Closing Argument: Democracy

One of the two parties in these elections has stopped believing in elections.
You should vote for the one that still does believe.

The last time a Republican was president, he did one of the worst things any American president has ever done: He tried to stay in power after losing an election.

The testimony we have heard since, from his own campaign workers and appointees, as well as elected Republican officials in state and local governments, have stripped away all innocent explanations: He knew he had lost. He knew his claims of fraud were false. He knew his plot to appoint fake electors and count their votes was illegal. He knew the crowd he incited to storm the Capitol was prepared to do violence. And after violence broke out, he refused to tell his mob to go home until it was clear that their attempt to intimidate Congress had failed.

His schemes were thwarted only when elected Republicans and his own appointees refused to do his bidding: Mike Pence, Brad Raffensperger, Aaron Van Langevelde, Jeffrey Rosen, Mike Shirkey, Rusty Bowers, and many others at all levels of government. If not for them, he might have succeeded in overthrowing our Constitution or sparking a civil war.

Afterwards, some Republicans in Congress tried to hold the would-be usurper accountable for his actions and reaffirm their party’s commitment to our system of government: Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Peter Meijer, and several others.

You could imagine a Republican Party in which all those people are heroes: They did their jobs, fulfilled their oaths, and saved American democracy. But that party doesn’t exist. Instead, almost all the Republicans who resisted the coup attempt have been drummed out of office. (Raffensperger, who survived a primary challenge, is a lonely exception. Whether Pence will ever again win a Republican primary is an open question.)

Instead, the ex-president’s personality cult has solidified its hold on the GOP. The most strident promoters of the stolen-election lie, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, have risen, while those who briefly denounced the coup, like Kevin McCarthy and Lindsey Graham, have had to eat their words to retain their influence. Mitch McConnell can’t even defend his own wife against racist abuse. In the current election cycle, the party has been saddled with absurd candidates like Herschel Walker “because he scored a bunch of touchdowns back in the 80’s and he’s Donald Trump’s friend“.

Across the country, Republicans who still refuse to recognize their candidate’s loss in 2020 are running to oversee the 2024 elections, while his Supreme Court appointees consider whether to re-interpret the Constitution to allow state legislatures to ignore both their state constitutions and the will of their voters. Republicans running for governor in swing states — Kari Lake in Arizona, Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania — have said they wouldn’t have certified Biden’s 2020 victory, without citing any evidence to justify such a move (because there is none). Some Republican candidates — Ron Johnson in Wisconsin — were active participants in illegal 2020 plots.

Worse, many MAGA Republicans are following Trump’s example by undermining elections in general: If they lose, they claim fraud without any evidence. Others are openly attacking democracy, like Utah Senator Mike Lee, who said: “We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.” Like their leader, many Republicans flirt with racism and anti-semitism, and some don’t even try to hide it.

Even a liberal like me can see that America needs a viable conservative party. It’s healthy that our national conversation include voices saying that government should do less, that traditions should change slowly, and that free enterprise plays an important role in our prosperity. Even as I support the consensus of scientific opinion on subjects like climate change or vaccination, I recognize that those views should not go unchallenged. Every party, even one that I support, needs someone looking over its shoulder.

But the conservative party America needs would be loyal to our Constitution rather than to one man. It would support the institutions of democracy and defend the People’s right to elect someone else.

The current GOP is not that party, and it will not become that party until voters have disciplined it for supporting illegal and violent attempts to seize power. It is the insurrectionists who need to be run out of town, not the people who stopped the insurrection plot from succeeding.

That discipline needs to start in these elections. You may agree or disagree with me about inflation, government spending, regulations, taxes, how to balance women’s rights against fetal rights, and many other issues. But we can have those arguments later. Because in the long run, if we lose our democracy, it won’t matter which of us makes the better case.

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  • donquixote99  On October 24, 2022 at 10:35 am

    A superb essay. Will do my best to share it.

  • Anonymous  On October 24, 2022 at 4:36 pm

    The voters ARE Representative of the GOP. Hoping for them do discipline their party is just that: hope.

    We need to change minds. And that is a lot harder to do.

  • Creigh Gordon  On October 24, 2022 at 5:34 pm

    “Even a liberal like me can see that America needs…voices saying that government should do less, that traditions should change slowly, and that free enterprise plays an important role in our prosperity. ”

    Are you implying that anyone with any influence at all in this country is saying that government should just do more without specifying more of what, that traditions should not be taken seriously, or that free enterprise should be abandoned?

    What this country really needs is an actual progressive party.

    • Anonymous  On October 28, 2022 at 6:34 pm

      “What this country really needs is an actual progressive party.”
      I hope that you’re supporting ranked choice voting. It makes it easier for candidates outside the two main parties to run viable campaigns.


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