It has been a tough year for fans of American democracy. The sacking of the Capitol on Jan. 6 set the tone. Former President Donald Trump’s chokehold on the Republican Party continues to fuel its most unhinged impulses and elements. More than two-thirds of Republicans buy the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, according to a recent poll by Public Religion Research Institute, while 30 percent say violence may be needed to save the country.
Too many party leaders who know better are playing along. The United States even made this year’s list of “backsliding” democracies, issued by the International IDEA think tank, which cited a “visible deterioration” that began in 2019.
More prosaically, there have been the usual obstructionism and attempts to make the government as dysfunctional as possible that we have come to expect from congressional Republicans.
Not exactly a glowing advertisement for the American way.
But there have been exceptions, select Republicans who have put the public good ahead of partisan and personal interests — some more dramatically than others. Not that these folks are saints, or even consistent in their commitment. But these days, even glimmers of responsible, pro-democratic behavior amid the miasma of Trumpism merit a shout-out. So in the spirit of the season, let us give thanks for these rare Republican pockets of character and duty.
1. Representative Liz Cheney. Who would have predicted that Dick Cheney’s superconservative daughter, long despised by many as a pro-torture, anti-abortion, warmongering chip off the old block, would wind up on the same side as Democrats on anything ever? Yet here we are. Ms. Cheney’s vote to impeach Mr. Trump (in his second round), her service on the Jan. 6 select committee, her steady drumbeat of warnings about the threat Mr. Trump’s lies pose to the nation — these shouldn’t be partisan issues, but in today’s G.O.P. they absolutely set her apart from the sniveling herd. (Plus, her running feud with Senator Ted Cruz is a delight.) In return, she was booted from the House leadership in May, and the Wyoming G.O.P. voted this month to stop recognizing her as a Republican. She is facing a fierce primary challenge next year, enthusiastically backed by Mr. Trump and some of her MAGA colleagues.
2. Representative Adam Kinzinger. The Illinois lawmaker has been an outspoken Trump critic, voting for impeachment this year and serving on the Jan. 6 committee. Even some of his family members turned on Mr. Kinzinger for his betrayal of Mr. Trump, firing off a group letter in January proclaiming themselves “disgusted” and accusing him of joining the “devil’s army” of “Democrats and the fake news media.” Last month, after redistricting complicated his re-election prospects, Mr. Kinzinger announced his retirement from the House at the end of this term — though he left open the possibility of running for higher office.
3. The impeachment backers. Ten House Republicans voted to impeach Mr. Trump last January for having incited the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt. In February, seven Senate Republicans voted to convict. These members upheld the Constitution and put country over party, so naturally they have been targeted for payback by the former president and his toadies.
4. The infrastructure package supporters. For G.O.P. lawmakers, just doing one’s job has become risky business. This month, 13 Republican House members helped pass a badly needed bipartisan infrastructure package, putting constituents’ interests ahead of their party’s desire to deny the Democrats a legislative accomplishment. For their troubles, the 13 were trashed as “RINOs” by Mr. Trump and declared “traitors” by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who posted their office phone numbers on social media. The former Trump strategist Steve Bannon similarly posted the numbers of the 19 Republican senators who voted for the plan in August. The insults, invective and death threats promptly came rolling in.
5. The Georgia vote defenders. Mr. Trump lost Georgia fair and square, but that didn’t stop him from trying to persuade state leaders to overturn the results and declare him the winner. Were it not for the spinal fortitude of people like Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the election official Gabriel Sterling in resisting the former president’s machinations, America could have been plunged into a full-blown constitutional crisis.
6. Al Schmidt. The Republican on Philadelphia’s city commission, the three-member bipartisan board in charge of elections there, Mr. Schmidt went on “60 Minutes” the weekend after Election Day last November to dispute claims that the vote had been rigged. “Counting votes cast on or before Election Day by eligible voters is not corruption,” he said. “It is not cheating. It is democracy.” His office received death threats. Of course.
7. Maricopa County Republican officials. Postelection audits have been one of Trumpworld’s go-to moves to undermine public confidence in the 2020 election. Arguably nowhere has this push been more pathetic than in Arizona, where Republican state lawmakers, unhappy with previous recounts of the voter-rich Maricopa County that verified President Biden’s victory, began their own partisan effort. The process proved so sketchy and embarrassing that Republican leaders in Maricopa denounced it as a “sham” and “a grift disguised as an audit.”
8. Oregon state lawmakers who said no to mob violence. In June, Republicans in the State House joined the Democratic majority to expel a Republican colleague, Mike Nearman, who had let violent, armed, right-wing protesters into the State Capitol last December. (He objected to the building’s closure to the public because of Covid safety precautions.) It was the first such expulsion in the body’s history. Mr. Nearman’s was the only vote opposed.
Apologies to any stand-up Republicans who got overlooked this time around. And here’s hoping that in the months to come, even more officials at all levels get fed up with licking Mr. Trump’s anti-democratic, filth-encrusted boots.
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.
Source: Elections - nytimes.com