By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist
Both women of Wyoming’s congressional delegation are in the national news.
Only weeks after Liz Cheney’s re-election as the GOP conference chair, she faces a removal petition signed by 107—over half—of her colleagues. Lummis, on the hand, was publicly criticized by 78 members of the Wyoming Bar who published an open letter claiming that the very first vote of Wyoming’s first female senator, Cynthia Lummis, was “wrong.”
Both the recall petition and the open letter are related to former President Donald Trump. But that is where the similarity ends. Cheney’s troubles stem from her decision to defy 70 percent of her constituency and vote to impeach Trump only seven days before the end of his term. Lummis, in effect, did the opposite. She voted against the certification of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes pending an investigation.
Much ink has been spilled on both sides of the issue. Was the election legitimate or illegitimate? Were President Trump’s actions in contesting it right or wrong? Kip Crofts, former U.S. Attorney for Wyoming, published a thorough and thoughtful article on the subject in the Cowboy State Daily. If his reasonable call for investigation ever comes to pass, America will learn the answers to these questions. If not, only the historians will know. Either way, time will tell.
My concern, however, is the present. Will we have the patience and self-discipline to find the facts that can allow us to rise above the frenzy? Or will we abandon rationality for mob rule.
The bloody streets of France’s reign of terror are the real-world consequences of mobs that ride the wave of emotion and rage. Such irrational destruction is denounced in the world’s best literature: Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Rigoletto, to name a few. Harper Lee wrote of the injustice of the southern lynch mob in, To Kill a Mockingbird. All these warnings recall the hasty trial of Jesus and his unjust treatment in the courts of Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate.
Wise Solomon warned us, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). Western jurisprudence has spent centuries developing procedures and traditions designed to slow the rush to judgment enough that truth might prevail. Look back on recent history and remember how many lives and livelihoods were destroyed by rioting mobs chanting slogans that were, too late, proved false in a court of law.
Against this measure, Cheney’s vote is indefensible.
The articles of impeachment make numerous assertions about “facts” that are by no means proven. Take this portion, for instance: “…incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn Constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 election…” In the space of a few lines, there are at least three unproved assertions.
First, breaches to Capitol security barriers began nearly a half-hour before—and two miles away from—where the President finished speaking at the Ellipse. Were these people motivated by words that they could not have heard? Second, these provocateurs were obviously not “members of the crowd he had addressed.” Third, do we know their objectives? Where they the same as—or even compatible with—the objectives of those who arrived later to find the security barriers already moved aside?
On the day that Cheney claimed to know these facts, the FBI was only seven days into its investigation. Since then, evidence to the contrary has mounted. It took a special counsel 30 months to disprove the “Russia collusion” theory. That, alone, should have cautioned Cheney from trusting the week-old accusations from her party’s opponents.
Cynthia Lummis, on the other hand, took a more careful posture. Her vote against the certification of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes judged them to be neither fraudulent nor legitimate. She voted for more investigation, not less. It was a vote for a 10-day emergency audit to establish facts and address the legitimate concerns of tens of millions of voters.
Those who signed the open letter invoked the rules of the Wyoming Bar in their criticism. Does the Wyoming State Bar agree with them? Is it true that Lummis has a duty to “publicly affirm the legitimacy” of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes before she hears any answer to the legitimate concerns raised by Pennsylvania’s own lawmakers? Or is Lummis right in saying, “Each of us has a solemn duty to ensure that the slate of presidential electors we certify is beyond reproach, respecting the people’s voice and upholding the Constitution.”
Cheney condemned before there was even the possibility of investigation. Lummis’ critics want her to “publicly affirm the legitimacy of the results of the 2020 Presidential election” without investigation. Both fall into the same frenetic rush to judgment.
Mob rule is based on snap judgments. Civilization requires time for the deliberative process to find out the truth. Only then can justice prevail.