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Opinion >  Column

Shawn Vestal: Stuck in the two-step, McMorris Rodgers props up false election doubts

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, answers constituents’ questions at a town hall meeting Wednesday at the Spokane Convention Center.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, answers constituents’ questions at a town hall meeting Wednesday at the Spokane Convention Center. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

It was the perfect McMorris Rodgers two-step: Reject the craziest Trump line, then slide right back toward embracing it.

A classic of the form. Though it’s well beyond tiresome at this point.

At a town hall Wednesday night in Spokane, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was asked about the fever that infects her party: the idea that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.

This was mere days after the former president again demanded, insanely, that he be declared the winner of the last election, or that he be given a mulligan to try again.

Step one: “I don’t believe ‘the Big Lie,’ as such,” McMorris Rodgers said, after a member of the audience asked her about it.

Step two: “But there were significant irregularities in the election.”

Chef’s kiss.

She doesn’t believe the Big Lie, she just believes the basis of the Big Lie.

She doesn’t believe the Big Lie, she just believes the same things that the people who believe the Big Lie believe.

She doesn’t believe the Big Lie, she just supports the idea that we have to change our election system – “secure the integrity of our elections,” as she put it – in response to the “irregularities” that Big Lie believers believe in.

Which she also believes in.

Though she doesn’t believe in the Big Lie.

As such.

One-two, slide, one-two, slide.

Dance with who brung ya, I guess. The lukewarm two-step has served McMorris Rodgers well as she negotiates the minefield of Trump-era Republicanism, at least if you don’t mind the specter of someone tying themselves into knots to have things both ways.

Following a primary election in which we saw two of her fellow Washington Republican members of Congress suffer the electoral consequences of acting with honor, the quisling path taken by McMorris Rodgers – whatever its moral blankness – seemed to protect her from a wingnut, Trumpier-than-thou primary challenge.

As we know, such a challenger unseated Rep. Jaime Herrara Beutler, one of the moral minority in the congressional GOP who voted to impeach Trump. Another one nearly did the same to Rep. Dan Newhouse, who also voted to impeach.

No such drama attends McMorris Rodgers’ attempt to win another seat in Congress. Part of the reason for that, no doubt, is the lukewarm two-step. Neither hot nor cold.

It’s been her go-to move since Trump came on the scene, and she’s used it constantly on questions surrounding the insidious, baseless claims of election fraud.

She did the dance when she tried to rationalize her own vote not to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 attack on the election process that he clearly promoted and instigated.

Step one: “I do not believe his words constitute an incitement of violence as laid out in Supreme Court precedent. … Let the peaceful transition of power take place.”

Step two: “Make no mistake: what happened last week at the U.S. Capitol was unlawful and unacceptable. President Trump showed a complete lack of leadership in the face of an attack on the U.S. government.”

This second step even included an acknowledgement that she and her sycophantic fellows had enabled the former president’s despicable actions: “For Trump supporters like me, it meant turning a blind eye to arrogant, prideful and bullying behavior.”

But arrogance and bullying had long ceased to be the main problems that she and her fellows were ignoring. It was the attack on the country’s electoral process and Trump’s responsibility – which she had just (one) decried, and (two) declared not his fault – that put the onus on her to be better than she was.

When McMorris Rodgers and her ilk prop up and mollycoddle election liars – however much qualification and rationalization and rhetorical padding she puts around it – they are doing the same thing they were doing back when they couldn’t find their spines on the impeachment vote.

One-two, slide, one-two, slide.

There were several other two-steps at her town hall. She insisted that she’s not against contraceptive rights, she’s just against a bill codifying contraceptive rights. (She has called it a “Trojan horse for more abortions,” an interesting choice of words for a matter dealing with contraception. You might suspect it was a joke, if it came from someone who had displayed a sense of humor.)

She insisted she’s not actually against taking care of veterans suffering from toxic exposure, she’s just against the bill that would have done this for them.

She whined about the “unprecedented” raid on Mar-A-Lago, without taking note of the unprecedented, despicable behavior that prompted it.

The two-step can muddy up anything. The election questions, though, represent an urgent, existential call on people in power to stand clearly for the truth, to avoid nurturing lies and conspiracies, and to protect the system from meddling that would make it easier for political losers to overturn the vote.

As with most questions that call for placing principle over party, McMorris Rodgers just can’t get there. She’s stuck in the two-step.

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