Politico senior editor demands obituaries for pro-Trump lawmakers include their votes to ‘overturn election’

By | September 10, 2022

Politico senior editor Michael Schaffer complained that some GOP lawmakers who have died in “the 20 months since the Capitol insurrection” did not have their votes to “overturn” the 2020 election mentioned in their obituaries. 

In his Friday column for Politico Magazine, Schaffer argued that “what may have been the most important vote” of their careers should probably be included in these lawmakers’ obituaries, so that we truly know their political legacies and see which side they were on. 

At the top of the piece, he recalled an obituary for Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., who along with two staffers, was tragically killed in a car accident last month: “…readers of the Washington Post write-up had to wait until the final paragraph — below the fulsome tributes from a bipartisan array of colleagues; below the discussions of her anti-abortion politics and her committee assignments — to learn about what may have been the most important vote of her career.”

“On January 6th, 2021, she voted against certifying the results of the 2020 election,” Schaffer revealed.

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He went on to note that Walorski’s obituary was the exception and that the election-denying votes of other Republican congressmen who recently passed have been omitted from their Washington Post obituaries. GOP Representatives Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn., and Ron Wright’s, R-Texas, “votes to overturn an American presidential election went unmentioned in the reports about their deaths,” he wrote. 

The author acknowledged that obituaries in general “are an imperfect form, especially when they have to double as breaking stories of a public figure’s unexpected demise.” Though, “they are as close as we get to a rough draft of biography, an approximation of what contemporaries think are the key parts of the dearly departed’s permanent record,” he added.

According to Schaffer, the lack of uniform obituary entries on these January 6 votes reveals “a Washington culture deeply uncertain about election denial and its legacy.”

Granted, not all papers or reports have forgone putting these blurbs in obituaries. “The New York Times obit for Hagedorn, for instance, led with his election-overturning vote,” he wrote, clarifying, “It’s that the coverage is all over the place.”

The columnist pointed out Hagedorn’s vote was “not at all” mentioned “in the Guardian, a publication that’s generally not especially friendly to baseless conspiracy theories about 2020 fraud.” Schaffer also claimed that his own publication, Politico, “did not take note of the way they voted on January 6,” still speaking of Walorski, Hagedorn and Wright.

Schaffer called these omissions “strange” considering the gravity of such votes. He explained, “The last few years have featured no shortage of assertions in the media that the preservation of democracy ought to be the profession’s highest calling. The vote on whether or not to certify the election was a seminal one, a moment to pick sides.”

Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “called it ‘the most important vote I’ve ever cast.’ So why not treat it as similarly defining for that vast majority of legislators with careers that have been shorter than McConnell’s?” Schaffer asked.

The author trotted out a counterpoint or two, stating, “Part of what’s going on here is our society-wide taboo against speaking ill of the dead and a major-media taboo against appearing biased. The deaths of all three members of Congress were greeted with genuine sorrow … Why muck it up by mentioning something controversial?” he wondered.

Though Schaffer rebutted this sentiment, saying, “Beyond the fact that mucking things up is what the news media is supposed to do, that speak-no-ill logic assumes that a vote to overturn the election was a bad thing — a statement a substantial minority of Americans disagree with, for better or worse.” 

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He noted that “The culture of Washington news reporters, like the folkways of the Hill, is also broadly forgiving of tough votes.” Though, perhaps this shouldn’t apply to the January 6 votes, as “we’ve spent years hearing about how the effort to overturn the election was not normal and must not be made to seem so,” he argued. 

“In other words, the case of the missing obit mentions is yet another case of one old norm (don’t speak ill of the dead, don’t be one of those naive types who think of any single vote as defining a pol’s career) against another (attempts to interrupt American democracy are a big deal),” Schaffer stated. 

He then declared, “The logistical and political and social impulse to sweep things under the rug is strong, and often not motivated by ill intent. It ought to be resisted all the same.”