In the Task of Saving Democracy, Republicans Are Indispensable

Now is a terrible time for sane, sensible Republicans. It’s not bad enough that in 2020, Americans installed Joe Biden in the presidency with a Democratic Congress. Worse is that their fellow Republicans have become a dire threat to common sense, mature governance and constitutional democracy.

The Jan. 6 committee hearings have made it plain that the critical divide in this country is not between Republicans and Democrats. It’s between Republicans and Republicans.

On one side, you have Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, 147 members of Congress who voted against certifying the election results, and countless state and local officeholders and party activists who claim the election was stolen.

On the other side, you have a group of GOP legislators, lawyers and election officials who stoutly resisted Trump’s heinous attempt to override the will of the voters — and who just managed to avert that catastrophe.

In the latter group is Rusty Bowers, speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, who testified Tuesday that Trump and Giuliani repeatedly badgered him to deliver the state’s electoral votes to Trump — even though Biden outpolled Trump.

Bowers pressed them for proof of vote fraud but never got it. “We’ve got lots of theories,” Giuliani finally told him, “we just don’t have the evidence.” To comply with Trump’s demand, Bowers said, would have meant violating his oath of office and his Christian faith.

He was one of many witnesses who have a long association with the GOP. The most damning testimony against Trump has come from people who were on his side — including former Attorney General William Barr and campaign manager Bill Stepien.

Joining the procession Tuesday were Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, and Gabriel Sterling, a veteran GOP operative who is chief operating officer for the Georgia secretary of state. For their trouble, Bowers was smeared by Trump followers as a pedophile and Raffensperger and Sterling were barraged with death threats.

Note: These are not Marxists, leftists, antifa radicals or members of the woke mob. These are people who were, and are, loyal, conservative Republicans. They have no reason to part ways with a Republican president — no reason, that is, except his corrupt efforts to stay in office after losing an election.

Believing that there was massive fraud on behalf of Biden means believing that every one of the 60-plus court decisions rejecting Trump’s claims was wrong — including those issued by judges who owed their appointments to Trump.

It’s hard to imagine that Democrats could pull off this colossal theft even if they wanted to. Even more incredible is the idea that all these Republicans who were in a position to know the truth would enlist in the fraud.

Their testimony won’t change the minds of Trump’s worshipful followers, who have long since lost the ability to think thoughts not approved by their leader. But it must elicit painful soul-searching among Republicans who value quaint conservative notions like fidelity to the Constitution, respect for democratic procedures, preservation of the rule of law and basic civility.

Other things going on in the party can’t be reassuring to them. In Missouri, a prominent GOP Senate candidate ran an ad showing him busting into a house armed with a shotgun as he hunts for RINOs — Republicans In Name Only.

In Texas, the state party platform threatens secession. In Ohio, the party’s U.S. Senate nominee J.D. Vance welcomed the endorsement of QAnon nutcase Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., while vowing to “take the country back from the scumbags.”

People like this are no longer the party’s lunatic fringe. They are the mainstream.

Republicans who follow in the path of Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, once conservative heroes, are now outnumbered and reviled as RINOs.

How can they fight back? They can, of course, run and support primary candidates who are willing to break with Trump, his lies and his reckless indulgence of extremism.

But when that fails, they also have to be prepared to do what many have never done before: vote Democratic. However large their differences on taxes, abortion rights, oil drilling or immigration, they agree with Democrats on the most urgent issue of our day, which is upholding the Constitution and saving democracy.

The only way to reclaim the Republican Party for principled, rational conservatism is to make sure that Trump and his gang of accomplices lose, and lose, and lose again. And only Republicans can make that happen.

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Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune. His twice-a-week column on national and international affairs, distributed by Creators Syndicate, appears in some 50 papers across the country.