue to undermine the electoral process for the sake of protecting his ego.

On January 6, 2021, I did not want to believe what I was seeing with my own eyes. How could this have happened? How did we get to this point?

While I couldn't fully understand the magnitude of what had happened at the time, or what my friend directly experienced, with time, the picture has become more clear.

I was lied to. You were lied to. America was lied to. The election was not stolen or rigged. While the outcome was not what many Republicans hoped for - the facts do not support the repeated claims of the election being stolen or rigged. This election was the same election that myself and many Republicans gained a supermajority in the Kansas House and Senate. As I walked door-to-door during my campaign I repeatedly heard from life-long Republicans that they would vote for me - but they could not vote for the incumbent President. At the time I wasn't sure how widespread this sentiment was, but looking back, it turned out to be substantial. Conventional wisdom in politics was defied. The top of the ticket candidate did not negatively impact down-the-ballot races. As Kansans often do, they expressed their political independence by not voting straight party lines.

Several years have since passed, and with hindsight and a willingness to accept the facts, I decided to write this article for my fellow Kansas Republicans. While we may have different perspectives and analysis of what happened on January 6th, and what happened leading up to that day, what actually occurred that day must be accounted for and fully addressed by Republicans and the Republican Party.

Do Republicans believe in the peaceful transfer of power as first demonstrated by our country's first President George Washington? Will Republicans truly stand for the truth, even when it does not benefit us politically? Will Republicans nominate the former President who repeatedly lied to us, as the standard bearer of the party which elevated the likes of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan?

Republicans cannot ignore the past. Failing to address it head on will forever damage the integrity of the party, and its viability as a legitimate governing coalition. Time will ultimately provide us with a verdict.

During the last legislative session the Kansas State Legislature and Governor authorized a presidential preference primary election which is scheduled for March 19, 2024. On that day, Kansas Republicans (and Democrats) will participate in their party's respective nominating process. Will sober-minded Republicans vote for the truth, or will we turn a blinded-eye to it? Will Republicans be a party of integrity and truth, or will we give-in to a cult of personality, group-think, and mob mentality that undermines the rule of law and our constitutional republic? Will political violence, intimidation and retribution become the norm of our country's body politic? I voted for the former President in the 2016 general election and again in 2020 - but I will not vote for him a third time in 2024.

Every Republican, with hindsight as a gift, needs to thoroughly examine the actions of the former President, and determine whether or not you think he exemplifies the virtues and values we hold dear as Americans.

In President Washington's first inaugural address he penned, "the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

May we take this entrusted responsibility seriously, and with great reverence. Our country's future depends on it.