by Harris Rogers ‘21 (he/him)
On January 6th, violent right-wing extremists descended upon the Capitol Building, breaking windows, infiltrating offices and the chamber floors, and beating to death US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick while threatening to shoot another officer “with his own gun.” Once they gained access to the building, rioters began committing a frenzy of felonies: damaging offices, stealing potentially sensitive documents, and smearing human feces in the hallways. At least some of those involved appeared intent on locating and harming America’s democratically elected representatives, specifically Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi’s staff were forced to take shelter in a locked room as rioters beat on the door.
This insurrection sought not only to harm lawmakers and the few officers who defended them, but also aimed to halt the certification process of the Presidential election, during which Joe Biden would be declared the official victor over President Trump. Of course, the violence on January 6th did not appear out of nowhere. For months, the President and his supporters have been spreading misinformation concerning the validity of the election. They have done so without providing any conclusive proof that widespread voter fraud occurred, while ignoring all evidence that legitimizes the election. In addition, Trump himself has sought to directly manipulate the election results, such as during a recent hour-long phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Greg Raffensperger.
It can be difficult to admit that those close to home could be implicated in provoking violence that threatens our fragile and ever incomplete system of democratic ideals. However, we must do so now, as a Davidson alumnus has undermined people’s faith in our elections, aligned himself with some of America’s most dishonest politicians, and made no effort to condemn President Trump in the wake of the insurrection –– which threatened both his and his colleagues’ lives, along with the very system of democracy that they have sworn to uphold.
That alumnus is Representative Greg Murphy ‘85. Murphy, a former member of the Davidson College Board of Trustees and President of the Alumni Association, has incessantly pushed misinformation regarding the election since Joe Biden’s victory in November and encouraged a series of deeply misguided and dangerous efforts to decertify the results.
In December, Murphy supported a lawsuit filed by the State of Texas challenging the election results of Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, all of which Biden won. That lawsuit was quickly discarded by the Republican-dominated Supreme Court due to Texas’s lack of judicial authority or reasoning to interfere with the elections of other states. Election law expert Rick Hasen referred to the lawsuit as “garbage, but dangerous garbage.” We must ask ourselves: What if this challenge, backed by Murphy, had succeeded? Millions of legally cast votes would have consequently been invalidated, stripping those Americans of their Constitutional right to choose their leader. The long-term effects would have undermined our federalist system, allowing one state to challenge the election results of another without due cause.
Murphy is also not above peddling conspiracy theories. On January 5th, one day before the assault on the Capitol, Rep. Murphy appeared on the North Carolina radio show Talk of the Town. During the conversation, Rep. Murphy pointed to controversy surrounding Dominion Voting Systems in Pennsylvania and the “suitcases in Georgia” as evidence of widespread voter fraud, referring to doctored videos purportedly showing suitcases of votes being produced from underneath tables in a Georgia counting facility. Both of those claims had been proven conclusively false, by government cybersecurity experts and by Georgia’s Republican election officials, at the time Rep. Murphy parroted them to the public.
Immediately prior to their assault on the Capitol building, those involved in the insurrection attended a speech given by President Trump on the White House Lawn. During his speech, President Trump ran through a laundry list of disproven conspiracy theories regarding the election, all of which focused on a massive fraud campaign orchestrated by the Democratic Party. In addition to his typically nonsensical accusations and ramblings, Trump relayed a more sinister message: your country is being stolen from you by the Democrats and you must “fight like hell” or “you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Trump then encouraged the nearly all-white crowd to march on the Capitol building in order to show “strength.” We now know that this crowd included Proud Boys, Three Percenters, the Boogaloo movement, Qanon conspiracists, Oath Keepers, Christian Dominionists, Neo-Nazis, and other hardcore Trump supporters. Even after the insurrection, Murphy saw fit to object to the electoral results in Pennsylvania and refused to pursue articles of impeachment against Trump, arguing that to do so would further divide a nation he has helped to split apart.
In a recent email to the Davidson student body, President Quillen and Dean McCrae implored students to live up to the integrity and compassion which Davidson purportedly instills in its students, while also encouraging us to acknowledge the limits of what we can know. What I know is that the violence at the Capitol, and the violence that will certainly plague this nation for years to come, has not been carried out by those willing to politely disagree. In this case, those involved are separate from reality and have fully embraced conspiracy. Future violence cannot be contained or combatted with tepid appeals to politely engage all views, no matter how absurd. It is only in identifying, acknowledging, and organizing against fascism that fascism can be halted. No amount of tolerance or evasiveness in our condemnations will delay the march of those willing to destroy democracy over a lie once they have begun. Unfortunately, one of those who refuses to condemn the President’s explicit calls to violence and has done his part in stoking the flames that flared on January 6th is Davidson’s own Representative Murphy.
If the Davidson administration is truly committed to its “primary purpose” then it should release a statement disavowing, specifically, Representative Murphy, President Trump, and those in Congress willing to entertain the ever-present forces within our nation that are not interested in conversing, but in conquering.
Harris Rogers is a Political Science major from Colombia, SC, and can be reached for contact at firstname.lastname@example.org