Feb 10, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Dems set to target RNC stance on “legitimate political discourse”

A Trump supporter is seen assaulting the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
A member of the crowd that attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Democrats up and down the chain are determined to exact a political cost after the Republican National Committee passed a resolution describing the Jan. 6 Capitol attack as "legitimate political discourse."

Why it matters: With historical trends in their favor, many Republicans have lamented that persistent talk about Jan. 6 is complicating their path back to the majority.

  • “I think we should be focused on the elections and not this nonsense,” Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) said of the resolution last week.

Driving the news: Democratic campaign committees and PACs tell Axios that the phrase "legitimate political discourse" — and its broader implications — will be a major theme of their messaging.

  • House Majority PAC, the leading House Democratic super PAC, plans to "over the next couple weeks, lean into that" in statements and earned messaging, a source familiar with the group's strategy told Axios.
  • "We will ensure that they are held accountable for a position completely at odds with the American people," said House Majority PAC executive director Abby Curran.
  • A Democratic National Committee aide said the group will "continue to remind voters throughout the year that the official position of the Republican Party is that attacking the Capitol ... and trying to overturn an election are 'legitimate political discourse.'"

The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump PAC known for its blistering ads, is also getting in on the action.

  • Spokesperson Ryan Wiggins said, "You can bet the farm that we will spend the next 10 months and beyond reminding voters ... that the Republican version of 'legitimate political discourse' is violence, assault and vandalism."

What they're saying: Several House Democrats running in swing districts tell Axios the line will likely make an appearance on the campaign trail as well.

  • "I get asked about it back at home," Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan said. "I think it's important to point out what's at stake, because the reality would be ... that's how they plan to govern."
  • "I will challenge an opponent to discuss it. Do they think that was 'legitimate political discourse'?" Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania said.
  • Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia said, "I think that, societally speaking, people are going to have to say where they stand on this."

Another Democrat who sees the line as a litmus test for Republicans is Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

  • "The Republican Party is having a hard time deciding whether a violent attack on the Capitol is good or bad," he told Axios. "We think they should have to answer for that. Yes, you better believe it."
  • "And if the Republican Party can't summon the courage to say violently attacking the Capitol is wrong, then how can we trust them with power?"

The other side: GOP leaders who have stood by the RNC statement have spent the last week on clean-up duty, insisting that the line is not a defense of the violence on Jan. 6.

  • "The Jan. 6 committee has subpoenaed people who weren't here on Jan. 6, who were actually in Florida at an RNC meeting," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at the Capitol on Wednesday. "That's what they were referring to."
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