Vice President Mike Pence Press Conference

Louisiana Senator John Kennedy speaks about coronavirus on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 during the press conference with Vice President Mike Pence and other local officials at Tiger Stadium.

On Jan. 2,  U.S. Sen. John Kennedy signed a statement alongside 10 other Republican colleagues declaring his intention to vote against the certification of the electoral votes for the 2020 presidential election.

Four days later, a group of violent right-wing insurgents attacked the U.S. Capitol, halting the Congressional count of those same electoral votes.

The halls of Congress were occupied for four hours, offices being ravaged and raided all the while. Members of Congress and staffers were forced to either flee or shelter in place. Explosives were found near the Capitol: one at the Republican National Committee headquarters and another at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. A computer potentially containing sensitive national security information was stolen. Five people died in connection with the riots. 

Later that day, after bearing witness to the deadly consequences of politicians undermining the integrity of our elections, Sen. Kennedy joined five other Republican senators in voting against the certification of the Arizona electoral votes, his intentions apparently unmoved by the events that took place just hours before.

An audit following the Arizona presidential race found no evidence of election fraud beyond “microscopic issues that don’t affect the outcome of the race,” according to official reports. President Trump’s lawsuit against the state of Arizona was thrown out due to a lack of substantial evidence, a decision which was upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court

Sen. Kennedy previously stated that “until the courts are finished, we don’t have a winner.” Well, the courts are finished. Case after case filed by the Trump campaign has been reviewed and subsequently discarded. There is no legal basis for objecting to the results of the Arizona election — still, Sen. Kennedy felt empowered to discredit the voices of voters in a state he doesn't even represent.

As an elected official in one of the highest offices in our country, Sen. Kennedy would have to be incompetent to not understand or accept the multitude of evidence that proves Joe Biden's lawful election to the office of the 46th President of the United States. 

But I do not believe Sen. Kennedy to be incompetent, as that would relieve him of the full weight of his actions. Rather, I believe him to be something much worse: a liar.

Sen. Kennedy understands perfectly well that this was a fair election. If he truly believed the election to be fraudulent, would he not oppose the seating of his Republican colleagues that were elected to office on the same ballots he supposedly questions? Would he not object to the results of the congressional race that re-elected fellow Republican Bill Cassidy to the U.S Senate?

Sen. Kennedy’s vote against the election certification was not the principled act of defiance he made it out to be, but rather a self-interested charade. 

Sen. Kennedy sought to further his political fortunes by playing into the “Stop the Steal” farce to earn goodwill among the pro-Trump base. Perhaps he thought his actions would earn him a congratulatory tweet from the president, or an "I-owe-you" in the form of a future rally or political endorsement. 

Even more stomach-churning is the way Sen. Kennedy has compromised public trust in the election in order to fundraise for his campaign. 

As described by the LA Illuminator, Sen. Kennedy sent out an email in November in which he cast doubt on Joe Biden’s victory using a poll that asked: “Do you think there was some voter fraud during the election?”

The poll sent respondents to a Republican fundraising website, where they were solicited for campaign contributions and personal information to be used by the Kennedy campaign. This behavior cannot be normalized. It is unacceptable for a sitting U.S. senator to twist the integrity of our democracy in the interest of a fundraising scheme.

A man from a party claiming to revere and uphold the Constitution evidently thinks very little of our democratic institutions if he's willing to sell them out for campaign data and donations. To make baseless claims about voter fraud is harmful enough — the motives evident behind those claims are worse still. 

While Sen. Kennedy capitalized on mounting the political passions of Trump’s base, he masqueraded his true intentions as a courageous fight for the unheard. In a statement on Jan. 7, the senator posed that Louisianians “care about election integrity, and many are concerned about irregularities surrounding the Nov. 3 election. I came to the Capitol yesterday to give them a voice.” 

Naturally, the senator does not acknowledge that the reason so many people doubt the results of this election is because their elected officials have been peddling unfounded conspiracy theories about voter fraud for months. Sen. Kennedy is manipulating the public by lying to them and using their faith in his words in an attempt to justify his actions. 

Few understand this disinformation campaign better than Sen. Kennedy, who has spent months making unevidenced claims such as “there were mail ballots flying around like confetti,” and that there was “a lot of tomfoolery" and "a few too many shenanigans with this election.”

The disinformation, lies and doubt spread by Sen. Kennedy and a number of his Republican colleagues in Congress are largely responsible for the riots that took place this week. As disturbing as it was to watch the invasion of our Capitol, it is unsurprising that political violence is the natural conclusion of their false claims. 

Sen. Kennedy empowered these attackers by legitimizing their delusions. While the senator has condemned the violence that occurred in D.C., a simple condemnation is not enough. President Trump, Sen. Kennedy and other representatives in opposition to the election incited violence at the Capitol. This country cannot allow those who endangered our democracy to abdicate their role in this chaos so easily.

Sen. Kennedy must accept his part in what occurred at the Capitol and tender his resignation as a member of the U.S. Senate immediately. And if he will not resign, he should be expelled by his fellow congresspeople. He abused the trust placed in him by the people of Louisiana and is no longer fit to serve on their behalf.

Commentator Yuval Levin put it best in a recent column for the National Review, writing, “Lying to people is no way to speak for them or represent them. It is a way of showing contempt for them, and of using them rather than being useful to them.”

Sen. Kennedy used his position as a representative of this state to undermine our democracy. For that, there is no redemption.

Claire Sullivan is an 18-year-old coastal environmental science freshman from Southbury, CT.

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