Opinion

What the Big Lie and Jan. 6 insurrection have to do with Kansas values

September 22, 2022 3:33 am
Police clash with supporters of President Donald Trump during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. (Alex Kent/Tennessee Lookout)

While understanding politician-touted "Kansas values" may be a challenge, surely they don't include an insurrection. (Alex Kent/Tennessee Lookout)

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Thomas Weiss is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Kansas and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. 

When former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole passed away, every member of the state congressional delegation offered their sympathy and praise. Dole was described as the embodiment of Kansas values, of rural and small-town values. Our senators and congressmen saw him as a mentor, perhaps suggesting they too were imbued with those qualities.

I am sure Dole embodied those values, and that they influenced his behavior, his political views, and his votes. I am much less certain that this holds for the Kansas congressional delegation, and I have to wonder what they are passing down to the next generation.

But what are those values? Although I have lived in Kansas for more than 50 years, I doubt that I know what all those values are. And, I would not presume to be the arbiter of what those values should be. But I am certain that they would include not lying, keeping your word, and perhaps bringing people together to solve problems. Not lying does not mean that you have to always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But we don’t expect anyone, even politicians, to blatantly lie.

Keeping your word also means honoring your commitments, and, importantly, upholding your oath of office. In the case of our elected representatives, their oath means they “will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; (and) … will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

Thanks to the Jan. 6 hearings, we all know now what many suspected all along. The claims of voter fraud were untrue. They were not simply lies; they constituted a Big Lie, a big and dangerous lie.

We also know now that almost everyone involved in making those claims knew they were untrue, even Trump. He was told repeatedly in the weeks before Jan. 6 that he lost the 2020 election and was also informed that “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.”

Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, knew it was a Big Lie. He testified that he “repeatedly told the president, in no uncertain terms, that I did not see evidence of fraud that would have affected the outcome of the election.” Or in much plainer English, he told Trump that his claims of a stolen election were “bull—t.”

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, also knew it was a Big Lie and said that she accepted Barr’s conclusion. Trump’s lawyers knew it was a Big Lie, too. The attorneys representing Sidney Powell, one of Trump’s lawyers who pushed a number of conspiracy theories about voter fraud, have argued in her defense that her “statements (about fraud) were so absurd they couldn’t be taken seriously.”

Are we Kansans supposed to believe that everyone in Washington, D.C., knew this was all a Big Lie, but not our Republican representatives and senators? Were they the least informed people in Washington, D.C.? Didn’t they know it was Trump’s Big Lie that motivated those who rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6?

– Thomas Weiss

Are we Kansans supposed to believe that everyone in Washington, D.C., knew this was all a Big Lie, but not our Republican representatives and senators? Were they the least informed people in Washington, D.C.? Didn’t they know it was Trump’s Big Lie that motivated those who rioted at the Capitol on Jan. 6? 

If, by some odd chance, they were ignorant of these matters, wouldn’t they want to know what happened? Why did they vote against an investigation that would have cleared things up? Or did they know and yet chose to remain silent, choosing to cover up any investigation into the insurrection and its origins.

In other words, they condoned the Big Lie and the insurrection, and thereby failed to uphold their oath of office. 

When Dole was confronted with a similar situation during the Nixon presidency, he held fast to those Kansas values our current senators and representatives admire, and voted in favor of holding the Watergate hearings. Although he was an ardent defender of Nixon, the evidence that came out of those hearings changed his mind about Nixon’s continuing in office.

The behavior of our current congressional representatives stands in sharp contrast. We do not yet know the extent to which some of them actively spread the Big Lie and perhaps even encouraged the insurrection. But some of them — Sen. Roger Marshall, and Reps. Ron Estes, Jake La Turner, and Tracey Mann — saw their names on congressman Mo Brooks’ list of pardon requests after objecting to swing state voting results.

Sen. Jerry Moran, the senior member of the Kansas delegation, didn’t object to the results, but he should have recognized the seriousness of the insurrection and the Big Lie on which it was based. He should have done much more than say, “This is a sad day for our nation and it is an unwelcome reminder that our democracy is fragile.”

Instead, he voted to acquit Trump of impeachment charges springing from the Capitol riots and voted against the bill to establish an independent committee to investigate the insurrection. Dole would be appalled.

My opinions may lead some of you to think that I am a RINO, but you would misunderstand that label. The party itself is RINO. It is not the GOP — the Grand Old Party — that I and many other Kansans joined, and that Dole represented.

The Big Lie was initiated by Trump, but make no mistake, that Big Lie was spread widely and condoned by other Republicans, including our elected representatives, and is still being pushed by some. It is one thing for us to disagree on issues such as the appropriate size of the national debt, or environmental regulations, and even on highly contentious issues such as abortion. These differences would and should influence our views of elected officials. 

But of equal and perhaps greater importance is that we all, together, uphold and preserve the most fundamental Kansas value of all: democracy.

Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Thomas Weiss
Thomas Weiss

Thomas Weiss is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Kansas and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was co-editor of the Journal of Economic History and is a past president of the Economic History Association. He has published on a variety of topics in U.S. economic history, such as the growth of the service industries in the United States, industrialization in the antebellum South, economic growth before 1860, economic growth in the British North American colonies, and most recently on the economic history of tourism and the dining history of James Bond.

MORE FROM AUTHOR