(Feb. 18) The Louisiana Republican Party my father helped build has become an embarrassing spectacle of purity tests and personality cults. Its executive committee’s unanimous vote to censure U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy is a rejection of conscience and moderation in favor of a Politburo-like insistence on mindless orthodoxy.

This putatively conservative “cancel culture” is no less objectionable than the liberal version sweeping college campuses and newsrooms coast to coast.

The executive committee formally censured Cassidy for daring to vote that President Donald Trump was guilty of an impeachable offense for Trump’s actions before and during the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot. This small executive committee is the governing elite of the same State Central Committee that 31 years ago overwhelmingly refused to censure neo-Nazi David Duke. The irony is sickening.

There can be absolutely no doubt that Trump played with fire in hosting his rally and using martial language, and then was derelict in his duty by doing nothing to stop the Capitol assault once it started. Reasonable people can disagree about whether Trump’s actions were impeachable, or whether a post-presidency trial is constitutional — but nobody can seriously argue that Trump’s behavior wasn’t dangerously reckless.

The keyword above is “reasonable.” In the United States, a party exists to elect people of generally like minds to enact legislation in broad accord with its principles. Until lately, the very idea of a party issuing a major, formal rebuke about a matter of reasonable disagreement would have been unthinkable. “Censure” historically has been a major denunciation by an organization of one of its own, usually involving a significant ethical breach or outlandishly inappropriate behavior. It is much more serious than a disagreement or a mere expression of disapproval.

Censure certainly has never been merited for a legislator’s vote of conscience, well-considered and explained. Yet that’s what the executive committee did to Cassidy.

The executive committee is the same body on which my father, Haywood Hillyer III, served three decades ago…. [The full column, which ran in the Louisiana Advocate newspapers, is here.]


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