Investigative accounts of the Trump administration, like the recent Washington Post feature on the January 6 insurrection, routinely write about three kinds of conservatives.
First, there are the few who took a stand for democracy who have sacrificed their political careers, like Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). Second, there are some who know Biden fairly won the 2020 election but placate conspiracy theorists to protect their political careers. Last, there are those who are true believers in Trump.
Republicans in the second group tell journalists, often anonymously, how they really feel about Trump and the 2020 election. Their base supports Trump, and their base believes Trump’s lies that he won re-election. They go along with their base, convinced it won’t hurt anything.
As Winston Churchill said about appeasing a power-hungry authoritarian ruler, “Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, it will eat him last.”
Republicans who understand Trump is a threat to our democracy must organize together to protect their own party. It’s not acceptable to go along with Trump because it is expedient for Republicans’ political agenda.
Trump is such a wild card, he doesn’t even reliably help Republicans’ political agenda: Trump focused solely on his own loss in the 2020 election and failed to support the two Georgia Senate Republicans in their runoffs. The Senate now has a narrow Democratic majority.
Honest Republicans should coordinate a strategy to repudiate Trump’s lies about the 2020 election and reclaim their party. Appeasement is not benign.
On January 6, our democracy survived in part because a few heroes in the Trump administration — including even Vice President Mike Pence, who didn’t try to stop the election certification — prevented Trump from carrying out a coup. What if the coup is less inept next time? What if Trump loyalists supportive of a coup gain enough power to carry it out?
They’re certainly trying.
Republican state governments are currently passing laws to restrict Democrats from voting in the future, while taking care not to suppress the Republican vote. The 2013 Supreme Court decision repealing part of the Voting Rights Act makes it easier for states to pass restrictive voting laws that disproportionately prevent marginalized groups from voting — which is increasingly Republicans’ stated intent.
If Trump runs again in 2024, he could attempt to use loyalists in local and state governments to carry out a coup — not just by suppressing votes, but by actually overturning results.
Fortunately, preventing the coup presents no moral dilemmas, because it is consistent with following the Constitution and the ideals of democracy. If voting rights are protected and every American eligible to vote has the opportunity to do so and be counted, that should be good for all of us.
Congress has to protect voting rights to protect our democracy. We must protect our democracy by guaranteeing its most sacred rite: voting. We should do so legally, with elected representatives passing laws that allow as many eligible citizens to vote as possible. It is fitting to protect our democracy while upholding its ideals.
I also think it would help the nation if anyone involved in the January 6 insurrection and all of their supporters sit down and think about what they have done. I’m not naïve enough to expect it could happen, but it’s nice to have dreams.
Trump and his supporters tried to carry out a coup. It was violent and people died. More people could have died. The next attempt may be more successful. We must take this threat seriously and take precautions now by protecting voting rights for all eligible citizens.
*OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.