Even those who tried to defend Ms. Cheney over the weekend underlined that the Republican Party has lost its way. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who voted to convict Mr. Trump on impeachment charges following the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion, argued Sunday, “For us to win in 2022 and 2024, we need everybody” — that is, those who embrace the lie as well as those who reject it.
In fact, there can be no compromise position. Mr. Trump continues to spread falsehoods about whether legally tallied election results can be trusted. Acolytes such as Ms. Stefanik continue to amplify them. Anyone who recognizes that the falsehoods are falsehoods should recoil at the prospect of winning an election by welcoming those who spread treacherous disinformation about the nation’s system of government. Fidelity to democratic principles should be a minimum requirement for serious participation in the nation’s politics. Any party that fails this test, particularly as flagrantly as the GOP is, does not deserve to win — in 2022, 2024 or ever.
Of course, the situation is even worse than the one Mr. Cassidy describes. Mr. McCarthy’s Sunday comments made clear that the truth-tellers and the liars are not on equal footing within the GOP. Justifying his decision to throw Ms. Cheney under the bus, the minority leader explained that “any member can take whatever position they believe in,” but “what we’re talking about is a position in leadership.” So people committed to the truth about the country’s democracy might be tolerated, but they will be shoved to the back of the room. “As conference chair, you have one of the most critical jobs as a messenger going forward,” he said, arguing that the party must appear united.
But united to what end, and based on what principle? There is no more important issue than whether Republicans will accept the results of a legitimate election, either the one that occurred in 2020 or those to come. With anti-voting bills passing in state after state, the GOP’s anti-democratic turn appears to be accelerating. Last year’s election crisis may have been only a taste of what is to come. Republicans are now primed to pressure local officials, election functionaries, county canvassers, state and federal lawmakers, and others to overturn free and fair results based on fantasy fraud allegations. With the transformation of the GOP, those lawmakers, officials and functionaries who did their jobs forthrightly in 2020 may be replaced by 2024 with Republicans committed to the stolen election myth.
Ms. Cheney’s downfall, Ms. Stefanik’s rise and Mr. McCarthy’s complicity suggest that Republicans are, indeed, unifying — around the “big lie” and the sabotage of democracy.