In farewell speech, Rep. Adam Kinzinger warns GOP ‘has embraced lies and deceit’

“Our democracy is not functioning,” Adam Kinzinger, the Chicago-area Republican who has stood against the MAGA wing, warns colleagues.

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In his farewell to Congress, Rep. Adam Kinzinger said both Republicans and Democrats lack “spines to stand up and put country over party.”

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WASHINGTON — Ringing alarm bells in his last speech on the House floor, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., who early on warned about the corrosive effects of conspiracy theories that started during the Trump presidency and led to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, said Thursday he feared U.S. democracy “will fall into the ash heap of history.”

“Our democracy,” said Kinzinger, “is not functioning.”

Kinzinger, who sacrificed his political career — at least for now — for speaking out against lies and election denial, said in his farewell address that he had wanted to end his time in Congress with the country in better shape than when he started, but “I cannot in good conscience say that I have done that.”

Instead of members using “our platform to advance the well-being of our nation and her people, we’ve turned this institution into an echo chamber of lies.”

Kinzinger, 44, from Channahon, represents the 16th District, just south of Chicago. His first day in Congress was Jan. 3, 2011, when the young conservative walked into the House chamber as an unknown military pilot and former member of the McLean County Board.

When Kinzinger wraps up his sixth term next month he will depart as one of only two elected Republicans in the entire nation — with Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming the other — to clearly and consistently condemn fellow Republicans for failing to acknowledge the dangers our civil society faces in the wake of the election denial and lies spawned and spread by former President Donald Trump.

Kinzinger and Cheney are the only Republicans who were willing to serve on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack and the events leading to the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election and keep Trump in office.

In October 2021, Kinzinger decided not to run again after Springfield Democrats, drawing new maps based on the 2020 census, threw him in a district with another Republican incumbent. The political reality was that Kinzinger — one of 10 Republicans to vote to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 attack — and his membership on the investigative committee — would have found it difficult to impossible to win a GOP primary.

In the last year, Kinzinger’s profile has only grown, through his work on the Jan. 6 committee and the fact that even with all that is known about Trump now — in large part due to the Jan. 6 panel’s probe — Kinzinger is still one of the few elected Republicans willing to speak out.

And that’s what he did Thursday.

“Where Republicans once believed that limited government meant lower taxes and more autonomy, today limited government means inciting violence against government officials,” Kinzinger said.

“Following the tragic Oklahoma City bombing, former President George H. W. Bush publicly refuted those who used fear to gain support. In stark contrast, our leaders today belittle, and in some cases justify, attacks on the U.S. Capitol as “legitimate political discourse.” The once great party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan has turned its back on the ideals of liberty and self-governance. Instead, it has embraced lies and deceit.

“The Republican Party used to believe in a big tent, which welcomed the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Now we shelter the ignorant, the racists, who only stoke anger and hatred to those that are different than us.

“Our constituents voted us in based on our beliefs, but we cannot use our faith as a sword and a shield while ignoring the fact we are all children of God, that we are all Americans.”

Democrats are not blameless.

Kinzinger did not name names when he talked about the ploy Democrats used — including Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker — of propping up Make America Great Again Republicans in primaries — pumping millions of dollars into these efforts — in order to have extremist rivals to run against in the November midterms.

“To my Democratic colleagues, you too must bear the burden of our failures. Many of you have asked me ‘Where are all the good Republicans?’ Over the past two years, Democratic leadership had the opportunity to stand above the fray. Instead, they poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of MAGA Republicans, the same candidates President Biden called a national security threat, to ensure these good Republicans do not make it out of their respective primaries.

“This is no longer politics as usual; this is not a game. If you keep stoking the fire, you can’t point the fingers when our great experiment goes up in flames.”

Both parties have “weaponized fear,” with too few Republicans or Democrats having the “spines to stand up and put country over party,” Kinzinger said.

At the end of January 2021, Kinzinger launched Country First, now his main political action committee, dedicated to combating “the poisonous extremism that has overtaken our politics.”

On the House floor Kinzinger said, “Americans deserve a democracy that values truthful leaders and real dialogue between our parties. It is my belief that we must put aside our differences and remember that the nation itself will only survive if the people have faith in one another.

“Unfortunately, we now live in a world where lies trump truth. Where democracy is being challenged by authoritarianism. If we, America’s elected leaders, do not search within ourselves for a way out, I fear that this great experiment will fall into the ash heap of history.”

Kinzinger said he can rest at night knowing he was “standing up for the truth.”

Said Kinzinger, “I know many in this institution cannot do the same.”

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