While Josh Hawley has decided to double down, James Lankford has regrets over his actions in Congress on January 6th. After having built a good connection to voters of color in Oklahoma, the Republican Senator found himself under fire from those same communities for attempting to cast doubt on voting results in predominantly black voters. In a surprising reversal, Lankford has now apologized for his role in the January 6 challenges (see update below), asking those voters for another chance:
In a letter addressed to “My friends in North Tulsa,” Lankford acknowledges that his actions “caused a firestorm of suspicion among many of my friends, particularly in Black communities around the state. I was completely blindsided, but I also found a blind spot.” …
His decision to raise issues about the presidential election in several key states — most of them with large African American populations — hurt and angered many Tulsans, however, with some leaders saying he should resign or be removed from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission.
In his letter, though, Lankford asks for another chance.
“What I did not realize was all of the national conversation about states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, was seen as casting doubt on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly Black communities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit,” he wrote.
That might be a bit difficult for those voters to believe, considering just how often the media focused on that very aspect over the last two months of election challenges. Democrats in Philly and Detroit weren’t silent about that issue, for instance. It certainly became a major criticism of Donald Trump’s campaign when they demanded a recount only in Dane and Milwaukee counties in Wisconsin, where most of the state’s black voters reside — and where an overwhelming vote for Joe Biden was hardly unexpected in the first place. The focus on Stacey Abrams’ GOTV efforts in Georgia also prompted similar criticisms, but to be fair, the wild theories about Dominion Voting Systems and Venezuelan communists far overshadowed that.
Maybe Lankford can argue that he was caught up in the echo chamber. A lot of people can legitimately make that claim in regard to hypotheses about the election being “stolen,” but we expect more out of members of the US Senate. Or at least we should.
Putting that aside, however, Lankford’s decision to apologize is quite notable. For now, Lankford appears to be the most prominent Republican in Congress to admit error in his action, if not the first to do so at all. Hawley spent his day yesterday defending his challenges as a form of defiance against the mob, an argument that Allahpundit noted is particularly obtuse when understanding that the mob wanted to overturn the election too.
To boil this down to strategy is probably too reductive, as we should credit both Republicans with at least some authenticity in their reactions. However, it does pose an interesting strategic experiment. Hawley is employing the very Trump-like idea that one should never apologize and show weakness, while Lankford is trying an older strategy of contrition and remorse as a means of repairing broken connections. Which strategy will pay off best? It might take a while to find out, and those results will certainly be veeeerrrrrrry informative about the long-term health of our political culture.
Update: I have changed the headline to reflect the fact that Lankford didn’t actually vote to reject the electors. He had announced plans to do so, but after the Capitol riots, he changed his mind. Thanks to a reader from Oklahoma for that clarification.