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The GOP chooses power over democracy

The party has embraced sedition as an electoral strategy. Nobody with any integrity should be part of it.

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Ken Paxton in Dallas in June.
U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and Ken Paxton in Dallas in June.NICHOLAS KAMM/Photographer: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP

Sure, they’ve been laughed out of more than 50 courtrooms across the country. But don’t think for a minute that attempts to overturn the presidential election are going nowhere.

In fact, they’re taking us to a very dark place. And they taint every member of the seditious party that is driving us there.

Obviously, the president’s claims that he won an election he actually lost by 7 million votes are utterly baseless. Even his attorney general, a Trumpist to his shabby core, says there has been no evidence of the voter fraud the defeated president and his acolytes keep baying about. Election officials, including Republicans, in states being challenged by the president and his clown car of attorneys say their results are legitimate. Judges have rejected their attempts to throw out millions of votes on the basis of ... well, there doesn’t seem to be much of a basis at all.

Yet, instead of distancing themselves from the president as his false claims grew farther fetched and more desperate, his fellow Republicans have increasingly fallen into line behind him. Faced with a choice between upholding democracy and destroying it to curry favor with the millions of voters the president can convince of anything, they have embraced the latter — with chilling gusto.

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The appalling suit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton lays bare the rot at the heart of the GOP. It argued that the US Supreme Court should overturn the results of elections in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan because they changed their election rules to take account of the pandemic. That the court rejected the case on Friday night makes this only slightly less terrifying.

Paxton, who has been indicted for securities fraud, and is under federal investigation for bribery, could use one of the pardons with which this transactional president is so liberal, so maybe that’s his motivation. But attorneys general in 17 other states signed onto Paxton’s suit, as did 126 House Republicans.

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On Monday, the Electoral College will formally give Joe Biden 306 votes to the outgoing president’s 232. But this attack on our democracy won’t dissolve when Biden moves into the White House. Because Donald Trump isn’t going away: Instead, he’ll start running for president again, his candidacy built on the lie of a stolen election. More importantly, his tens of millions of supporters aren’t going anywhere either.

So, even those Republicans outside his cult must keep buying into his outlandish fictions, or risk losing their seats. Even when those fictions strike at the very heart of our democracy. They know something many Democrats have taken too long to realize: that a lot of voters aren’t all that attached to democracy. Or logic.

It’s tempting to see our current crisis as a sudden collapse, but Republicans have been undermining democracy for years, and continue to do so. They’ve thrown voters off the rolls, closed polling places, and generally made it harder for Democrats to win elections and to govern if they prevail.

In Georgia, Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger have emerged as heroes for resisting Trump’s attempts to get them to reverse Biden’s victory there. But Lord help us when Kemp is democracy’s hero: The governor purged 700,000 voters from the rolls and closed more than 200 polling places before he won the 2018 gubernatorial election by 55,000 votes. And Raffensberger is planning further restrictions likely to affect mostly Democratic voters.

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Just because a few Republicans have drawn the line doesn’t mean we’re getting out of this any time soon. The GOP, which now represents a minority of voters, has chosen power over democracy. If any of those who signed onto the president’s treacherous gambit claim to believe in the ideals on which this country is built, they are lying.

Republicans of good conscience — and that includes our own governor — ought to be coming to terms with the fact that undermining democracy is what their party stands for now.

And far from being repelled, voters are rewarding them for it. So the GOP isn’t going to suddenly grow a conscience, or the will to reverse the damage they’ve done to our country. Why would anyone with integrity still be part of that?


Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at yvonne.abraham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.