When listening to Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), one of the bravest and most clearheaded Republicans when it comes to the disgraced former president, you will notice that something is missing. Consider this exchange on CBS’s “Face the Nation”:

HOST MARGARET BRENNAN: [T]he former president, seemed to be talking in a proud way about the crowd size on January 6th. He gave the speech at Mar-a-Lago. He was the keynote speaker at the RNC fundraiser and- and talked about Vice President Pence not doing more to stop the election certification. … So is he really the best messenger for the party?
CHENEY: You know, the- the former president is using the same language that he knows provoked violence on January 6th. You know, as a party, we need to be focused on the future. We need to be focused on embracing the Constitution, not embracing insurrection. And I think it’s very important for people to realize that a fundamental part of the Constitution and- and of who we are as Americans is the rule of law. It’s the judicial process. The election wasn’t stolen. There was a judicial process in place. If you attack the judicial process and you attack the rule of law, you aren’t defending the Constitution. You’re at war with the Constitution.

But that is her party. The vast majority of her party lines up behind the MAGA cult at war with the Constitution. Her minority leader went to kiss the ring of the insurrectionist in chief months ago. A legion of Republicans just trooped out to Mar-A-Lago to hear him recount the Big Lie and defend the insurrection. At what point do well-meaning, anti-MAGA Republicans need to figure out how to disassemble this cult? Criticism of lies and assaults on the Constitution is welcome, but it is time for those within the Republican Party to explain what they are going to do about the monster unleashed on the political landscape.

When it comes to policing their own, even smaller fry evade consequences for their wholly objectionable conduct.

BRENNAN: Speaker Pelosi just said it’s up to your party to take responsibility for Congressman Matt Gaetz, who, as you know, is undergoing an ethics investigation. Are you ready to call for his resignation? Or are you going to wait?
CHENEY: You know ... as the mother of- of daughters, the charges certainly are sickening. And as the speaker noted, there’s an ethics investigation underway. There are also criminal investigations underway. And I’m not going to comment further on that publicly right now, Margaret.
BRENNAN: Were you surprised at these allegations?
CHENEY: I’m not going to comment further.

Why not? A large contingent of House Democrats and both New York senators called for Democratic New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to step down. When Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam’s blackface picture scandal erupted, both Virginia senators and a flock of Democrats called for him to step down. Democrats make some effort at self-policing.

However, when it comes to Republicans, whatever timid peeps of objection can be heard are virtually never followed by consequences for the bad actors. The vast majority of Republicans supported letting Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) keep her committee assignment despite her grotesque anti-Semitism (space lasers) and embrace of QAnon conspiracies. Not even the Liz Cheneys can bring themselves to call for Gaetz to resign. (So far, only Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois has called for Gaetz to leave.)

If even the “good” Republicans cannot find the spine to drub out Gaetz, what possible chance is there that they will abandon the MAGA cult leader, let alone the pantheon of MAGA lies and anti-democratic aversion to expanding access to the ballot?

Indeed, the lack of any accountability and the refusal to recognize reality are key components of the MAGA mind-set. Inconvenient facts get written off as fake news; bad behavior is tolerated with whataboutism. The MAGA cult survives, like all cults, by sustaining a worldview that is false and embraced without question by its followers.

Moreover, the GOP politicians’ conduct does not take place in a vacuum. They behave and speak as they do because that is what voters and, more important, the right-wing media demand. And this brings any remaining sane and decent Republicans to the nub of the problem: Even without the MAGA cult leader, the cult is now self-sustaining, thanks to right-wing media. You do not need to have the former president inveighing against immigrants when you have Tucker Carlson propounding White supremacist replacement theory. (The head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, denounced Carlson’s venom as “a staple of white supremacist and extremist ideology” and “serving as a gateway to one of the most damaging and dangerous conspiracy theories out there.”)

The MAGA phenomenon is not a matter of one former president or the Freedom Caucus or weak-kneed GOP leadership. The root of the problem is a party and 30 percent or so of the voters — nurtured and sustained by right-wing media — who has imbibed a racist, xenophobic, anti-democratic and anti-reality mind-set.

The GOP, in other words, needs not only a new leader and new members of Congress but also a new ideology and a new base. Since that surely is not happening anytime soon, the Liz Cheneys will need to consider why they are still Republicans and whether their efforts to support MAGA-compliant colleagues (for reelection in 2022, for example) make their and the country’s dilemma worse.

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