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.
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.
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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