One of the most depressing figures in the news this year is 27. That’s the number of congressional Republicans — out of a total of 249 — who were willing to say in a Washington Post survey the other day that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. Two actually maintain, despite all evidence, that Donald Trump is the winner. The rest — almost 90% of the total — simply won’t say who won.
When liberals in the George W. Bush era referred to themselves as "the reality-based community," it came across as obnoxiously smug. But today, an actual abdication from reality is becoming the Republican party line.
To be sure, there are exceptions — such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, who have staunchly rebuffed attempts to overturn the state’s election results. But the derangement thickens. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to throw out the outcome of the vote in four battleground states — Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — on the grounds that those states unconstitutionally changed their voting procedures this year to facilitate mail-in voting. Those changes were made months ago but were not challenged at the time; obviously, the issue is simply that Biden won those states.
Now, 17 states with Republican attorneys general have filed an amicus brief in support of the suit. As Reuters criminal justice reporter Brad Heath puts it on Twitter, much of the brief essentially argues that these states "don’t like the voting rules that were adopted in [the four states] because they don’t think they’re rigorous enough." Heath notes that it would be "unprecedented to let states sue each other for that." Princeton University professor of politics Keith Whittington calls it a "particularly embarrassing extension" of the trend toward partisan activism by state attorneys general.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, the two Republican senators facing a runoff election on Jan. 5, Kelly Loeffler and David Purdue — whose win or loss will determine control of the U.S. Senate — have said that they "fully support" Paxton’s complaint. (Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office has called this complaint "constitutionally, legally and factually wrong.") Nearly half of the Republicans in the Georgia State Senate support it as well.
These developments confirm what "Never Trump" Republicans have been saying for some time: that the GOP has become a Trump personality cult.
Perhaps this should have been evident in August when the party declined to adopt a platform for 2020, instead issuing a resolution that "the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda."
It’s certainly evident now when Republicans have rushed to either support or condone Trump’s delusional rants about election fraud.
Writing in the anti-Trump center-right online magazine The Bulwark, veteran conservative commentator Mona Charen writes, "We are now at the stage when a critical mass of the Republican party has adopted Trump’s disordered personality for its own. The Republican party is, in this iteration, a danger to American democracy."
This is particularly alarming because a strong alternative to the Democratic Party — whose current iteration poses its own problems of a strong leftward shift — is absolutely essential to that democracy’s health. Under normal circumstances, I would root for the Senate to remain controlled by Republicans to balance a Democratic White House and House of Representatives. But right now, Loeffler and Purdue deserve to lose.
In her Bulwark column, Charen suggests that sane conservatives need to "repeal and replace" the Republican Party. There is no clear path to doing that. But a thorough defeat in the 2020 election would be a start.
Cathy Young is a contributing editor to Reason magazine.