Republicans are locked in battle about what kind of a party they will be: one that stands for conservative values and seeks to craft legislation in support of those ideals, or one that will continue drifting to the extremes, breathing life into lies that rile up the base while undercutting faith in the country’s democracy.
So far, it’s very clear which side is winning, and the potential consequences for the country are ominous.
It’s easy to become accustomed and blasé about this new reality. But we should stop to think about what it means: One of the two governing parties in the United States is controlled by people promoting the delegitimization of America’s duly elected president, people who are endorsing or refusing to rectify dangerous lies.
It wasn’t very long ago that the country had two reality-based, generally centrist parties. Democrats and Republicans, with different philosophies, debated the merits of their ideas, in search of a workable compromise.
But then, bit by bit, the GOP started veering in a different direction. By the time Trump became president, the maximalist, nativist, conspiracy-driven, scandal-manufacturing, hate-stoking wing was already ascendant, propelled by the engines of Fox News and other far-right provocateurs. Trump’s victory was the coup that toppled the old GOP and turned it into the extremist MAGA machine.
Notice, this is not about doing what’s good for the country. “The chaos caucus,” Boehner said, “had built up their own power base thanks to fawning right-wing media and outrage-driven fundraising cash.”
This is self-serving politics taken to the extreme, seeking not to legislate but to enrage and fundraise. Boehner names Sen. Ted Cruz in the Politico piece as “the head lunatic leading the way.”
But that was before Trump, who broke through every guardrail of decency, and took most of the party with him.
And yet, the fight is not over. More than a few Republicans are still willing to speak out. This is not about Republicans deciding if they are conservative or moderate, it’s about deciding if the party will respect the truth, democracy, and some manner of principle other than what is good for Trump and those seeking favor with him.
We’ve seen flashes of courage from conservative Republicans, like Rep. Liz Cheney and moderate ones like Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger. And at the state level, we saw Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other Republican election officials hold firm despite Trump’s verbal slings and arrows.
Other political battles may seem more interesting, more urgent, maybe more entertaining. But when it comes to America’s future, this one matters most. American democracy will struggle to survive if one of its two parties turns its back on reality and stops believing in democracy.
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