The Struggle for the Soul of America:
Will the Craziness in the Republican Party Help Dems and
Principled Conservatives Save Our Democracy?
What’s coming out of the Republican Party these days is outrageous and, frankly, utterly depressing. How could anyone in his or her right mind suggest that the riot at the Capitol on January 6 looked like “a normal tourist visit”?
Yet, at a Congressional Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) did just that. He claimed that “if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.” He further stated that it was a “boldfaced lie” to call the storming of the Capitol by hundreds of Trump supporters an insurrection.
In addition, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) argued that the Justice Department was “harassing peaceful patriots.” Gosar and his fellow Republicans chose to ignore the fact that the rioters sprayed officers with pepper and bear spray, and severely injured dozens of police officers. These were the officers who were protecting them and the rest of Congress from a violent mob. One officer, Michael Fanone, whom the insurgents beat and shocked with a stun gun, called the riot “the most brutal, savage hand-to-hand combat of my entire life.”
Later, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) set the record straight: “I was there. What happened was a violent effort to interfere with and prevent the constitutional order of installing a new president…As such, it was an insurrection against the Constitution that resulted in severe property damage, severe injuries and death.”
On the same day as the Oversight hearing, Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Chaney (R-WY) from her leadership position in the House for telling the truth. Chaney had more than once publicly repudiated former Pres. Trump’s lies that the November election had been stolen through widespread fraud.
It’s clear that the truth no longer matters to the vast majority of the Republican Party. Former chair of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean believes “most politicians in the Republican Party are no longer Americans because they no longer believe in democracy.” In reaction to their ousting of Rep. Chaney, he asserted that GOP officials “essentially are neo-fascist…They fundamentally do not believe that another legitimate point of view exists other than theirs.”
Fortunately, not all Republicans fall in that camp. In fact, some are ready to fight the Trump scourge that has overtaken their party. In a just released letter, more than 100 prominent Republicans threaten to break from the GOP and form a third party:
“[W]hen in our democratic republic, forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise, it is the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice. We, therefore, declare our intent to catalyze an American renewal, and to either reimagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the creation of such an alternative.”
Who knows what will come of this new Call for American Renewal effort? Certainly, it will attract some attention. Liz Chaney will make sure of that. Other disaffected Republicans, as well as some Independents, will surely join. But will they be in large enough numbers to change the course of the Republican Party? Or, perhaps, to start a viable third party?
In any event, the founding of a principled Republican alternative to Trumpism is a good sign. It weakens Trump’s hold on the GOP, while it reinforces the need for the political reforms Democrats seek. If so many life-long, true Republicans think Trump must go, maybe his brand will become less appealing to others as well. Some moderate Republicans may decide there’s no longer a place for them in their party and turn to the Democrats. At the same time, diehard Main Street, conservative Republicans might decide to join Chaney and the Call for American Renewal. No one knows how this will all turnout, but the future of our fragile democracy is certainly in the balance.
Bruce Berlin, J.D.
A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (now RepresentUs New Mexico), a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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