The GOP is in peril of becoming a 'dangerous cult' -- here's why
Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Shutterstock

Conservative GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska has been lambasting all the Republicans on Capitol Hill who realize that President-elect Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election but are afraid to say so publicly — which, Sasse has stressed, is terrible for democracy. Liberal Washington Post opinion writer Eugene Robinson makes similar arguments in a January 14 column, declaring that unless Republicans in Congress are willing to defend democracy, they are "enemies" of it.

"President Trump is impeached yet again, disgraced yet again, soon to slink away in shame," Robinson writes. "But he leaves a poison trail behind him as he departs, an insidious Big Lie about 'voter fraud' that gravely threatens our democracy. The Republican Party he leads is out of time to repudiate that lie. If its members fail to act now, they may never extricate themselves, or their country, from it."

Robinson's column follows the horrors of January 6, 2021, when a mob of pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol Building in the hope of preventing Congress from certifying Biden's Electoral College victory over President Donald Trump — who will be gone from the White House less than a week from now. Ten House Republicans have voted to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection, including Rep. Liz Cheney (daughter of former President Dick Cheney). And Robinson finds it appalling that a lot more Republicans didn't vote to impeach.

"Only 10 House Republicans had the integrity and the guts to vote for impeachment Wednesday, despite the unprecedented nature of the article before them," Robinson laments. "If the rest were so cowardly, ambitious or brainwashed that they felt they had to defend Trump, then let that be between them and what's left of their consciences."

Way too many Republicans in Congress, Robinson writes, are still afraid to publicly acknowledge that "the November election was entirely legitimate and that Joe Biden defeated Trump fair and square." Robinson points out that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy "came close, but not close enough." McCarthy, Robinson notes, did acknowledge that "Biden will be sworn in as president of the United States in one week because he won the election," but he voted against impeaching Trump.

"Why is it so important that Republicans come clean about the Big Lie?," Robinson writes. "Because that myth animated last week's 'Stop the Steal' rally and the sacking of the Capitol. That's the whole reason thousands of National Guard troops had to bivouac inside the Capitol on Tuesday night and why the Mall will be closed to celebrants when Biden and (Vice President-elect) Kamala D. Harris are sworn in on Inauguration Day."

Robinson adds, "During the campaign, Trump repeatedly claimed that 'the only way we're going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.' His supporters believed him. After he lost, he and his lawyers made baseless claim after baseless claim about 'dead people' allegedly voting, about Biden's vote totals allegedly being fraudulently boosted in the wee hours, about voting machines allegedly manufactured by a company owned in part by the family of late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez. Trump actually won in a 'sacred landslide,' he maintained, but the election was 'stolen.' Once again, his supporters believed him."

According to Robinson, "Some Republicans fell in line with Trump's ridiculous claims because they knew he would be gone soon and didn't want to draw his ire in the months and weeks left in his term. Others, however, saw an opportunity to advance the party's long-term project of tilting the playing field by purging voter rolls and otherwise restricting the franchise in ways that disadvantage Democratic candidates and make it easier for Republicans to win."

Robinson wraps up his column by emphasizing that Republicans on Capitol Hill must choose between Trumpism and liberal democracy — and they can't have it both ways.

"A GOP that internalizes and retains Trump's conspiratorial worldview is not a political party — it is a dangerous cult," Robinson warns. "Elected officials who have cynically — or cravenly — gone along with that cult's lies will not find it easy to reverse course. Much more important than whether Trump is convicted in his coming trial is whether Republicans level with their constituents and tell them that Trump is lying. If Republicans won't — or can't — tell the truth about the November election, they are no longer participants in our democracy. They are its enemies."