On Tuesday, writing for The Atlantic, columnist Jonathan Rauch argued that even in defeat, President Donald Trump managed to fully reorganize the Republican Party around a theory of politics that is fundamentally at odds with American democracy.
"Many Republicans still believe in democratic norms such as the rule of law, the centrality of truth, the peaceful transfer of power, and the legitimacy of the opposition party," wrote Rauch. "But Trump is not among those Republicans, and he has won astonishing acquiescence and support from his party as he has set about trashing democratic norms and principles. In The Atlantic three years ago, Benjamin Wittes and I warned that the Republican Party, as an institution, had become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. Thereafter, Trump only escalated his assaults on democratic norms."
This problem is exemplified by the GOP's response to the lawsuit from Texas seeking to invalidate the election in four key states. After Trump backed it, so did 126 House Republicans, including members of senior party leadership like Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
"America’s constitutional order, the political scientist Gregory Weiner argues, depends on a style of politics that the conservative political philosopher Michael Oakeshott called 'nomocratic,'" wrote Rauch. "Nomocratic regimes hold themselves accountable to public processes (such as voting) whose outcome no one can be sure of in advance. They commit themselves to the rule of law and democratic decision making, even if the other side wins. Teleocratic politics, by contrast, is accountable to particular outcomes. Legitimacy comes not from following the agreed-upon rules but from obtaining the desired result. In other words, the election is valid — provided our side wins."
"Trump has placed himself explicitly in the teleocratic camp," warned Rauch. "Teleocracy is incompatible with democracy and the rule of law; Trump’s position would once have horrified Republicans. Now, by acquiescing to Trump, they have made it their de facto creed."
Even following the vote of the Electoral College, while some senior Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have finally acknowledged Trump's loss, Trump himself has not — and with large factions of the party still loyal to the president, and Trump dropping hints about running again, the risk this opposition to democracy persists in the GOP is real.
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