The question I get asked the most as someone who went from being a Republican to a Democrat is: “What’s the biggest difference between the two parties?”
The answer: Every impulse Democrats have is defensive and every impulse Republicans have is offensive.
A report in the Washington Post this week showed these dynamics at play perfectly between Democrats and Republicans on the January 6th Select Committee. As the Post described, Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy (Fla.) insisted that the committee focus less on former President Trump and more on the security and intelligence failures that allowed the attack on the Capitol. In response, Republican Vice Chair Liz Cheney (Wyo.) argued that the committee should keep its focus on the former president.
This is the best illustration I have come across that demonstrates how different Republicans and Democrats approach things on a tactical and, I’d say, cellular level.
When Republicans have the reins of power, they do not hesitate to go after the very top. From Barack Obama’s birth certificate to Hillary Clinton’s emails and potentially Hunter Biden’s laptop, the GOP is unapologetic about pursuing witch hunts for political gain.
Democrats, on the other hand, are always pursuing lines of legitimate oversight reluctantly. At times, it feels like they are apologizing for doing the right thing.
I think back to Trump’s first impeachment and the hesitant posture displayed by the Democrats during those proceedings. It was almost as if they were forced into it, regretted that it came to this, and moved as fast as possible to get it over with.
Democrats controlled the House majority but never forced Trump administration officials with firsthand knowledge of the events that were at the center of the impeachment inquiry to testify such as John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney or Rick Perry and the Republican-controlled Senate predictably torpedoed any effort to compel them to testify.
History repeated itself during Trump’s second impeachment as firsthand witnesses like Mike Pence, Mark Meadows, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Rudy Giuliani, etc., were never called to testify. Hillary Clinton, of course, was grilled by the Republican-led Benghazi Committee for more than 11 hours.
It’s almost as if Democrats believe there is some prize awaiting them for showing what they would characterize as restraint. There isn’t.
Some Democrats might think that if they pushed for certain investigative inquiries, that would give Republicans license to seek retribution should they regain power after the midterms this November. Newsflash: They are going to do that anyway.
Understand that if the GOP gets back the power of the gavel, they are going to unleash an investigative tsunami against Democrats and the Biden administration that’ll make the Benghazi circus look like a walk in the park. They will not show any hesitancy or restraint. They will not worry about looking partisan or responsible. They certainly won’t care about facts and the truth.
Democracy itself is under siege from the Republican Party. Democrats may have just a few months left — if control of the House flips in the midterms — to protect and defend our democratic process.
They should use every single tool of congressional power to hold the leaders of the Jan. 6 domestic terrorist attack accountable. They should use the visibility of a congressional hearing to put on display the full measure of lunacy and absurdity that have hijacked the Republican Party. They should invoke inherent contempt against anyone who refuses to comply with the committee’s subpoenas so that anyone who refuses to testify before the committee is thrown in jail by the House sergeant at arms.
They should do what the Republicans would do given a chance: Refuse to compromise and go on the attack. This difference, of course, is that the Democrats are going after the insurrectionist machine and defending democracy while the GOP is tearing it down.
Kurt Bardella is a contributing writer to Opinion. He is an advisor to both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a former senior advisor for Republicans on the House Oversight Committee. @KurtBardella
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.