Republicans Conflicted on Censuring Cheney, Kinzinger

Republicans Conflicted on Censuring Cheney, Kinzinger

( – A new poll conducted by Politico and Morning Consult is drawing attention to the growing divide between intra-party factions within the GOP. The Republican National Committee’s (RNC) decision to censure Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney for participating in the January 6 investigation sits at the heart of the conflict. Now, some analysts fear the clash of opinions might muddy efforts to take back Congress during midterm elections.

Poll Results

Politico and Morning Consult’s survey first asked voters from both sides of the aisle to indicate where they fell on the political spectrum. Respondents were then asked to share their opinion on several hot-button topics, including the recent censure.

Results revealed a deep divide in voter sentiment on the subject. While approximately 40% of self-identified Republicans agreed with the sanction, another 34% strongly disagreed instead. Around 27% indicated they had no opinion or weren’t yet sure how they felt about it.

The poll also asked voters to chime in on how they felt about the RNC’s decision to label the events of January 6 as legitimate political discourse. Responses notably fell along similar lines; around 44% agreed with the categorization, while 34% strongly disagreed instead.

Censure Background

RNC leaders censured Cheney and Kinzinger at their annual winter meeting in early February for their participation on the House Jan 6 Committee. Notably, both individuals staunchly oppose former President Donald Trump and have spoken out against him in the past.

Leaders in support of the censure accuse Cheney and Kinzinger of sabotaging the party by distracting it from the core goal of regaining power over Congress. But an official two-page censure document also blasts the pair for engaging in actions not befitting Republican leaders, including the “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”

That last point is especially important; it’s what appears to be triggering so much debate and outright conflict within the party.

Backlash from Senate Republicans

The goal of censure is typically to call out party members who fail to align with the rest of their party in a destructive or blatant manner. Yet, the RNC’s decision to hand down penalties to Kinzinger and Cheney failed to better align the GOP or even bring the two politicians in line. Instead, it drove a deeper wedge between factions and inspired significant backlash.

Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) called the decision unfortunate and blasted the RNC for labeling the January 6 protests legitimate. He called it an attack on the seat of democracy. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the party was headed in the wrong direction instead.

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) initially agreed with the RNC’s position that midterm elections should come first, but expressed concern booting out party members who disagree would have the opposite effect. He expressed concern that such divides would eventually render the GOP a minority party.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took a much more direct approach, calling January 6 a “violent insurrection.” He also dismissed the RNC’s idea to censure party members for simply disagreeing with single-issue views.

Political party members rarely fully agree on any subject — that’s a normal and very expected experience on the political playing field. Yet, the fact the GOP is now split between RINOs, the New Right, and a shortlist of other factions speaks to a deeper divide in values that could make it difficult for the party to come together on important issues. Whether or not it will impact midterm elections remains to be seen.

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