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To Save America, the GOP Fist Has to Save Itself

Gerald Baker

WSJ, Jan. 3, 2022

“… if we want to find the path back to national renewal, conservatives should resolve to acknowledge that the challenges to democracy come not exclusively from one side.”

Democrats have spent a year trying to re-engineer the U.S. economy, redraft the nation’s social compact, and remake its political and legal institutions, all on the back of an imaginary electoral mandate. They’re going to spend a good deal of time in 2022 telling us how the Republican Party poses an existential threat to America as we know it.

We should take a moment to step back, admire the chutzpah and deride the hypocrisy. Many of us have devoted a good deal of time in the past year to pointing out the darkly illiberal direction of modern progressivism and the cant that sustains it. But if we want to find the path back to national renewal, conservatives should resolve to acknowledge that the challenges to democracy come not exclusively from one side.

The country’s future won’t be secured by shrill appeals to partisanship or by “owning” your opponent. It’s true that, thanks to the extremism and ineptitude of the Democrats, Republicans have a historic opportunity to redeem the nation. But to convert a mere electoral victory in midterms into genuine progress toward national regeneration will require persuasion—especially of the large numbers of Americans with grave doubts about the modern Republican Party. That will require a more thorough repudiation of the illiberal tendency in their own ranks.

Summary of the U.S. Presidential Election ProcessTo be sure, the progressives who lecture us on the sanctity of the electoral process are the same ones who subverted it five years ago. In 2022 we’ll presumably learn even more about the plot to discredit and then disable Donald Trump’s presidency, cobbled together by Democrats and their allies in the media and Silicon Valley.

In the last year we had further evidence of how progressives’ reverence for the institutions of American democracy disappears when those institutions get in their way. Jury trials that produce the “wrong” outcome are condemned. People who express the wrong views are canceled. Executive orders are promulgated in defiance of constitutional precedent.

As we enter the second year of Joe Biden’s historic crusade to restore “norms,” we can expect more. Sometime in 2022 the Supreme Court will deliver judgments on at least two of the most consuming issues in American life—abortion and gun rights. You don’t need a vivid imagination to guess what will happen if the court overturns or scales back Roe v. Wade. The justices will be denounced, the whole process delegitimized; we can expect renewed efforts to pack the court.

All this, and much more, gives us ample cause to treat Democrats’ claims about the Republican threat to democratic institutions with disdain. But for these critiques of progressive hypocrisy to have force, conservatives have an obligation to examine the beam in their own eye: the continuing legacy of an election defeat they refuse to accept.

Some of the hand-wringing about the state of the Republican Party is overwrought, just as some of the concerns conservatives have about that election are reasonable. The idea that states seeking to protect the integrity of the electoral process represent a coup d’etat is absurd. The party’s progress in 2021 suggests the left is wrong to characterize it as a mere personality cult.

But in the first week of this year we look backward as well as forward—to the violent attempt a year ago to overturn the result of the presidential election.

New video shows rioter wielding flagpole and charging at officers
The Justice Department has released new police body camera footage from the January 6 assault on the US Capitol. The footage was used in the case against Thomas Webster, a former Marine and retired .(CNN)

The Jan. 6 riot was a disgrace—as the riots of the previous summer were a disgrace—and continued attempts by many Republicans to play it down, ignore it or even pretend it didn’t really happen are a lingering cloud over the right’s own claims to the democratic process.

It’s important to say again that those primarily responsible for it are not the rag bag of misguided individuals caught up in a protest, the cast of character actors who seemed to think they were living out some fantasy flick, or even the apparently small cabal of genuine insurrectionists. The primary responsibility lies with the man—the president—who armed them with the false information: the allegations of a “stolen” election that led them to the Capitol in the first place.

There is a perilous irony here for conservatives—and America itself.

Despite the hyperbolic denunciations of conservatives in the media, last year signaled loud and clear that the country has never needed more urgently a conservative reassertion of American values and ideals—a true return to the policies that can redeem the nation and begin its rebirth.

It would be worse than an irony—it would be a political high crime—if America were denied that redemption because of lingering, legitimate fears that electing the political party that is the only vehicle for delivering it had become too big a risk for a fragile country to take.

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