While watching the events of Jan. 6 unfold live on TV and social media, I, like many other Americans, was appalled at the violence towards the Capitol Police and the destruction done to our Capitol. Afterward, I was outraged at hearing liberal commentators try to tie the entire Republican Party to the rioters while conveniently forgetting the dozens of nights of violent clashes by Antifa around the country in 2020. Neither is acceptable—most Americans agree.
But despite the widespread condemnation of Jan. 6 within the GOP, that day has magnified a major difference of opinion about what the party should look like going forward. That rift is unfolding here in Pennsylvania, and it’s frightening to watch the tactics of the far left being used by many in their bid to control the party.
Sen. Pat Toomey made a decision to vote to convict President Trump on the charges of inciting a riot—a charge he felt was accurate. Since that vote, a steady stream of Republicans in Pennsylvania and nationally have tried to cancel him and declare him a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Like liberal commentators forgetting the entire summer of 2020, these Republicans are dismissing almost 30 years of Toomey’s fight for conservative principles. Somehow he is suddenly no longer a good or loyal enough Republican.
Like liberal commentators forgetting the entire summer of 2020, these Republicans are dismissing almost 30 years of Toomey’s fight for conservative principles. Somehow he is suddenly no longer a good or loyal enough Republican.
Before you write me off as a Never Trumper, I worked tirelessly on President Trump’s reelection campaign. I chaired his election day operations in Philadelphia by recruiting, organizing and training hundreds of poll watchers and volunteers to ensure a safe and fair election. I worked more than 18 hours per day for weeks to accomplish this task and was proud to be a part of the team that delivered 25,000 more votes for the president in 2020 than he received in 2016 out of Philadelphia.
I’ve also had the pleasure of working for Sen. Toomey from 2009 to 2013. In that time, I worked on both his campaign and his senate staff. I accompanied the senator on countless meetings with constituents, business groups, community leaders, GOP leaders, donors and local opinion-shapers. This is not to mention the hundreds of meetings I took on his behalf with constituent groups on issues around the commonwealth. I cannot tell you the number of times I heard, “Pat Toomey is too conservative to get elected in Pennsylvania,” or, “why does Pat have to be so conservative on this issue.” My personal favorite among these reprieves was waking up the morning after election night in 2010 to hear a supporter tell me, “I’m glad he won, but he will never get re-elected because he is just too conservative.”
I always admired Pat’s thoughtful and relentless conservative views. His tenacity to stay the course on issues even under extreme pressure from his colleagues was consistently impressive. It is not always easy to stick to your principles in the U.S. Senate. Yet, his conservative credentials are as long as any other elected official’s, and arguably longer than President Trump’s.
I cannot tell you the number of times I heard, ‘Pat Toomey is too conservative to get elected in Pennsylvania,’ or, ‘why does Pat have to be so conservative on this issue.’
His ratings from the most prominent conservative think-tanks and organizations are always near the top of all legislators. For example: The American Conservative Union (the organization which hosts CPAC, where President Trump is speaking this week) has rated the senator at a perfect 100 rating the past two years and 92.8 over his entire career–the eighth highest rating of any senator in office. Heritage Action rated Toomey at 85% for the past four years during President Trump’s term, when other Senate Republicans averaged 71%. And don’t forget that Pat Toomey ran the Club For Growth from 2005 to 2009, where his job was to elect conservative members to Congress.
During the ten years Pat has served in the Senate he has championed anti-sanctuary city legislation, stronger borders, a stronger military, and small-government policies. He blocked Debo Adegbile, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s attorney—who glorified the cold-blooded murder of a police officer—from an Obama appointment to the Justice Department in 2014. And he had a very large hand in writing the Trump tax bill, which lowered taxes for nearly all Americans and set the economy on its best path in decades, if not ever. All of these are hallmarks of the conservative and Republican agenda.
So why are we discussing the ridiculous idea of censuring one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate? According to one GOP county chairman in Pennsylvania, it is because “We did not send him there to vote his conscience…(or) do the right thing. We sent him there to represent us.”
If this is the new litmus test for our elected officials, we are wading into extremely dangerous territory. It implies that impeachment should be another tribalistic and partisan exercise, not based on independent thought or a measure of the evidence. It would mean that the Republican Party’s sole priority is blind loyalty to one person, not conservative principles. Good people can disagree on the impeachment (especially its constitutionality), but it should be nobody’s litmus test. If Pennsylvania Republicans vote to censure, they will send the message that no matter how much someone supported the policies of President Trump’s administration, they are transgressors if they do not show unquestioning devotion to Trump the man.
This is cancel culture. This is what we, as conservatives, have argued is mad, progressive dogma for years. Yet, we now find ourselves administering purity tests and cancelling anyone who deviates. I understand being upset over Senator Toomey’s vote to convict President Trump. But translating that disappointment into a censure is not what will move the conservative movement or the Republican Party forward in the state of Pennsylvania or nationally. Democrats are the happy observers of the censures happening in other states, reveling in a divided GOP. We should not be providing them entertainment. We should be moving the party forward, together.
Joshua Novotney lives in Philadelphia and works in Washington, DC as a partner at SBL Strategies, a government relations consulting firm. He also serves as a GOP ward leader in South Philly. He was the Philadelphia Chair for election day operations for President Trump in 2020, and worked for Senator Pat Toomey from 2009-2013.