In the wake of the January 6 Insurrection, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R) of Pennsylvania’s 1st District was fighting mad.
But like many Republicans who talked tough at the time, their anger quickly faded.
As the days passed and the Republican Party abandoned the fiery talk about the insurrection and climbed back into Trump’s pocket, Fitzpatrick joined them, voting against Trump’s impeachment for the second time. Even though Trump was on his way out, and many Republicans used this as political cover for their unpopular votes to acquit, a successful impeachment would have barred Trump from running for office again.
It failed, and now Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2024, and democracy itself is approaching an authoritarian cliff.
After initially and accurately calling January 6 a coup attempt, Fitzpatrick made the same odd pivot that the rest of the GOP made, backtracking and essentially endorsing the coup attempt that outraged him just weeks earlier. It was the flip-flop of all modern day flip-flops.
And this is not the first time Fitzpatrick has declined to take a stand against the hate that has become so common on the modern political right. In December of 2019, Trump held a rally in Hershey, PA, and during his speech, he referred to FBI agents as “spies” and “scum.” Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent himself, said nothing at the time, and to this day, has not issued a statement that addresses the attack on his former colleagues. Fitzpatrick’s office did not respond to recent requests for such a statement.
The moments of frailty and enthrallment to the party seem odd when placed next to other decisions Fitzpatrick has made over his three terms. He voted for the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, for example, and he is “the only GOP member of Pennsylvania’s House delegation who did not sign a letter to object to the electoral college certification.” Each act gave rise to waves of anger from the Trump base, most calling him a traitor or a RINO.
It’s these decisions that have become the base for Fitzpatrick’s claims that he is an independent voice, but calculated might be a better adjective to describe a series of carefully chosen actions that just barely escape the full wrath of Trump and his followers.
But as his swing district prepares for Donald Trump’s next grievance-fueled campaign for President, Fitzpatrick looks as if he will try to get elected to a fourth term in Congress by once again walking the path of least resistance and doing just enough not to get noticed.