The issue that trumps them all
As the July 4 holiday approaches, Americans can be forgiven for taking a break from today’s incendiary politics of partisan hatred and performative outrage. But it’s also the right occasion for citizens to think about their duty to reinforce the rules that make our democracy work.
Polls show rampant inflation is the voters’ top concern in this midterm election year. But it won’t be the most important issue on the ballot.
More consequential than soaring prices, crime, climate change or any other pressing national problem is the resilience of our constitutional framework for self-government. If it cracks under pressure from political extremists, we can kiss our liberties and democracy goodbye.
Illiberal ideas and crackbrain conspiracy theories flourish across the political spectrum. But only one political party is colluding with a rogue ex-president’s plot to tear down our constitutional system. The Republican Party’s surrender to MAGA delusions and fanaticism is the biggest threat to our republic, trumping all other election issues.
Last week’s Supreme Court rulings on abortion and guns also underscored the GOP’s win-at-all-costs determination to use the federal government’s least democratic branch to impose rightwing dogma on the country.
Thanks to the meticulous work of the House Jan. 6 Select Committee, we know that top Trump administration and campaign officials told their boss he had lost the 2020 election. He schemed to nullify the people’s verdict anyway, cynically asking one of them, “What do I have to lose?”
So, a lame-duck President Trump unleashed a violent mob on Congress and tried to corrupt GOP state election officials in charge of counting the votes. Those who refused to help Trump “find” votes nobody cast have been subjected to harassment and death threats and face challenges from Trump-backed candidates eager to do his bidding in future elections.
“To steal an election in the United States of America is to steal her democracy,” J. Michael Luttig, a former federal judge and prominent conservative, told the Jan. 6 committee. He added, “…as a political matter of fact only the party that instigated this war over our democracy can bring an end to that war.”
That’s true, but most Republicans either support Trump’s treachery or are too craven to call out his flagrant lies. America has only two governing parties, and when one of them ceases to respect and abide by the nation’s fundamental laws, that’s more important for voters to know than where the parties stand on the price of gas or border security.
Obviously, Democrats must address the voters’ everyday struggles in the midterm elections. But President Biden and his party would be derelict in their duty if they failed to warn U.S. voters of what could happen if Republicans mesmerized by MAGA extremism take over Congress.
For starters, it would give fresh impetus to the Trump coup. So far this year, more than 100 GOP primary winners have supported Trump’s fraudulent claims of election fraud.
This fall, Democrats should keep the spotlight on Trump’s co-conspirators — 139 GOP representatives and eight senators who, only hours after MAGA thugs trashed the Capitol, violated their oaths to defend the Constitution by refusing to certify Biden’s decisive presidential victory.
They should be bombarded by images of the Jan. 6 riot as well as the damning testimony from Republicans who tried to dissuade Trump from disrupting the peaceful transfer of power. Individual donors and companies that contribute to their campaigns should be named and shamed.
Every GOP candidate should be pressed to answer a simple question: Do you believe Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president of the United States? Those who decline to answer will look evasive; those who endorse Trump’s “Big Lie” will confirm the charge of extremism. Maybe that won’t matter in safe red places, but it could matter in swing districts and states where GOP candidates need to win suburban independent and moderate voters.
By striking down Roe v. Wade, the most ideologically strident Supreme Court in memory gave Republican-controlled states a green light to deprive America’s women of their right to an abortion.
The court’s gun rights absolutism is increasingly out of step with mainstream opinion. According to a recent Morning Consult/Politico poll, more than two in three voters – including 44 percent of Republicans – support stricter gun control laws.
It was heartening to see 15 Senate Republicans join Democrats last week in passing a modest gun safety bill. Even so, they’re being roasted as “RINOs” by the MAGA mob, and the overwhelming majority of congressional Republicans – seemingly unfazed by the racist massacre of Black grocery shoppers in Buffalo and the horrendous murder of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde – won’t support even these minimal steps to stem the carnage.
Other examples of MAGA extremism abound. As if the political atmosphere isn’t already sufficiently charged with incitements to violence, Republican Senate candidate Eric Greitens recently released a grotesque ad in which he brandishes a shotgun for “RINO hunting.”
Then there’s Texas, where Republicans are acting out like adolescents on a junior high playground. The state GOP recently adopted a new platform that refers to Biden as “acting president,” slams gays and calls for Texas to hold a referendum on seceding from the union — again.
Republicans justify their anti-democratic extremism as necessary to “save” America from Democrats, Socialists, globalists, pedophiles, immigrants, transgender athletes and other phantom menaces.
But as Luttig tesitified, it’s MAGA fanaticism that poses the real and present danger to our republic. This fall and beyond, Democrats must remind voters that only they have the power to stop it.
Will Marshall is president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).