Editorial: N.C. GOP censure only elevates Burr's principled stand

Posted February 16, 2021 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 16, 2021 6:46 a.m. EST

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 8, 2020. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

CBC Editorial: Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021; Editorial #8637
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

The central committee of the North Carolina Republican Party accomplished little with its unanimous censure of Sen. Richard Burr for his vote to find Donald Trump guilty of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrections at the Capitol. They are bent on embracing the so-called “cancel culture” they claim to deplore.

It seems these elite Republicans subscribe to the notion that Burr has an exclusive obligation to them and others who are affiliated with their political party. That unquestioned obedience to Donald Trump is the only litmus test for devotion to party.

State GOP chairman Michael Whatley even said as much. “North Carolina Republicans sent Senator Burr to the United States Senate.” Whatley and his fellow GOP central committee members have censured Burr for not doing as state Republicans demand.

This latest Republican exercise will quickly fade into irrelevance, but Burr’s act of integrity and independence will stand as an example of an elected representative who saw his obligation to ALL those he represents, not just the bellows of narrow special interests.

Whatley assuredly well knows Republicans didn’t send Burr to Washington. It was the voters of North Carolina -- Democrats, unaffiliated voters and Republicans – who elected him to represent ALL OF NORTH CAROLINA in the Senate.

If he’d only received the votes of every Republican who showed up at the polls in 2016, he wouldn’t have been sitting in Washington at all. Fact is, even if every Republican voting in 2016 marked Burr’s name on their secret ballots, it would have only accounted for two-thirds of the 2.4 million votes he got to win the election.

Burr, and any candidate who wins statewide office particularly, achieves victory by getting support from a broad spectrum of the electorate. More significantly, in America and North Carolina, those who win elections represent, serve and act on behalf of ALL their constituents, not just voters and certainly not just those of a particular special interest constituency, sect or political organization.

Burr understands, as does anyone with an even passing familiarity with North Carolina politics, his GOP credentials are full and clear. His faith to the party, as a demonstrable matter of record is equal to, or more likely surpasses, that of those who’ve passed judgement on his degree of party loyalty.

Is an 89.3% record of voting inline with Trump’s positions somehow an inadequate display of party solidarity? North Carolina’s other Republican in the Senate, Thom Tillis was about the same – 90.6%.

If the state Republican Party wants to get into the censure business, we have some suggestions. But those will wait for another time.

What kind of GOP candidates will put themselves before voters if they have to pledge loyalty to party dogma ahead of duty to the citizens or before obligation to their conscience and truth?

Let’s be clear about why Burr voted to convict Trump. “By what he did and by what he did not do, President Trump violated his oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Burr said.

He was not alone. Carefully consider the following:

"Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House.  They built gallows and chanted about murdering the Vice President.  They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth — because he was angry he'd lost an election.  Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty. … There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.”

That assessment didn’t come from any Democrats or other Senate Republicans who voted to convict Trump. That is the evaluation and judgement of Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.

The pyrrhic vote by the state GOP’s central committee to censure Burr speaks more to the extremism, isolation and rigidity of the party’s leaders than it does about duty to all the North Carolinians he represents and obligation to the Constitution.

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