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 CheneyEmboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes Jan. 6 committee taps former Bush administration official as top lawyer Wyoming county GOP rejects effort to rescind Cheney's party status 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 TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal 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 RomneyWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Overnight On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — GOP senator: It's 'foolish' to buy Treasury bonds Democrats aim for maximum pressure on GOP over debt ceiling 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 MurkowskiEmboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - DC prepares for Saturday of festivals & Jan. 6 demonstration Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee 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 ThuneManchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Manchin-McConnell meet amid new voting rights push Republican leaders misjudged Jan. 6 committee 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 CruzMore than 10,000 migrants await processing under bridge in Texas Senators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails MORE (R-Texas) and Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleySenators slow Biden with holds at Pentagon, State Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right 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 McCarthyOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Top Democrats tout California recall with an eye toward 2022 Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race 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 McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees 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.