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Juan Williams: Bring sanity back to the GOP

Juan Williams: Bring sanity back to the GOP
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They used to pay me to fight with Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble GOP leaders clash over Trump presence at CPAC Six ways to visualize a divided America MORE (R-Wyo.) on live TV.

Now she’s fighting to keep the Republican Party alive.

I’m no Republican. But this time I’ve got her back.

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You see, every American has a stake in preventing a major political party from being derailed by former President TrumpDonald TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE’s supporters who prefer lies and conspiracy theories over reality.

Everyone saw a dying party sliding off the rails last week when Republican senators ignored all facts to vote against convicting Trump on charges of inciting the riot at the Capitol.

Democrats need the balance that comes from facing an honest, credible party based on conservative principles.

That’s why I can’t stand on the sidelines and celebrate the civil war among Republicans.

This is a fight for everyone invested in the nation’s greatest prize — political stability based on open debate of the facts and equality under the law.

In the words of Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney-Cotton, a Cancun cabbie and the minimum wage debate Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (R-Utah), what is happening inside the GOP is a fight between “conservatives” and “kooks.”

To put a finer point on it, this is a battle between reality and delusion.

On one side are Cheney, Romney, and a band of real Republicans, such as Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson vaccine safe, effective in FDA analysis | 3-4 million doses coming next week | White House to send out 25 million masks Biden's picks face peril in 50-50 Senate Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (R-Alaska).

Murkowski says she wants no part of the party of Trump — “I’m looking for the Republican Party.”

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThunePassage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is the first step to heal our democracy Senate GOP campaign chief talks strategy with Trump Graham, Trump huddle to talk GOP's 2022 strategy MORE (R-S.D.), also in flight from the madhouse, says the idea of the GOP as a “cult of personality” built around Trump is simply not “a good durable model for the future.”

Let’s call this group “Team Reality.”

On the other side of this fight are Republicans like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.), Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Senators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Shelby endorses Shalanda Young for OMB director should Biden pull Tanden's nomination MORE (R-Texas) and Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTrump to attack Biden in CPAC speech Laurence Tribe: Justice Thomas is out of order on 2020 election The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan MORE (R-Mo.).

They have no problem with the lies and conspiracy theories being peddled for fast money on right-wing websites and talk radio. Let’s call them “Team Kooks.”

The kooks are backed by cynical enablers like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyDemocratic fury with GOP explodes in House Trump to attack Biden in CPAC speech McConnell knocks Pelosi Jan. 6 commission proposal: 'Partisan by design' MORE (R-Calif.). As matter of political calculation, he thinks having the kooks voting for Republican candidates is the only way for the party to win future elections. He refused to sanction Greene for making violent threats against Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo MORE (R-Ky.), well-known for making hard political calculations, punched back at McCarthy’s logic when he said: “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country.”

But here is the basis for McCarthy’s thinking:

According to a January Gallup poll, 82 percent of Republicans still approve of Trump.

And get this — according to a Pew poll, 64 percent of Republicans say they believe that Trump was the rightful winner of the 2020 election, despite reality and all the evidence to the contrary.

Another 64 percent of Republicans, in a January Hill-Harris X poll, said they would join a new political party started by Trump.

Those polls explain why it was only Cheney and nine other House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol insurrection.

The insurrection “is not something we can simply look past or pretend didn’t happen,” Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday” in explaining her vote for impeachment.

Trump’s actions, she added, “constituted the gravest violation of his oath of office by any president in the history of the country.”

There is a hard political calculus behind her thinking:

If Republicans fall into line with the kooks they will lose credibility with rational voters. They will lose any traction with educated and suburban voters, especially women.

And they will have no standing with Democrats because a Republican Party based on “kooks” is not, to quote Cheney, a “party of truth.”

She also said in her “Fox News Sunday” interview that the party needed to “convey” to voters “that we actually can be trusted to handle the challenges this nation faces.”

She’s right.

But she is fighting for her political life.

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After she was censured by the Wyoming GOP for voting to impeach Trump, Cheney punched back by saying the vote was based on people in her home state being “mistaken.”

“They believe that BLM [Black Lives Matter] and Antifa were behind what happened here at the Capitol,” she said on Fox. “That’s just simply not the case, not true and we’re going to have a lot of work we have to do.”

And she has to keep fighting.

Trump has floated the idea of taking his fans and starting a new “Patriot Party.” Any subtraction of voters from the current GOP will result in a diminished base, leaving both branches of the party unable to win major elections.

But the kooks are not the only ones talking about leaving the party.

Reuters revealed last week that a group of over 100 former Republican officials — members of “Team Reality” — had joined a Zoom call to strategize around the possibility of starting a conservative anti-Trump third party.

“Large portions of the Republican Party are radicalizing and threatening American democracy," said one of the call’s co-hosts, Evan McMullin.

McMullin, a former Republican congressional staffer who also ran for president as an independent in 2016, added: “The party needs to recommit to truth, reason and founding ideals or there clearly needs to be something new.”

That party and Cheney have my full support.

As an American and a Democrat, I say: “Go, Liz.”

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.