Matthew Dowd, a former Republican adviser to George W. Bush, is running for Texas lieutenant governor as a Democrat. Evan McMullin, former CIA officer and Republican congressional aide, is running for a Utah Senate seat as an independent. This is a sound trend: If you can’t beat the MAGA cult, leave.

There is scant evidence that any appetite exists in the GOP for independent thinking or pro-democracy critics of the disgraced former president. When Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) is booted from House leadership and ostracized while anti-Semitic mouthpiece and crackpot Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) remains a member in good standing, it is obvious which way the wind is blowing.

The sane faction of the GOP could probably fit around a dining room table. The House minority leader apparently does not believe he can survive politically without showing unwavering loyalty to the former president who incited a violent insurrection. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans think it is acceptable to vote to send the country into default but not to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Polls suggest the “fight for the soul of the party from within” is a quixotic dream. A recent Pew Research survey finds, “Two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say they would like to see former president Donald Trump continue to be a major political figure for many years to come, including 44% who say they would like him to run for president in 2024.”

Moreover, these voters are dead-set against Republicans who speak ill of the twice-impeached, racist authoritarian who tried to steal the 2020 election. Pew reports: “A 63% majority of Republicans say their party should be not too (32%) or not at all (30%) accepting of elected officials who openly criticize Trump, according to the new survey. Just 36% of Republicans say the GOP should be very (11%) or somewhat (26%) accepting of officials who do so.” While 55 percent of Republicans say “the GOP should be accepting of officials who agree with Democrats on some important issues,” no one can oppose the cult leader and remain viable in the party.

Republicans across the country — from California gubernatorial contender Larry Elder to Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin to the two Republicans vying for the title of “most unhinged MAGA” contender in Ohio’s Senate primary — feel compelled to mimic Trump’s insanity. This includes the former president’s aversion to democratic norms (e.g., easy access to the ballot, the sanctity of elections, adherence to objective reality).

There is virtually no chance a majority of the House Republican caucus would accept any Trump dissenters in leadership. There is every reason to be concerned that, absent significant changes in the Electoral Count Act, their crusades against fair elections and the stoking of the “big lie” will result in chaos, if not violence, if a GOP House majority is in charge of tallying electoral votes in 2024, when Trump increasingly seems likely to run.

Depending on the race, disgusted Republicans may want to cross over to run as conservative Democrats, fighting the smear that it is the party of “socialists.” Others will find it more productive to run as independents, either to beat the MAGA candidate outright or at least to split the GOP vote. If they run as independents in Congress, the disaffected Republicans might actually gain leverage when it comes to putting together a majority, making committee assignments and casting key votes.

Many well-meaning Republicans have tried in vain to shake the GOP from its Trumpian foundation. Finding no success, they now need to topple the MAGA party if they want to insulate the country from instability, authoritarian rule and possibly violence.