BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It was a day in the halls of Congress that went from a constitutionally required formality, to an attack on the United States Capitol the likes of which has never been seen before in America.
Thousands of people rushed the U.S. Capitol building, breaking windows, assaulting police officers and delaying the certification of the 2020 election results.
Unsurprisingly, perspectives on Jan. 6 split evenly down the majority of each party. But the day also stoked divide within the Republican caucus, posing a central question as the party looks ahead.
Arguably nowhere in else in the country, certainly no other single city, has a starker example of that inside its boundaries than right here in Bakersfield and Kern.
On Jan. 13, 2021, Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy took to the House floor, the same one that had been torn apart just a week before.
“Let me be clear, last week’s violent attack on the Capitol was undemocratic, un-American and criminal,” McCarthy said.
The House Minority Leader denounced what happened that day, putting blame on the former president and his close ally for not doing more to stop the attack.
“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters,” he said.
But then came the former president’s second impeachment trial, this time for his role on Jan. 6.
That was the vote that split Kern’s two Congressmen.
“I believe impeaching the President in such a short time frame would be a mistake,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy voted not to impeach, saying it would further divide the country. Bakersfield’s other congressmen crossed party lines. The Republican David Valadao said Trump’s rhetoric on Jan. 6 was an impeachable offense and was one of only 10 GOP House members to vote to impeach.
It was a vote indicative of the crossroads in which the Republican caucus finds itself — the question of how big of a role the former president will play in the future of the party. It’s all exemplified by two Republican Congressmen right here in Bakersfield and Kern.
Republican political analyst Cathy Abernathy said the former president will play as big of a role as he wants going forward, but he hasn’t answered that question yet.
It’s a storyline that continued through the year, coming up again with the idea of a 9/11 style commission. The vote again dividing Kern’s two men in Washington.
McCarthy voted no and argued a commission shouldn’t limit its scope to one day in January, but instead, should also investigate unrelated violence by the left.
Valadao sticking with his embrace of reaching across the aisle when he deems necessary, voting to authorize the commission and saying it was needed to remove politics from the issue.
When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two out of McCarthy’s five Republican nominees to sit on the Jan. 6 panel, the House Minority Leader decided not to give any more options. Abernathy said that brings the two Bakersfield Congressmen together.
“The biggest issue that they would both agree on right now with what this commission is doing is that the commission has not allowed the leader of the Republican party to appoint the Republicans to the committee that is investigating it,” she said.
Most recently, McCarthy’s has called the panel a partisan political tool. Abernathy pointed out, Valadao has joined in some of those sentiments, still saying the American people deserve to know the truth about Jan. 6, but now saying the commission will only divide us further.
“We have to enforce the laws regardless of the politics, regardless of what the crime was,” Abernathy said. “That’s what congress should be spending time on in my opinion and I think both those Congressmen would agree.”
As the nation marks a year since Jan. 6, the question of which direction the GOP will head going forward still remains. It’s one of the biggest narratives driving American politics and it’s all playing out in Kern, a conservative leaning county in one of the bluest states in the nation.
Note: Valadao’s team, declined to comment. McCarthy’s team sent us this statement:
“As we have said from the start, the actions of that day were lawless and as wrong as wrong can be. Our Capitol should never be compromised and those who broke the law deserve to face legal repercussions and full accountability. Unfortunately, one year later, the majority party seems no closer to answering the central question of how the Capitol was left so unprepared and what must be done to ensure it never happens again. Instead, they are using it as a partisan political weapon to further divide our country.”Kevin McCarthy’s office