Democrats must not remain silent as Republicans self-destruct
The Republican Party is in full melt-down mode. Under ordinary circumstances, Democrats would look at this as an advantage, as would any party witnessing the demise of their opposition; they would heed the adage, “never interfere an enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself.”
We are not in ordinary circumstances, however, and this is not simply a political party that is making poor political decisions. It is a political party that is putting its country and our democracy in danger by choosing lies over truth and fealty to a failed president over loyalty to the Constitution.
Many Republicans in the House of Representatives believe they need to genuflect at the altar of Trump in order to have a political future. That is why they voted against a Jan. 6 commission even as Democrats acquiesced and gave in to their every demand about the nature of the commission.
But it did not matter. Lies and corruption in the name of short-term electoral success won out over values-driven conservative principles that would revive the GOP’s long-term viability.
Democrats are concerned because this country cannot fulfill its promise without two healthy and robust political parties debating policies, governance and how best to give Americans the tools to succeed.
That is not what is happening now. We have a political party in the GOP whose members are fastening themselves more tightly to Trump, twisting themselves into rhetorical knots to uphold the “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Now some Republicans are denying that the insurrection was a traitorous attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters emboldened by him.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), a staunch conservative who voted with Trump 92 percent of the time, lost her leadership position to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who has voted with Trump only 43 percent of the time but has chosen to deceive the country and support Trump and his falsehoods and has risen to the leadership ranks of what has become his party.
But in no way should Democrats be gleeful about any of this. Democrats – and the country – need a healthy Republican Party in order to push for the policies they believe will best serve Americans. Democrats need Republicans to debate the merits of the policies President Biden is putting forward, so that they can come to a bipartisan compromise and agree on how to move forward in the best interests of the country.
Yes, this sounds naïve, but that is how political parties are supposed to work. Right now, the focus of many Republicans seems to be not how to offer good faith arguments about how best to govern but how to whitewash history, support Trump’s Big Lie and push for legislation that makes it harder for many Americans, especially Americans of color, to exercise their right to vote. GOP-led legislatures are using the election fraud guise to push draconian new voting laws and are spinning them as measures designed to enhance election security.
But some Republican officials have acknowledged that this past election was the most secure election ever.
What is puzzling is that this fealty to Trump does not seem to be a smart political strategy designed to help Republicans win majorities. Elections are all about addition, not subtraction, and what Republicans are doing is designed to keep more people from voting. It seems they have given up trying to convince more Americans that they have the right governing philosophy for the country.
It is true that Democrats have a very difficult task ahead of the 2022 election cycle if they are going to keep or expand their House majority. History is against them, and Trump voters are highly motivated.
But Trump is unpopular in swing districts across the country, many of which Republicans need to win in order to take back the House. So much so that the NRCC hid Trump’s polling numbers in a recent meeting. Moreover, it will be very difficult to win the White House in 2024 if the GOP does not try to win over suburban women and independent voters, who abandoned the GOP and Trump in 2020.
Holding on to lies, pledging unflinching loyalty to Trump, denying history and accepting leaders who adhere to QAnon conspiracy theories does not seem like a smart political strategy to gain and expand Republican support among important voter groups.
That is why you will keep seeing Republicans who want to save their party from the meltdown speak out against those who are putting American values aside for a chance to win Trump’s blessing. It is why Liz Cheney, even as she was chased from the ranks of GOP leadership, will have an outsized role in calling out Trump’s – and her colleagues’ – lies and trying to prevent the destruction of one of America’s two great parties.
Democrats should help. They should not adhere to the adage of not interfering. They should assist their Republican counterparts in getting their party back by continuing to seek and speak the truth. It will be the only way to course-correct a dangerous and destructive trend too many in the GOP are embracing. The destruction of the Republican Party does not bode well for the future of our democracy. As a Democrat, I am concerned. As an American, I am terrified.
Maria Cardona is a longtime Democratic strategist, a principal at Dewey Square Group, a Washington-based political consulting agency, and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.