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Opinion >  Column

Sue Lani Madsen: End this madness of brother against brother

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 6, 2021

Will you be Hamilton or Burr? Major changes to election rules and attempting to launch all-mail balloting just months before the 2020 election was always a setup for a nasty, partisan duel.

And now it’s moved beyond lawsuits and debate. As I type these words, C-SPAN is showing scenes of protesters breaking into the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday morning (January 6th), the House of Representatives was debating alleged violations of Arizona elections rules. Objections were raised to an extension of the voting registration deadline saying that under the U. S. Constitution, election rules are to be set by the legislature, and the rules were changed without legislative action. It was looking to be a pretty boring day of legal minutiae and grandstanding.

For two months, friends have been sending links with claims of fraud, honestly concerned over election integrity. Dear friends on the other side have resorted to name-calling toward anyone who even dares ask questions. One called me this morning to vent four years of anger. He said he’d already had a lot of practice with his family. Brother against brother. The divisions make my heart hurt.

Ignoring questions doesn’t make them go away. As Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in her statement earlier this week, millions of Americans have questions that have not yet been answered. Letting debate drone on for days might have helped defuse the anger. The optimist in me was hoping so.

Vice President Mike Pence has been solid, following the U.S Constitution and sticking courageously to his appropriate role. He would have kept the debate civil, boring and in accordance with the rules. But President Trump has always been the wild card.

As a conservative with libertarian leanings, I have struggled with the last four years. President Trump’s administration has carried out a strong conservative agenda. He has appointed judges committed to the philosophy of judicial originalism. Streamlining regulatory red tape has been a reality. The economy was picking up speed until hit by the pandemic, although no president deserves as much credit as they are given for either the rise or fall of the economy.

Internationally, ISIS has been defeated and we’ve seen breakthroughs toward normalization of relationships in the Middle East. The U.S. Embassy was finally moved to Jerusalem as Congress directed in 1995, after being ignored by three presidents. We have not become embroiled in any new undeclared wars and we’re winding down those underway for over two decades.

But then there’s the man himself. President Trump is a self-centered party of one who can’t resist saying whatever pops into his head. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a Republican say “if only he’d stop tweeting,” I’d be paying off my mortgage tomorrow.

He has consistently been his own worst political enemy and a threat to the Republican Party. His ranting rhetoric over the last two months has been a tremendous disappointment. Legal maneuvering is the American way but a blustering phone call to a state election official is not. Exhorting a protest crowd to never accept the results of an election is blatantly irresponsible.

And then the fire pager interrupted with an EMS call. National events became irrelevant just as President-elect Biden was saying something civilized while challenging President Trump to fix what he’s broken. A half-hour later while kneeling in my neighbor’s living room, I caught a glimpse of a caption on the TV reading “Trump: Leave Peacefully.”

Donald J. Trump captured the Republican nomination in 2016 by working the party rules better than any other primary candidate. He needs to follow the constitutional rules now and leave peacefully.

On Tuesday, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers optimistically supported having the discussion and airing the questions, but yesterday she had the courage to change her mind. Her full statement following the break-in at the Capitol soundly condemned the violence, saying in part, “What we have seen today is unlawful and unacceptable. I have decided I will vote to uphold the Electoral College results and I encourage Donald Trump to condemn and put an end to this madness.”

Take her advice. To Trump supporters, accept the Electoral College results. And to everyone, end the madness of brother against brother. Choose to be Alexander Hamilton, with the courage to pull your shot, confident in your ability to debate another day. Or will you be Aaron Burr, who sings with regret at the end of “Hamilton,” the Broadway musical:

“I was too young and blind to see … I should’ve known the world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me”

Contact Sue Lani Madsen at

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