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Last chance for the GOP to save itself

Here is a question for Republicans to consider before next week’s midterm elections: How far does former President Donald Trump have to go before the GOP kicks him out of the party? Put another way, will the Republican Party save itself before it has completely lost its soul?

It has been deeply disappointing to see so few GOP leaders and Republicans in Congress challenge Trump’s takeover of the GOP. It has been equally disappointing to see so many Americans buy Trump’s “big lie” about the 2020 election.

If the party can redeem itself, it will be up to the rank and file to send an unmistakable message to top leadership. On Nov. 8, grassroots Republicans who know that extremism and violence will not make America great could shake the party’s leaders awake by boycotting the election, leaving the ballot blank in congressional races, refusing to vote for candidates Trump supports, or even writing in Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has vocally opposed Trump and served on the committee investigating Jan. 6 —costing her the role of House GOP conference chair and her primary to keep her seat.

However Republicans do it, they should show there is no longer room for Trump.

Trump continues corrupting the party of Lincoln in ways that will be difficult, if not impossible, to repair. He has brought America to the brink of civil war by invoking the worst in human behavior. Yet, even with mounting evidence of Trump’s involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, even after he became the first president to be impeached twice, and even though he has normalized lying — even from the bully pulpit — as well as hate and violence among his supporters, very few Republicans have had the spine to criticize him, let alone force him out of the party.

Trump’s continuing lie that he won the 2020 election and his embrace of wild conspiracy theories have inspired MAGA loyalists to terrorize critics with threats against them and their families — threats that are now being carried out, as in the assault on Paul Pelosi, looking for his wife House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Meanwhile, “vigilantes” in masks and body armor are apparently attempting to intimidate voters at drop boxes.

At least 17 states have passed “election reforms” making it more difficult  for constituents to vote, which often suppresses voting by groups that traditionally support Democrats. And although Trump tried to change the outcome of the 2020 election by forcing Congress to send certified election results back to states, several states have passed laws that allow partisan legislatures to override the will of their state’s voters.

Trump, his allies and officials in key states have reportedly met for months to plan how they’ll use “scorched earth legal tactics” to challenge midterm election results. The Washington Post reported that half the Republicans on Nov. 8 ballots deny or question the legitimacy of President Biden’s 2020 election victory. Election deniers are candidates in 48 of America’s 50 states. Analysts expected at least 170 to win.

Now, the MAGA virus threatens to turn the midterm election into chaos that further undermines confidence in the electoral system. Media outlets report more than 100 lawsuits have been filed this year to challenge voting procedures like mail-in ballots, early voting, voting machines, voter registration requirements and access for partisan poll monitors.

In addition, Trump is under investigation for allegations ranging from rape and criminal attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election to absconding with classified government documents for reasons yet to be determined. Although Trump not yet been indicted or convicted, his behavior doesn’t have to be illegal to be unacceptable.

How is it that Republicans, and all Americans for that matter, have allowed one man with Vladimir Putin-like aspirations to divide us and push us to the brink of a failed democracy?

Mainstream Republican voters who have not been infected by the MAGA virus should use their ballots to show party leaders Trump is no longer welcome in the GOP’s tent. Further, party leaders should begin their redemption by informing Trump he will not have the party’s support if he runs for president again.

No American should be happy to see one of our two major political parties so severely corrupted. None of us should sit by as democracy teeters on the brink of a dictatorship. The MAGA virus is strong, but there may still be time to make the Grand Old Party great again.

William S. Becker is co-editor and a contributor to “Democracy Unchained: How to Rebuild Government for the People,” a collection of more than 30 essays by American thought leaders on topics such as the Supreme Court’s perceived legitimacy. Becker has served in several state and federal government roles, including executive assistant to the attorney general of Wisconsin. He is currently executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP), a nonpartisan climate policy think tank unaffiliated with the White House.

Tags 2020 election 2022 midterm elections Donald Trump GOP Liz Cheney midterms Nancy Pelosi Politics Republicans William S. Becker

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