In July of 1864 Confederate troops, under the command of Jubal Early, nearly entered Washington D.C. in an effort to burn the U.S. Capitol. Fortunately, Gen. Ulysses Grant was able to dispatch Union troops from the siege of Richmond to thwart the attack that actually came within a few miles of the Capitol and White House. President Lincoln in fact, observed the fighting in the northwest part of the city at Fort Stevens. Other than the British burning the Capitol in 1814, this was the closet an enemy force came to the Capitol.
Then on Jan. 6, 2021, the Rebel Flag was carried through the Halls of Congress by thugs inspired by Donald Trump. What irony, our greatest president watching troops defend our Capitol and our worst president urging his followers to attack our Capitol.
Thanks to brave men and women of the Capitol Police, the attack was eventually turned back and Congress resumed its constitutional duty and certified Joe Biden as our president. Now is the time for us to move forward as a nation, come together as a people united and steadfast in preserving our democracy.
However, there are dark forces within the Republican Party who wish to keep the insurrection of Jan. 6 alive and our country divided. But also within the Republican Party are good people who have the best interest of the country in their hearts and minds. Much has been written in the past eight weeks about how best to overcome all of the divisions we face. As I watched the voting in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, it occurred to me that one way to way to change the dynamics of the divisions we face would be for the Democratic Party to welcome into its ranks those Republican senators and representatives who voted to impeach Trump.
Before you conclude that this is an outlandish and improbable possibility, let me offer four reasons why it could, in fact, happen and be in the best interest of our country. First, those Republican senators and representatives who voted to impeach speak for a significant number of their party members. However, they certainly are a minority within that party. That being the case, those individuals have been rendered voiceless within their own party and any attempt to form a third party is doomed from the outset, so they need a home. The current two party system is too entrenched and awash with power and money to abide a third party (one of the incredible ironies of the present situation relative to third parties is that in 1856 the Republican Party was born when they split with the racist, pro-slavery Whig Party and nominated Abraham Lincoln for the presidency!).
Secondly, the notion of bipartisanship and the ability to cross the aisle have been rendered futile as a result of party caucus demands and the spectrum of not being able to raise the stupendous amount of money to campaign if you antagonize the national party apparatus. So, not only have these Republicans been and will be rendered powerless, they will lack the means to be re-elected. Even as a life-long Democrat, I willingly accept the need for these voices in our congress.
This leads to the third reason to consider joining the Democratic Party, which is the fear of these Republicans being “primaried” in their respective next election cycle. Whether it be the Proud Boys, QAnon or the Tea Party, well-funded opponents will be sought out to oust these people of conscience during the primary season and we will lose those nuanced, reasonable elected officials to inexperienced conspiratorial figures.
The fourth and final reason to welcome these folks into the Democratic Party that the party needs some independent thinkers and doers such as Mitt Romney, Susan Collins and Ben Sasse. A balance needs to be struck and ideas from the true conservative movement can help to temper some of the extreme notions espoused by the Democratic Party. Sen. Joe Manchin, Democrat from West Virginia, is a good example of what I an attempting to express. Although I do not agree with some of his conservative positions, I am glad he is willing to express those positions since he honestly believes they are important.
I hope some Republicans give serious consideration to joining the Democratic Party. Their experience and wisdom can only benefit our great country and it would be an absolute shame for them to be ousted by fanatics. I am always optimistic and hopeful and I know we will survive as a Democracy but we need bold actions and ideas. If not now, When?
Next week: Steve Warnstadt
A Sioux City resident, Jim Rixner is the retired executive director of the Siouxland Mental Health Center, is the current board chairman of the Winnebago Comprehensive Healthcare System and is a former member of the Sioux City Council. He and his wife, Bernadette, are the parents of three adult sons and the grandparents of nine.