The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Who should anti-Trump Republicans be rooting for? Centrist Democrats.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) speaks with Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on April 28. (Tom Williams/AP)
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Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has been tearing into House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for being a dangerous pawn of the former president who mounted the Jan. 6 insurrection. That’s good. She is determined to prevent the instigator in chief from reclaiming the presidency. That’s very good. She could be setting up a titanic GOP primary battle in 2024, or even a third-party conservative run. Also good. Cheney has supported an independent commission, and now supports subpoenaing McCarthy if he does not show up voluntarily. Again, good.

However, she is running for reelection, and will seek to help like-minded Republicans win House seats, too. That’s not good, especially if it enables McCarthy or an equally craven MAGA Republican to regain control of the House. And let’s not kid ourselves: Even if Cheney doubled the number of anti-authoritarian, anti-lying Republicans of the sort who voted for impeachment (10 House members), they would still be a small minority of the Republican caucus. So, Cheney helping “good” Republicans to win in 2022? Bad. Very bad.

To simplify matters, let’s identify the singular aim for pro-democracy Americans: Making sure the MAGA forces do not control any branch of government or either house of Congress. Whatever furthers that aim is good. That includes exposing McCarthy as a pathetic puppet; revealing how unfit Republicans are to hold office (which may include exposing any role any elected Republicans played in the Jan. 6 assault); defeating any MAGA presidential contender (the original cult leader or any facsimile); starting a conservative third party (so long as it would drain votes from MAGA Republicans); and highlighting “sick” behavior from Republicans, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) put it, as they deny the Jan. 6 insurrection.

So to recap:

  • Cheney getting a big platform to attack the former president and his current sycophants? Good.
  • Cheney going on Fox News to denounce Fox News? Good (also fun). (Disclaimer: I am an MSNBC contributor.)
  • Cheney running for president to stop the former president or his imitators in the 2024 primaries? Good.
  • Cheney promoting voter suppression legislation? Bad.
  • Cheney helping Republicans win the majority in the House? Bad.
  • Republicans voting for a non-Trump Republican in the primary? Good.
  • Republicans leaving the GOP to vote for a viable Democrat? Good.
  • Republicans voting for a non-Trump Republican in the general election in races a Democrat could not possibly win? Good, but be careful when assessing which races Democrats could not win.

This is beginning to sound like that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s atrociously overcomplicated chart for mask guidelines. Is there some simpler formula?

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Well, disaffected Republicans, ex-Republicans and Republicans who voted for President Biden can use their money, voices and votes to bolster centrist Democrats. Think Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) or Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.). Each of these lawmakers is strong on national security, incrementalist on health-care reform, an ardent opponent of voter suppression (but pragmatists on what can pass), a supporter of infrastructure (but concerned with how to pay for it), pro-trade, pro-legal immigration and clear-eyed on border security. If Republicans cannot be trusted with government, then it is in the interest of the country for the Democratic Party to govern smartly and retain appeal beyond its core base.

Some have called them Biden Republicans or Red Dog Democrats. These are the people who recognize that, for better or worse, politics is a binary choice in America. And they know who’s the real threat to democracy.

Read more:

Henry Olsen: Republicans should be nervous about the proposed third party. Democrats should be, too.

Greg Sargent: 100 Republicans are vowing a GOP ‘civil war.’ Here’s why that’s good news.

Erik Wemple: Bret Baier plays Trump stooge in Liz Cheney interview

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