There’s a lot to unpack from the events of the past several weeks. First, it appears that the Republican Party has crossed the Rubicon to join former President Donald Trump and his band of radicals – a collection of anti-government, anti-abortion, anti-gun control and anti-immigration bigots who are driven by lies and wild QAnon conspiracy theories. It’s likely that the moderate and Constitution-supporting Republicans in the party will be subsumed by this mob or driven out by it.
The 10 U.S. House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in January are being censured or rebuked by their local GOP organizations and Trumpian primary candidates are lining up to challenge them in 2022. One of them, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, is the very conservative number three ranked Republican in the House who had to survive a vote to oust her from that leadership position. She will definitely face one or more primary opponents next year and being “primaried” is what Republicans in red districts typically fear the most. State senator Anthony Bouchard has already announced his campaign against Cheney saying, “Wyoming taxpayers need a voice in Congress who will stand up to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, and not give them cover.”
All but two of the seven Republican Senators who voted to convict Trump last Saturday have been censured by local or state GOP organizations. The effort to chastise Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, who is a very conservative legislator, tells us a lot about where the party is these days. Although, he is retiring at the end his term in 2023, he has been censured by numerous GOP county committees and may suffer a putdown by the state organization for voting his conscience as well. Toomey responded, “I did what I thought was right.”
But here’s the thing; that’s not what many of his constituents had in mind. “We did not send him there to vote his conscience,” said Dave Ball, chairman of the Washington County, Pennsylvania GOP, one of the organizations that had censured Toomey. “We did not send him there to do ‘the right thing’ or whatever he said he was doing. We sent him there to represent us.”
Comments by these Republican officials make it clear that they believe the election was stolen from Trump and that he was definitely not at fault for the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Recent polling confirms that Trump and the Republican Party are of upmost importance to them. In fact, a Quinnipiac University poll indicates that three out of four Republicans want Trump to play a big role in the GOP.
The January 2021 American Perspectives Survey – a project of the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute – found the following regarding Republicans:
- Seventy-nine percent have a favorable opinion of Trump.
- Sixty-six percent believe that President Biden was not legitimately elected, with 75% of those without college degrees holding that belief.
- Seventy-four percent say Trump did not incite the attack on the Capitol.
- Sixty-five percent believe the 2020 election involved widespread voter fraud.
- Twenty-nine percent say the QAnon conspiracy theory that Trump was fighting a global child sex trafficking ring run by elite Democrats is mostly or completely true and – get this – 43% aren’t sure.
- Forty-one percent feel frightened about the outcome of the 2020 election.
I believe that Trump’s constant lies and conspiracy theories – which were supported by Fox News and other right-wing media – have literally poisoned the minds of millions of otherwise reasonable people. The fact that 29% of Republicans are QAnon believers and that 41% of them are “frightened” by the election results adds credibility this conclusion. What’s actually to fear from Democrats, Medicare for All or the Green New Deal? Isn’t it the GOP that’s supported by the radical Proud Boys, tens of thousands of well-armed militia people, white supremacists and neo-Nazis? Give me a break!
Isn’t it also true that Republicans in state legislatures are attempting to win elections by radical gerrymandering, suppressing minority and college student voters and otherwise changing the rules to favor their candidates? In fact, since November 3, lawmakers in states with Republican majorities are using Trump’s lies about voter fraud to enact over 100 restrictions that would limit mail-in ballots, impose new voter ID requirements and slash voter registration options. Arizona tops the list with 19 anti-democratic proposals, followed by Pennsylvania with 14 and Georgia with 11. The impetus for this, of course, is the 2020 election that saw record numbers of minority voters who flipped several red states to blue.
The Democracy Index, which is prepared every year by The Economist Intelligence Unit, rates 167 countries on a scale that ranges from “full democracy” to “authoritarian regime.” The U.S. was rated a full democracy in 2006 – 17th on the list. After being rated a “flawed democracy in 2016 and dropping to 25th on the list, it has remained there through 2019. A decline in public trust in U.S. institutions was the reason given for the downgrade in 2016, which may have helped Donald Trump win the presidency.
Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, the January 6 attack on the Capitol by his supporters and Republican efforts to further suppress minority voters, however, will no doubt cause America’s democracy rating to sink significantly lower for 2020 and 2021. And I believe the blame for this falls squarely on the Republican Party.