Let’s begin with this premise: a vibrant democracy requires (at least) two credible political parties to hold one another accountable in times of stress or scandal. When one party goes off the rails, citizens can turn to the other party as a corrective. This idea has served the United States well for more than two centuries.
The problem is that today we do not have two credible political parties. As Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial moves dramatically toward conclusion, with new information emerging each day about the near catastrophe that occurred on January 6, the moral, ideological and intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican party (not to mention competency considerations) becomes more evident.
The party’s ongoing fealty to the former President who for months falsely claimed that he had won the election “by a landslide” and then incited an insurrectionist mob to attack the Capitol, disqualifies them as the “loyal opposition.” To restore its integrity, the Republican Party must cast aside the disgraced President, nurture new leadership, decide on and then offer an alternative set of priorities to the Biden administration and show political moxie that is rooted in character and based on long-held democratic principles. None of this is currently happening.
As Covid infections, hospitalizations and deaths continue at astronomical highs (although, gratefully trending lower), as headlines are completely bereft of Republican policy proposals and as no sustained moral outrage is raised (domestically) in the flagrant racism embedded in leniency afforded Trump-supporting white supremacists who stormed the Capitol or (internationally) in the kid-glove treatment of Vladimir Putin and his Russian henchmen in their treatment of Alexey Navalny or the bounties placed on US troops in Afghanistan, concerned Americans are prompted to ask: “Who are these Republicans and what do they represent?”
Intellectually, Mitch McConnell’s diametrically opposed dictates that the impeachment trial could not begin until after the inauguration and then claiming that trying a former President is unconstitutional are farcical. Yet, 45 Republicans voted this way. It is absurd.
I firmly believe that a healthy democracy demands two credible parties. Without a “loyal opposition,” one party can easily lose its way and become detached from the electorate it seeks to serve. I have not agreed with most Republican stands for decades and yet I agree that honest, astute Republicans make the Democratic Party more accountable, more creative, more responsive to the needs of the people. When one of our two major parties becomes so bereft of ideas, so captive to a personality cult, they lose their intellectual, ethical and ideological legitimacy; and we all suffer.
Parties evolve, but recent pronouncements from Republican leaders (and the laughable opening arguments on the former President’s behalf during the impeachment trial) lead me to see no redemption in Republicanism as currently constituted. Even more discouraging is the way state and local Republican chapters have sanctioned and censured those in their midst who have stood against disqualifying Joe Biden’s election or try to buck Donald Trump.
So, I have asked myself: should I explore—and possibly align with—organizations such as the Lincoln Project in the hope that a “new” Republican Party will restore a traditional, legitimate, two-party system that has served us so well for more than two centuries? This is a troubling question, but we progressives are quick to talk about putting country ahead of party. Is this one way I can do that? Should I actively work towards the establishment of a new Republican Party that truly stands for inclusion, justice and the freedoms we all cherish—for everyone? It is something I must consider if I am to practice what I preach and truly put country over party.