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Douglas Brinkley: Let us celebrate patriots who put country over party

Douglas Brinkley on truth-tellers protecting our democracy
Douglas Brinkley on truth-tellers protecting our democracy 02:58

By U.S. presidential historian and author Douglas Brinkley:

With Independence Day upon us, let's celebrate an underappreciated type of American archetype: the hyperpartisan defender of democracy. That is, politicians who put country over party in times of crisis.

Charles Thomson was the Secretary of the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1789. Along with John Hancock, his was one of only two names to appear in the original printing of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomson wrongly thought that the new country couldn't survive a two-party system, that polarization would reign supreme, and that the new nation would inevitably devolve into two mobs vying for power every four years.

Thomson didn't know then that the federal government could produce incorruptible leaders such as Cassidy Hutchinson and Liz Cheney. They're truth-tellers in the Margaret Chase Smith tradition.

House January 6 Committee Holds Public Hearing
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows, gives testimony to Vice Chair Liz Cheney of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, June 28, 2022. Hutchinson offered details from inside the White House from the days and hours leading up to the violent insurrection.  Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

During the 1950s, Senator Joe McCarthy, a Republican, had consolidated considerable power in Washington by red-baiting citizens as being communists. It wasn't Democrats who called out McCarthy; it was Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, a Republican, who in her 1950 "declaration of conscience" speech from the Senate floor slammed her roguish GOP colleague as having "debased" America.

Chase Smith's willingness to speak truth to members of her own party was what Cassidy Hutchinson did last week in front of the January 6 Committee, when she bravely testified that she didn't want to see the United States Capital trashed and the peaceful transfer of power disrupted. 

Likewise, during Watergate, it wasn't the Democrats that doomed Richard Nixon's fate, but three forthright Republicans: John Dean, Howard Baker and Barry Goldwater.

So, fear not, Charles Thomson: When a discombobulated Donald Trump was said to have grabbed the steering wheel of his armored SUV on January 6, 2021, directing it to the U.S. Capitol riot, patriots Liz Cheney and Cassidy Hutchinson headed straight for the Constitution.

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Story produced by Young Kim. Editor: Chad Cardin.

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