OPINION

Elect Leaders; Not Demagogues

Susanna Smith

On November 3, 2020, nearly eighty percent of Newton County voters cast their ballots for former President Donald Trump. Today conservative politicians at all levels of government are calculating what is in the hearts and minds of voters.  They seem poised to follow as soon as they figure out where their conservative constituents are leading.

On January 6 we watched in horror as a violent mob stormed the Capitol Building in a final bid to prevent Congress from ascertaining the electoral college votes and naming Joe Biden as the forty-sixth president.  The House of Representatives impeached President Trump as the instigator of the insurrection.  

Immediately following his February 13 vote to acquit, Mitch McConnell made a speech on the Senate floor seeming to lead in the other direction.  He asserted, “There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day, no question about it.”

“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instruction of their president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.”

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley stood with the insurrectionists, as evidenced by his raised fist of solidarity before the insurrection, and his vote to “investigate” the presidential election following the insurrection. Hawley is betting his political career that Missouri voters want the Republican Party to be the party of Trump.

In his February 13 Senate speech, McConnell criticized the idea that every citizen who voted for former President Trump remains ardent supporters of Trump and insurrection.  He said, “In recent weeks, our ex-president’s associates have tried to use the 74 million Americans who voted to re-elect him as a kind of human shield against criticism.  Anyone who decries his awful behavior is accused of insulting millions of voters.  That’s an absurd deflection.”

“Seventy-four million Americans did not invade the Capitol.  Hundreds of rioters did.  Seventy-four million Americans did not engineer the campaign of disinformation and rage that provoked it.  One person did. Just one.” 

Our politicians want to know where conservative Southwest Missouri voters stand today.  Some may still stand with the violent insurrectionists, willing to use civil war to keep their candidate in office.  Others stand with Senator Hawley, eager to maintain Trump’s hold on the Republican Party.  Many would like to return to a Republican party with the traditional values of fiscal responsibility and small government.  A few, like Arkansas State Senator Jim Hendren, are leaving the GOP in disgust.

We look to our elected leaders in this unprecedented time of multiple national crises.  Politicians should take care that they don’t abdicate their leadership role.  In their zeal to remain in office, many of our political leaders “seek support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational argument.”  That is the dictionary definition of demagogue.

It’s true that we Southwest Missouri voters don’t agree with each other on where we personally stand on the political spectrum.  But on election day, we should cast our ballots for strong political leaders, not demagogues.

“Another Point of View” is a column written by rotating authors dedicated to providing a variety of perspectives on life and politics.

Susanna Smith