The Republican Party has split in two. The dividing line is not ideological. To the contrary, if anything, the collapse of a once great party during the Trump era demonstrates that ideology is secondary in politics; values, norms and character are primary.

In one half of the former GOP stand President Trump, his pathetic enablers in his campaign and in right-wing media, and the vast majority of Senate and House Republicans, including frequently discussed 2024 challengers (Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Marco Rubio of Florida). These Republicans seem to ignore the attempted coup taking place in front of their eyes by the candidate they claimed just a few weeks ago was not so bad after all. They refuse to acknowledge that President-elect Joe Biden is the legal, legitimate winner; instead, they have countenanced (by silence or affirmation) frivolous litigation designed to overthrow the results of a democratic election. Their silence makes them complicit in Trump’s personal intimidation of election officials. That makes them no better than two-bit thugs, such as Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who refuse to recognize the will of the people that is the essence of democracy.

Anti-democracy Trump loyalists dissemble, choose willful ignorance (not a single instance of fraud has come to light in nearly three-dozen lawsuits) and hide from the media to avoid rendering an opinion at odds with their cult leader. We can enjoy the delicious irony that the 2024 contenders have now enabled the person who will block their presidential ambitions, but that is small consolation when so many members of a major party disavow reality and democracy.

The Post's Ashley Parker explains why some Republicans followed President Trump's lead in denying the reality of the election and the danger they're posing. (The Washington Post)

In this regard, the usually rational Republicans (e.g., Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Tim Scott of South Carolina), the shameful provocateurs (e.g., the anti-impeachment House members who spouted Russian propaganda during impeachment) and the party functionaries (e.g., Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel) are all in the same boat. When Trump is actively trying to overturn an election and disenfranchise millions of voters (targeting heavily Black cities), silence is consent.

In the other half of the party, we see individuals from varying ideological backgrounds but who share a fundamental belief in democracy and the rule of law. These Republicans promptly declared that Trump had lost and insisted it was time to move on. In the Senate, Ben Sasse (Neb.), Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Utah) swiftly recognized the results of the election. (Belatedly, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania joined them.) In the House, Reps. Fred Upton (Mich.), Francis Rooney (Fla.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), John Shimkus (Ill.), Paul Mitchell (Mich.), Tom Reed (N.Y.), Denver Riggleman (Va.), Will Hurd (Tex.), Don Bacon (Neb.), Don Young (Alaska) and John Curtis (R-Utah) have acknowledged Biden is the winner. Republican governors in Utah, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, Arkansas, New Hampshire and Ohio have affirmed Biden is the legitimate winner.

This side of the GOP is not bound by ideology or geography. Young is one of the most conservative House members; Reed is among the least. Nevertheless, they uphold the basic tenets of democracy, refuse to make fools of themselves and decline to treat voters like mindless foot soldiers in Trump’s army. They belong in some sort of national party — just not one with the election deniers, the fabulists, the Trump sycophants and the compulsive liars.

The most fundamental difference separating the two halves — support for democracy — is far greater than any ideological difference among Republicans who support democracy or between those Republicans and the Democratic Party. Differences over taxes, regulation, foreign policy and even abortion pale in comparison to the most bedrock issues: Do you believe in democracy or not? Do you believe in operating truthfully in the real world or not?

If pro-democracy Republicans want to recover their party, they should consider primary challenges to pro-Trump authoritarians, independent runs for state and federal office, and even formation of a new party or movement. They can use their leverage in state legislatures and in Congress and refuse to automatically caucus with Republicans. Romney, Collins, Murkowski, Toomey and Sasse, for example, hold the balance of power in a narrowly divided Senate. They could insist on up-or-down votes on Cabinet appointees, a stimulus bill, a funding bill for vaccinations and legislation on executive branch reforms (e.g., a legal requirement for presidential candidates to release taxes or penalties for Cabinet officials who refuse to comply with subpoenas). If they are bold, they might seek to patch up the holes in the voting system Trump exposed. They should consider severe penalties for attempts to influence voting officials to change results and for state officials who seek to overturn the popular vote. They need to update the 1887 Electoral Count Act to, among other things, ensure slates of electors match the popular vote winner in each state.

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We, in effect, have three parties now: The Democratic Party, the Anti-Democracy Trump Party and the Pro-Democracy Republican Party. Once the Anti-Democracy Trump Party is marginalized, we might have functional government again. The Democratic Party and the Pro-Democracy Republican Party should put their heads together and devise a strategy to bring that about — quickly, and certainly before 2024.

UPDATE: In an op-ed Monday, Portman declares, “Based on all the information currently available, neither the final lawful vote counts nor the recounts have led to a different outcome in any state. In other words, the initial determination showing Joe Biden with enough electoral votes to win has not changed.” While he does not go so far as to declare Biden the “winner” nor call him president-elect, he does insist that “the General Services Administration (GSA) should go ahead and release the funds and provide the infrastructure for an official transition, and the Biden team should receive the requested intelligence briefings and briefings on the coronavirus vaccine distribution plan.”

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The MAGA march on D.C. showed Trump supporters are not a monolith, but their dedication to the president is singular. (The Washington Post)

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