Leaders can’t support the American Republic while also supporting efforts to destroy it

July 30, 2021 12:20 am

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: U.S. Capitol police officers point their guns at a door that was vandalized in the House Chamber during a joint session of Congress on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

We used to assume that Democrats and Republicans, all differences aside, at least shared allegiance to the small-d-democratic values that have sustained our republic for over two centuries. We used to assume that the two major political parties in the United States were both committed to a common democracy, including free and fair and accessible elections, law and order and the peaceful transfer of power. We used to assume that both sides were also for protecting the greater good through science-based public health and welfare measures, especially in a global pandemic.

We were wrong. If anything, the last year and a half has shown us that the old paradigm of the Republican and Democratic parties as essential democratic institutions no longer exists. I wish it did. But only one party in the United States, shortcomings notwithstanding, remains dedicated to preserving the democratic ideals enshrined in our founding. The same cannot be said of the Grand Old Party. 

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A pro-Trump mob breaks into the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Those who call themselves Republicans today are almost uniformly committed — not to the pursuit of a more perfect union through vigorous policy debate and compromise — but to one man and the cult of personality he inspired. They have made their pact with a malevolent narcissist who nearly destroyed our union by inciting violent assault on the seat of our government to overturn an election he lost. Remember that when you see them posing with the seditionist in campaign photos. 

By actively courting his support, Republican politicians show they’re willing to brush off his outrageous betrayal of the Constitution because they need his MAGA voters to win election. But here’s the thing. You can’t pledge allegiance to a demagogue who refused to accept the will of the American people — and who still doesn’t — and profess an enduring commitment to democracy. You can’t pledge total fealty to an anti-democratic insurrectionist still fundraising off a lie about a stolen election and claim adherence to fundamental democratic principles that ratify the peoples’ will in legitimately held elections. Doesn’t work that way.

Regrettably, Republicans have chosen which side they’re on and it’s not the small-d-democratic one shared by most Americans who were rightly appalled and repulsed by what happened on Jan. 6.  We are the legions of small-d-democrats — regardless of how we voted — who saw the ruthless storming of the Capitol as a militant rejection of government of, by and for the people. It was a show of rank hostility in the name of a would-be dictator to cancel millions of valid American votes in the presidential election.

The anti-democratic politicians who align themselves — and their careers — with the instigator of that assault on our democracy, would rather you forget or doubt what you saw with your own eyes. They want to pretend that what happened at the Capitol wasn’t as bad as it was with domestic terrorists scaling walls, bashing in windows, battering police, desecrating the building, searching the halls to take lawmakers captive or stringing up a noose to hang the vice-president. 

They have recast the rampaging mob as “patriotic” and the badly outnumbered law enforcement under siege as anything but. Those who risked their lives to save the republic against savage attack have been dismissed by Republicans or accused of “lying in wait” to shoot peaceful protestors and insulted by far-right media. The fascistic leader who ignited the insurrection had the unmitigated gall to condemn police who stopped rioters from breaking through the door of the Speaker’s Lobby — as lawmakers dove for cover. There was “no reason” a MAGA loyalist who breached the doors should have been shot, the inciter declared.

Republicans are aggressively trying to deep-six the truth about one of the darkest days in our history, opposing all investigations — even bipartisan panels negotiated by both parties — to expose what led to armed insurrectionists charging the Capitol to overturn the presidential election. But the truth will out even if Republicans persist in portraying the anti-democratic uprising against America as righteous treachery for Trump or float new spin that the attack on the Capitol was justified.

This is who and what the Grand Old Party has become. Members willingly abandon their integrity to appease a serial liar on a power trip. Jan. 6 was his practice run around electoral democracy. He’s not done dreaming of an American Reichstag moment. That’s how gravely the nation’s highest-ranking military officer interpreted the threat he posed last time. Six months ago, Republicans had a choice: Expunge a clear and present danger to our rattled republic for the sake of the nation or bow to a brooding nihilist in denial. After a minute, the Republican pilgrimages began in earnest to Mar-a-Largo where the ambitious now routinely put career over country to grovel for favor from a fascist.

Republican senatorial candidates in Ohio are falling all over themselves to win the coveted endorsement of a leader who incited his followers to thwart an election and go after his vice-president for refusing to sanction his scheme to keep power. Really? Statehouse Republicans answered the insurrection by using Trump’s lies about rigged elections as an excuse to suppress voting with new legislative hurdles disguised as election “integrity.” This is not a pro-democracy political party, folks. 

It’s safe to assume that those who proudly stand with an insurrectionist or enable him to plot anew with their silence do not share any allegiance to our small-d-democratic values. 



Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Marilou Johanek
Marilou Johanek

Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.