The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Dissident Republicans must leave the GOP unless they want to enable it

Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

News reports suggest that House Republicans might strip 13 Republicans who voted for the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill of their committee assignments. Shocking? Not so much.

Meanwhile, in criticizing the legislative redistricting plan from Illinois Democrats that leaves him out in the cold, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told Rolling Stone: “I blame Democrats for drawing that map. And I think that what it says to people is that you want Republican allies in the defense of democracy until it’s politically advantageous to not.”

There appears to be widespread confusion about what it means to be a Republican these days. Remaining in a party dominated by anti-democratic demagogues that seeks to rationalize a violent overthrow of the government, spread vaccine disinformation and incite white resentment comes with a price. Those who do not realize this are falling for a fantasy that the GOP is a normal political party, not a cult of personality complete with anti-truth hymnal.

No one should be the least bit surprised that the party that stripped Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) of her leadership post wants to bring 13 members to heel for voting for a wildly popular infrastructure bill. The 13, who all opposed the American Rescue Plan, seem to have forgotten that the one thing Republicans must not do is improve America if Democrats get the credit.

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Republican House members do not remain in good standing with GOP zealots if they assist the administration with any significant legislative effort, no matter how much it might benefit the country at large or their constituents. That includes voting for a commission to investigate the violent attempted coup or passing a rescue plan, which included money to keep first responders on state and local payrolls, stimulus checks to provide a lifeline in the midst of a raging pandemic and money for the vaccine rollout.

By the way, good luck to Republicans seeking to distance themselves from the leader of the MAGA movement, if voting against infrastructure is a sign of a “good” Republican. Maybe Democrats should start demanding that 2022 GOP incumbents say whether they plan to repeal the infrastructure deal if they retake the majority.

Too many in the media keep knocking President Biden for failing to get support from a party that demands its members reject everything he proposes. This reflects a lack of recognition that Republicans do not operate in good faith, are not interested in the merits of legislation and do not seek to improve the lives of their fellow Americans.

One might wonder why the 19 Republicans in the Senate who broke ranks to support the infrastructure bill are not also on the chopping block. Well, if the former president, who failed in four years to get his own infrastructure bill, had his way, they would be run out of town on a rail as well. Over the weekend, he put out a written statement seeking to do just that: “All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves, in particular [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell, for granting a two-month stay which allowed the Democrats time to work things out at our Country’s, and the Republican Party’s, expense!” Once again: Never help America if it helps Democrats.

Then there is Kinzinger, who seems to think that Democrats, facing the prospect of the MAGA GOP taking over the House majority, should have gifted him a seat in a state that is losing one representative to reapportionment. Kinzinger, like Cheney, valiantly battles some of the worst traits in his party, but fighting for a GOP House majority means facilitating the triumph of a dangerous, anti-democratic cult.

Republicans who dream of a reformed party, not to mention the media, should come to grips with reality. No one can remain in today’s GOP cult without accepting its basic premises — total obstruction, manipulation of voters to foster white resentment, malicious attacks on reality (to the point of endangering lives) and preference for the authoritarian leadership of the cult leader over the normal operation of democracy.

If Republican dissidents really want to stop the MAGA train barreling down the track toward violence, election chaos, racial conflagration and legislative nihilism, they best jump off. And Democrats should welcome them with open arms.

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