Republican Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina has spent the year in an unusual position. There are over 500 members of Congress, but Rice is literally the only one to vote against certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory and for Donald Trump’s second impeachment.
This week, the South Carolinian tried to help reconcile the tension, telling Politico he regrets one of those two votes. Fortunately, Rice feels some remorse about the former, not the latter.
“In retrospect I should have voted to certify,” Rice told POLITICO. “Because President Trump was responsible for the attack on the Capitol. … In the wee hours of that disgraceful night, while waiting for the Capitol of our great country to be secured, I knew I should vote to certify. But because I had made a public announcement of my intent to object, I did not want to go back on my word. So yeah, I regret my vote to object.”
The conservative GOP lawmaker’s position is still not quite as reality-based as it should be — he also told Politico he still believes there were “real issues with the election,” reality notwithstanding — but he’s nevertheless showing the kind of contrition we hardly ever see from any Republicans on Capitol Hill.
It’s also a reminder of why Rice is facing a GOP primary challenger as part of his 2022 re-election campaign.
Looking back on the events from January, 147 congressional Republicans — eight senators and 139 House members — voted to overturn the results of a free and fair American presidential election. It took nearly a full year, but one of them finally said, “In retrospect I should have voted to certify…. I regret my vote to object.”
If you’re waiting for another GOP lawmaker to follow Rice’s lead, you’ll probably be waiting for a long time.
And that’s a shame because Capitol Hill might be a little less scary right now if more Republicans acknowledged that their anti-election efforts were a mistake. It’d be one thing if the problem were limited to a handful of fringe extremists and crackpots, dismissed as irrelevant members of Congress’ Clown Caucus, but the arithmetic is far more daunting.
Remember, two-thirds of the House Republican conference — including the top two members of the House GOP leadership — signed their names to a court filing, asking the Supreme Court to help overturn their party’s defeat. A month later, after insurrectionist rioters attacked our seat of government, a nearly identical percentage of House Republicans refused to certify the election results.
It’d be one thing if, nearly a year later, there was a widely held sentiment in the GOP that these efforts were a tragic mistake. But the opposite is true: Too many Republican officials have spent 2021 downplaying the seriousness of the assault, promoting anti-election conspiracy theories, lying about the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s presidency, defending Jan. 6 rioters, and undermining the investigation into the undemocratic violence.
Occasionally we’ll hear from GOP members who argue that Democrats and others in the political world should simply “move on” from the post-2020-election crisis. But some kind of reconciliation would be far easier if Republicans who instigated the crisis took responsibility for the harm they imposed.
It’s a good thing that Rice eventually expressed regret for having done the wrong thing. But it’d be a far better thing if he weren’t alone.