Will Hurd, a Republican, is a former member of Congress from Texas.

Joe Biden is president in large part because Republicans have been incapable of growing the GOP to better reflect the changing demographics in the United States. We won’t be able to change that without addressing the epidemic of misinformation that has infected the party and realigning our party’s actions based on our values.

Republicans have lost seven of the last eight national popular votes, and it only took four years for us to lose the House, Senate and the White House. Republicans aren’t going to achieve electoral success by being seen as the party that defends QAnon extremists who advocate the murder of the former vice president. Nor will we see success by supporting white supremacists who call a Black police officer the n-word while that police officer puts his life on the line to protect democracy. Every Republican on the ballot in 2022 will face campaign attack ads that affiliate them with the domestic terrorists who charged the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

If the party wants a future, the elected officials, pundits and activists who claim to be its members must stop peddling conspiracy theories and drive out those who continue to do so. Republicans must be honest and do the right thing based on conservative values, not the thing that leads to more clicks, comments or shares on social media.

Those of us who were old enough on 9/11 will always remember the image of the second plane slamming into the World Trade Center, just like all of us will remember the images of thousands of people at the Capitol attempting an insurrection on Jan. 6. Both were acts of terrorism conducted by fanatics. If Islamist terrorism was the existential challenge of the early 2000s, then the environment of disinformation, misinformation and lies fueling domestic terrorism is the challenge of our current generation. This “infodemic" is getting worse, and it is radicalizing elements of our society.

“Big Tech” enforcing their terms of service isn’t the problem either. Don’t get me wrong, Big Tech has given conspiracy theorists, duplicitous politicians and violent extremism the tools to make a message go viral, but in the absence of political action to define the appropriate role of technology in our society, these platforms have become the only ones taking real steps to prevent content that further incites violence.

I accept that many of the people who stormed the Capitol believed the lies they were fed. They were lied to not only about the validity of the election, which was the most secure in our history, but also on a host of issues for years. They were radicalized through multiple platforms that sought to advance elected officials’ ambitions or the goals of foreign adversaries. Every person who went from peacefully protesting to joining the insurrection should be found and fully prosecuted, but conservatives need to wake up to a few realities.

The truth is, President Donald Trump lost big time. Many Republicans on the ballot across the country in 2020 outperformed the president by significant margins. He was an anchor around our necks at the voting booth.

If you believe that there was widespread fraud in the election, then you haven’t reviewed the right data, or you are listening to manipulative voices who wish to make money off you or to hawk merchandise. The state and local officials responsible for conducting elections are Republicans and Democrats who faithfully executed their duty to conduct a free and fair election.

Furthermore, if you elevate a flag that has someone’s name on it to the same level that you elevate your national flag, then you are not a patriot; you are part of a cult. When we put our hands on our hearts, we pledge allegiance to a flag, not an individual. The flag represents a nation founded on a perpetual goal to form a more perfect union, not a commitment to any one person.

The events of the past weeks show that we are far from perfect. We have given our enemies around the world fewer reasons to fear us and our allies fewer reasons to love us. If Republicans want to change their persistent popular vote losses at the national level, then we must realign our actions with our values.

Lawmakers should draw two lessons from the election: Don’t be a jerk, and don’t be a socialist. The GOP has a real opportunity to grow the party as Democrats lurch toward a far-left agenda that is out of touch with most Americans. The new GOP must reassert an old formula: Freedom enables opportunity. Opportunity allows for growth. Growth leads to progress.

Using these values to guide our decisions and being honest about the tough choices our country must make to keep this century the American Century will translate to electoral success. A new GOP starts with us looking in the mirror and being honest with ourselves about what we believe.

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