But it’s good news nonetheless. And it arguably should be taken as such even by liberals and progressives who understandably view the prospect of a pro-democracy center right with deep skepticism.
“It is time to either reform or repeal the Republican Party,” Taylor said.
House Republicans just removed Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming from leadership for demanding that the GOP unambiguously repudiate Trump’s “big lie” about the election, admit to his culpability for the Jan. 6 insurrection and fully commit to respecting future democratic outcomes.
This removal, which was spearheaded by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), is supposed to allow the GOP to move on and “unite.”
But Taylor told CNN that McCarthy is kidding himself. “My message to him is that the civil war within the GOP is not ending," Taylor said. "Today, it is just beginning.”
The group threatening a third party reportedly contains more than 100 Republicans, including numerous former elected officials. They will release an open letter on Thursday demanding specific changes from the GOP, while warning:
When in our democratic republic, forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise, it is the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice.
This effort would be electorally doomed, as David Jolly explains. But that doesn’t render the broader project of challenging the GOP useless. The fact is we need as many right-leaning voices as possible calling out ongoing GOP radicalization even if they don’t gain power.
Of course, there are other objections one might pose. It’s true, for instance, that people such as Taylor and Cheney are hardly good spokespeople for democracy.
Taylor was an official in the same Department of Homeland Security that separated families. And as Adam Serwer argues, Cheney is associated with the stoking of Islamophobia and assaults on the rule of law linked to the war on terrorism, which helped till the ground for the GOP’s escalating descent under Trump.
Or as Jeet Heer notes, “it’s a problem that the opposition to this being led by the Cheney wing of the GOP. A good cause deserves better advocates.”
This is all true. But we don’t have our choice of better advocates among Republicans. This is inherent to the current problem. And as bad as their records are, we need center-right voices who are willing to flatly articulate the principle that accepting democratic electoral outcomes is a precondition for a functioning liberal democracy.
We may disagree vehemently with Taylor and Cheney about what constitutes legitimate use of the state power that elections place in officials’ hands and even about what it means to uphold the rule of law itself. But if they will accept it when our vision of these things prevails in elections, that’s something we want in a center right.
Relatedly, it’s often pointed out that the democratic commitments of such center-rightists are shallow. They won’t forcefully criticize GOP voter suppression and other anti-majoritarian tactics, so functionally they look the other way while Republicans put in place machinery to stay in power in defiance of popular majorities, or worse, to try to invalidate future elections.
That may be. But here again, if our vision of these things prevails through legitimate democratic processes — if, say, Democrats win elections and pass state or federal protections and expansions of voting rights — they will presumably accept this outcome. They may fight such outcomes in court, which we would despise and oppose — but if they lose, they’ll presumably accept that, too.
Obviously there might come a point at which such Republicans’ countenancing of anti-majoritarian tactics could render their democratic commitments useless for any pro-democracy alliance. But I don’t think we’re there yet with people like Taylor and even Cheney, given her most recent stances.
What’s more, there’s utility to what they’re doing. Anything that draws more media attention to the ongoing GOP plunge into authoritarianism can only help.
Indeed, this sort of center-right criticism may even prod both-sides-oriented media figures to feel more obligated to highlight the big unvarnished truth about this moment, that only one party — the GOP — poses a real threat to ongoing democratic stability.
To be clear, none of this is sufficient to winning future elections or generating the spine among Democrats to push through major reforms, which would do far more to protect democracy than any center-right challenge will. But we need whatever semblance of a functional pro-democracy center-right we can scrounge up.
On CNN, Taylor said: “The one place we are united with Democrats right now is in defending our democracy.” Unfortunately, when it comes to center-right voices willing to say this, right now we don’t have the option of being particularly choosy.