It was a poignant moment captured on the floor of the House Wednesday night. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), rock-ribbed conservative and policy critic of President Biden, walked to the center aisle as he entered the chamber. She clapped respectfully. They exchanged a fist bump.

The next day she tweeted:

Cheney and Biden agree on very few policy matters (although they are both pro-NATO, pro-human rights, anti-Russian President Vladimir Putin), yet I am quite certain Biden has more respect for her as a fellow American and elected official than do many of her House Republican colleagues, who tried to boot her out of leadership. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has not even said he would support her bid for reelection.

She dared to defend the honor of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the former White House national security staffer whom Republicans painted as a traitor and accused of being a spy for truthfully testifying about the Ukraine scandal. She had the temerity to issue a statement saying the disgraced former president deserved to be impeached because there was no “greater betrayal by a President of the United States” than his instigation of insurrection at the Capitol. And she refused to support any presidential campaign he might mount in 2024. To top it off, she declared that white supremacists, not Black Lives Matter protesters, should be the focus of the Jan. 6 commission. The GOP simply cannot abide by such candor.

On respect for the rule of law, adherence to reality, devotion to democracy and giving no quarter to white supremacists, she and Biden are on common ground. Meanwhile, when it comes to such fundamental questions as “Should we punish violent insurrectionists?” and “Do we smear patriots in the pursuit of defending a cult leader?” she is at odds with her own party. Can her relationship with the party really continue?

In a similar vein, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who also broke with his own party on the second impeachment and defended Cheney, was stirred by an interview with a Capitol Hill police officer who spoke about the violence on Jan. 6. On Twitter, Kinzinger poked at McCarthy, who recently tried to dissociate the MAGA leader from the mayhem:

(In case anyone missed it, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) office was only too happy to send this tweet around.)

Kinzinger, like Cheney, currently resides in a party that embraces the fantasy that Jan. 6 was not so bad — or if it was, antifa is to blame. Despite his efforts to debunk right-wing myths (e.g., the false claim that Vice President Harris’s book was distributed at migrant facilities), he is a member of a party that places virtually no value on objective reality. He can fight against each new outrage, but that’s akin to bailing water out of the ocean with a teaspoon.

It is far from clear whether Cheney or Kinzinger will survive primary challenges in 2022. If MAGA voters dominate the primary, they could lose their seats for the grave offense of defending truth and democracy.

The Republican Accountability Project is trying to prevent that. RAP compiled a scorecard that captures the gulf between Republicans such as Cheney and Kinzinger, on one hand, and the rest of the GOP cult followers on the other. “In the House, 64 Republicans voted not to object to counting the electoral votes, and ten voted to impeach former president Trump for inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol,” RAP reports. “In the Senate, five voted not to dismiss the impeachment trial, and seven Republicans voted to convict.” Cheney, Kinzinger and 14 others (out of more than 260 Republicans in the House and Senate) earn an A or A- rating and therefore can depend on RAP’s support as a “Defender of Democracy.” (Some lawmakers who fall into this category are retiring, so the list of decent Republicans worthy of support in 2022 will be small indeed.)

One hopes primary voters recognize the few Republicans willing to stand on principle and defend democracy. Unfortunately, I fear getting a high rating will be inversely related to lawmakers’ chances of survival in 2022. They live in a MAGA party hostile to their deepest-held values.

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