Studio portrait of Sid Salter. (photo by Beth Wynn / © Mississippi State University)

By: Sid Salter

In a state that gave former Republican President Donald Trump 57.8 percent of the state’s 2016 vote for president and 57.6 percent in the 2020 presidential election, Republican Third District U.S. Rep. Michael Guest found the courage to join 35 other Republican members of Congress in voting for an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill.

That vote bucked Trump and GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarty. The vote drew immediate criticism from the Trump faction in the national GOP and criticism on social media in Mississippi. Guest’s vote aligned him with the state’s only Democratic congressman, Second District U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Bolton – the chairmen of the House Homeland Security Committee who led negotiations on behalf of his party for establishment of the commission.

Frankly, it’s difficult to see how Guest – a former longtime state prosecutor – could have arrived at a different conclusion on this vote. The Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol cost five people including a Capitol policeman their lives in that disgraceful display. Some 140 people were injured in the fracas.

“We need answers to questions surrounding the events of Jan. 6,” Guest said after the vote. “I believe the long conversations that have happened over the last few months have produced a commission that is fair and is structured to find actions that Congress can take to prevent another such attack.”

Republican First District U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly of Tupelo voted against establishing the commission along with GOP Fourth District U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo of Gulfport.

The riots at the seat of American democracy embarrassed the United States before the rest of the civilized world – or certainly should have. The Architect of the Capitol reported at least $30 million in damages and increased security costs.

All of that violence, chaos, and damage resulted from a misguided effort to interrupt or delay a routine vote to certify the nation’s electoral vote. By that perfunctory act of Congress, the Democratic party returned to power in the executive branch of the U.S. government in the form of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

In 232 years of American presidential elections, no candidate in modern history has refused to except the results of the election and recognize the legitimacy of the winner as president. That includes the razor-thin margin of 1960 election between Democrat John Kennedy and Republican Richard Nixon.

But Trump’s myth of the “stolen election” endures. That despite the absence of evidence that held up in multiple courts across the country and the damning Nov. 12, 2020, statement of Trump’s own Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council (GCC) Executive Committee – Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA):

“The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double checking the entire election process prior to finalizing the result. When states have close elections, many will recount ballots. All of the states with close results in the 2020 presidential race have paper records of each vote, allowing the ability to go back and count each ballot if necessary. This is an added benefit for security and resilience. This process allows for the identification and correction of any mistakes or errors. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

In light of that and other unimpeachable evidence and in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection, Mississippi’s senior U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Tupelo, courageously voted to certify the electoral vote, although his party lost the 2020 presidential election in both the popular vote and the electoral vote. Thompson likewise supported certification.

The rest of Mississippi’s congressional delegation chose another path. Republicans U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Kelly, Guest and Palazzo voted against certifying the electoral vote results even though all six of Mississippi’s electoral votes were awarded to Trump.

To be clear, just as Wicker’s vote to certify the 2020 electoral vote was a vote that showed character, courage, and loyalty to the U.S. Constitution – Guest’s politically unpopular vote in favor of a bipartisan commission to probe the Jan. 6 Capitol riots was a courageous and statesmanlike vote that respects the rule of law.