Republicans seem to have decided that lying is their best option. Rather than risk the wrath of the disgraced former president, they lie about who won the election and who is responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection. Rather than confront the donor class and anti-government activists who insists on plutocratic economics, they opposed the American Rescue Plan en masse — and then went out to promote its benefits.

Deception soon morphs into self-delusion. The Post reports on a polling briefing that took place at a recent GOP retreat:

When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.
Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.

Republicans do not want to deal with the unpleasant truth: The MAGA cult leader is bad for the party, yet they cannot bring themselves to break with him. When Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) declares — as he did last week — that the party cannot “move forward” without the leader of the Jan. 6 insurrection, he is misleading donors, voters and himself. (He really could have benefited from the polling that the MAGA sycophants hid away.) The true sign of a cultist is that he will contort reality so as not to question the basic tenets of the cult.

To a lesser degree, even more-conscientious Republicans are kidding themselves. Consider how Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) responded on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” to Graham’s claim that Republicans cannot grow without continuing to embrace the former president — in contrast to Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who insists the party disentangle itself from the Jan. 6 instigator. “And so, for us to win in 2022 and 2024 we need everybody,” Cassidy said. "We need those who feel as Liz. We need those who feel as Lindsey. Now ultimately, it’s about the policies.”

This is nonsense. The truth-tellers and the deniers of the Jan. 6 insurrection cannot coexist. It is one or the other. Republicans who say otherwise really mean that Cheney should just shut up so that the Former Guy does not pitch a fit. Her point is that it is not sustainable for a party to lie to prevent a disloyal authoritarian from having a temper tantrum.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) at least does not try to sell his party a bill of goods. Also appearing on “Meet the Press,” he was blunt: “This is going to be a battle for the soul of the Republican Party.” In other words, Republicans need to dispense with the fantasy that abject liars willing to rewrite history can coexist with principled lawmakers who insist on defending the Constitution.

Cassidy and many other Republicans insist that if they just get back to policies, the party will be united. Really? Republicans in 2020 decided not to draft a policy platform, choosing instead to genuflect toward the nominee. Meanwhile, there are a fleet of Republicans in Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s wing who will go to the mat to defend 2017 tax cuts for the super-rich and for corporations; others have figured out that protecting the 55 corporations that paid no federal income taxes last year is not what a “populist” or “working-class” party is supposed to do. And while many Republicans expressed extreme misgivings over pulling troops from Afghanistan (under either this or the prior president), a pack of 2024 wannabes such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) cheer the end of military involvement in Afghanistan.

United on policy? Few Republicans are talking about policy at all. Instead, they are fighting fictitious culture wars and cheering efforts to suppress the vote.

Republican politicians are deceiving themselves about the former president’s toxicity and about the incompatibility of Cheney Republicans and MAGA Republicans. They try to keep up the pretense that all will be fine in the GOP, ignoring the party’s absence of viable policy ideas and its preference for performance politics and right-wing conspiracy theories. Perhaps kicking Cheney out of her leadership spot will force some honest discussion among Republicans. If not, the GOP crackup will only intensify.

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