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John Krull commentary: Trey Hollingsworth has a moment

Life is full of surprises—and some of them are pleasant ones.

We Hoosiers received one of the good surprises a few days ago when we discovered that U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-Indiana, has both a conscience and a spine.

Hollingsworth was one of 35 Republican members of the House to defy the order from Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California—who was playing the part of ventriloquist’s dummy for former President Donald Trump—to vote against a bipartisan investigation into the Jan. 6 assault on the capitol.

Hollingsworth was the only member of Indiana’s congressional delegation to do so.

I have been critical of Hollingsworth in the past. That’s because I disagree with him on some issues that matter.

I didn’t—and still don’t—like the way he shopped around to find a congressional district where his family money likely would be enough to ease him into office. I didn’t—and still don’t—like his penchant for seizing on the flimsiest of excuses to avoid debates and other encounters where he might be subject to close questioning and scrutiny.

And I think the way he obscured his COVID-19 diagnosis was disingenuous at best.

That said, one must respect courage.

Hollingsworth showed some here.

Almost every other Republican officeholder in the country quakes in terror at the thought of arousing the petulant former president’s ire—and with good reason. While Donald Trump has yet to demonstrate that he can lead Republicans to victory anywhere, he has shown—beyond any reasonable doubt—that he can bring about defeat for any GOP stalwart who angers him.

Trump does this by backing a primary challenger to the Republican he wants to punish. Even if the object of the former president’s wrath manages to beat back the intraparty threat, the battle generally leaves him or her greatly weakened when the general election rolls around, largely because Trump’s voters by then have decided to stay home.

That’s the fate Hollingsworth has invited.

There’s at least one Trump acolyte in the Indiana House of Representatives in Hollingsworth’s district who is itching to run for higher office. He’s been inviting supporters to “counsel” him via social media about whether he should do so—always a sure sign that he’s all but filed papers.

This guy’s not smart enough to pour rainwater out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel, but that’s not an obstacle to getting elected in Donald Trump’s America.

If there is one Trump idolator out there eager to make a run, then there are bound to be others. If they don’t run themselves, they will help the candidate who does. They don’t care all that much whether the Republican Party wins or loses. They just want to make a point—and make the pouting former president like them.

Maybe Hollingsworth can knock a primary challenge back. Maybe he can’t.

Maybe, even if he does prevail in the primary, he can win in a general election.

His district has been so skillfully gerrymandered that he stands a better chance than most of surviving a Trumpian assault if he makes it past the primary.

But that’s not the point.

Hollingsworth could have spared himself the trouble by doing what every other Republican member of Indiana’s congressional delegation did. He could have kissed the ring, cast his vote and moved on.

Instead, he chose to say that, when the temple of our self-governing society is ransacked for only the second time in this nation’s history, we ought to find out why. We should determine who played roles in the insurrection. And we should make sure it never happens again.

This should not be a partisan question.

Rather, it should one of patriotism—of devotion to one’s country, rather than to one’s party.

Or to a temperamental former commander-in-chief.

Hollingsworth has been quiet about why he cast his vote the way he did.

That’s both smart politics and the right thing to do.

When one takes a principled stand, particularly when it is tough to do so, it’s bad manners to boast or crow.

Doubtless, there will be times in the future when I will disagree with Trey Hollingsworth.

But, at this moment, he has my respect.

He’s earned it.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.