The Biggest Issue Today

The biggest issue in the world is climate change, but the biggest issue in American politics is the descent of the Republican Party into authoritarianism (which, given who Republicans are, is itself part of the climate change problem). Here are parts of two opinion columns.

From Paul Waldman of The Washington Post:

When it came to the brazenness and sheer volume of his dishonesty, [the former president] was unique among politicians in American history and perhaps even in world history. So when he left office and found the vital propaganda pipelines of Twitter and Facebook closed to him, one might have hoped that his party would begin to rebuild its relationship to the truth.

But if anything, the Republican Party today is even more committed to myths, falsehoods and a shared hostility to the very idea of an objective reality . . . than they were when [their guy] was still president.

Things are not getting better. They’re getting worse. And it’s almost impossible to see a way out. A quick rundown of news just from the past couple of days:

  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Fox News host Tucker Carlson are vaguely suggesting that Anthony S. Fauci is to blame for creation of the coronavirus, based on a convoluted stew of half-truths and speculation about international virology research and the hypothesis that the virus originated in a lab in China. Carlson has been telling his viewers that covid vaccines have been killing people by the thousands. He’s the highest-rated host on cable news.
  • Republican members of Congress are trying to recast the Jan. 6 insurrection as a gentle stroll through the Capitol by people who may or may not have been [Dear Leader’s] supporters. Meanwhile, the purging of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) [from her leadership position] shows that the lie that [someone else] won the 2020 election has become the central organizing principle of the GOP.
  • The very act of fact-checking work is so offensive to Republicans that a group of GOP state legislators in Michigan have filed a bill called the “Fact Checker Registration Act.” It would require fact-checkers to register with the state and acquire a million-dollar insurance policy, and fine them if their fact-checks are displeasing to the government.

From Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine:

The fate of American democracy is the biggest issue in American politics. . .[It’s] not an issue you can simply put aside, or even weigh alongside all the other issues. It’s a foundational issue — the one decision that has to be settled before any other political question can be considered.

A majority of Republican voters believe [the] lie that the election was stolen, and this belief has been the most important driver of their post-election behavior. Republican-controlled states are implementing voting restrictions to placate this lie; Republican officials who refused to go along with [their leader’s] autogolpe are being removed from their positions [“autogolpe” = Spanish word for “a self-coup, or autocoup, . . . a form of coup d’état or putsch in which a nation’s leader, having come to power through legal means, dissolves or renders powerless the national legislature and unlawfully assumes extraordinary powers not granted under normal circumstances”].

The Bulwark’s Jonathan Last recently argued that “Republicans are already well on their way to marshaling the political will to do whatever the law even theoretically might allow in pursuit of power,” [for example,] use the full extent of their power to overturn the result and either assign electoral votes to their party using their control of state government, or throw the contest to the House . . . .

The primary argument in How Democracies Die, by Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky, is that the survival of a democratic regime against an authoritarian threat usually comes down to choices made by ideological allies of the authoritarian side. They can decide either to support an authoritarian party or leader that advances their policy agenda, or break from their natural allies and defend the system. According to their historical study of threats against democratic regimes, when the authoritarian candidate’s allies defect and join with their natural ideological opponents to save the system, democracies survive.

When they stay loyal to their normal partners, on the other hand, democracy perishes. The term Ziblatt and Levitsky borrow for this fateful latter decision is “ideological collusion” — choosing to win by subverting democracy rather than saving the system by joining with their ideological opponents.

Rep. Liz Cheney’s Republican critics are mostly willing to let her continue to disagree with [the Big Lie]. What they cannot abide is her vocalizing her belief. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-South Carolina), reportedly complained in a caucus meeting about her “defiant attitude” and failure to be a “team player.”

Eliana Johnson, editor of the Washington Free Beacon, perfectly explains the mainstream view within the party. The party’s operatives and politicians [want] Cheney to put aside her concern about the survival of democracy in America and instead focus on matters that unite the Republican party’s authoritarian and democratic wings. They’re demanding, in so many words, ideological collusion. . . . [Cheney was officially purged from the Republican leadership in the House this week.]

The Republican Party is sliding into authoritarianism at a terrifyingly rapid clip. To stand by is to let it happen. Republicans who have reservations about this trend have tried quiet hand-wringing for five years. It hasn’t worked. . . .

[A group of Republicans has announced they’ll try to change the party’s direction or else start a third party: “the Republican Party is broken. It’s time for a resistance of the ‘rationals’ against the ‘radicals'”. It’s quite late for them to join the resistance, but it’s something.]

resist 2

Understanding Their Perspective, and Thus Their Agenda

Jay Rosen of New York University recently listed the things he spends “most time puzzling about these days”. Here are his top two, although I’ve reversed the order, because one of them describes the world as most Republicans see it, a perspective that helps generate their warped political agenda:

        1) The Republican Party is both counter-majoritarian and counter-factual.

By “counter-majoritarian” I mean the Republicans see themselves as an embattled . . . minority who will lose any hope of holding power, and suffer a catastrophic loss of status, unless extraordinary measures are taken to defeat a sprawling threat to their way of life. This threat comes from almost all major institutions, with the exception of church and military. 

It includes — they believe — an activist government opening the borders to immigrants, Black Lives Matter militants destroying property and intimidating police, a secretive deep state that undermines conservative candidacies, “woke” corporations practicing political correctness, big tech companies tilting the platform against them, a hostile education system with its alien-to-us universities, an entertainment culture at odds with traditional values, and the master villain in the scheme, the mainstream media, holding it all together with its vastly unequal treatment of liberals and conservatives. 

These are dark forces that cannot be overcome by running good candidates, turning out voters, and winning the battle of ideas. Which, again, is what I mean by counter-majoritarian. Something stronger is required. Like the attack on the Capitol, January 6, 2021. 

Stronger measures include making stuff up about election fraud, about responsibility for the attack on the Capitol, about the safety of vaccines— to name just three. A counter-majoritarian [political party] thus implies and requires a counter-factual party discourse, committed to pushing conspiracy theories and other strategic falsehoods that portray the minority as justified in taking extreme measures. 

The conflict with journalism and its imperative of verification is structural, meaning: what holds the party together requires a permanent state of war with the press, because what holds the party together can never pass a simple fact check. This is a stage beyond working the refs and calling out liberal bias. 

Basic to what the Republican Party stands for is freedom from fact. For it to prevail, journalism must fail. There is nothing in the [journalistic] playbook about that.

        2) We have a two-party system and one of the two is [against democracy].

The Republican Party tried to overturn the results of a free and fair election. When that failed it did not purge the insurrectionists and begin to reform itself; rather, it continued the attack by other means, such as state laws making it harder to vote, or a continuation of the Big Lie that [somebody else] actually won

By “anti-democratic” I mean willing to destroy key institutions to prevail in the contest for power. This is true, not only of individual politicians, but of the party as a whole. As (Republican) and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes, “For the activist base of the Republican Party, affirming that [the loser] won the 2020 presidential contest has become a qualification for membership in good standing.” A qualification for membership. 

Journalists had adapted to the old system by developing a “both sides” model of news coverage. It locates the duties of a non-partisan press in the middle between roughly similar parties with competing philosophies. That mental model still undergirds almost all activity in political journalism. But it is falling apart. As I wrote five years ago, asymmetry between the major parties fries the circuits of the mainstream press. 

We are well beyond that point now. Now we live in a two-party world where one of the two is anti-democratic. Circuits fried, the press has to figure out what to do . . . 

Unquote.

A thought occurred to me after reading Prof. Rosen’s post, so I left a comment:

It seems that the two biggest purveyors of right-wing propaganda and disinformation in the US are Fox News (the Murdochs) and Facebook (Zuckerberg). Do we have to accept the present behavior of these two institutions — actually, the behavior of these individuals — as facts of nature or are there practical ways to reduce their negative influence? Ways to address the problem have been suggested, but maybe there needs to be a more organized, targeted approach.

What do you do to sociopathic billionaires in order to get them to cease and desist? I don’t know, but that’s why people tried to assassinate Hitler.

I Wish Everyone Realized How Serious This Is

Dan Rather, the former face of CBS News, is mad as hell (the page has an audio link if you’d rather listen to him read this):

. . . Where I find myself today: Usher out the children. Cover sensitive ears. Because this old reporter is full of a little fire. 

The topic at hand is the truth, and not some esoteric notion to be debated in a college philosophy seminar. This is a truth so urgent, so important, so obvious, that attempts to undermine it would be laughable if they weren’t so dangerous. So here it is. 

Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. It wasn’t particularly close. He won the total national vote overwhelmingly and won decisively in the Electoral College. There is no credible suggestion to the contrary. Election officials confirmed it. The courts confirmed it. It is apparent to everyone who doesn’t live in an alternate reality, who doesn’t harbor seditionist impulses, who isn’t a craven opportunist, or who doesn’t marinate in the cesspool of these forces, otherwise known as Fox News. For those who suggest otherwise (who say that Biden is not the legitimately elected President of the United States), many have been deceived and others are willfully deceiving them for their own cynical, and dangerous, ends. 

And yet that’s where a majority of Republicans find themselves today, if you believe the polls. And it is certainly where a majority of elected officials are if you just listen to what they say, or more importantly don’t say. The origin of this lie-laden authoritarianism is the former president, who couldn’t fall back on his usual playbook of suing, sulking, and skedaddling to get himself out of the loser spotlight. So he decided to do what he does best, the tool he used to propel himself to the presidency. He lied. Not a small half-truth. Not a wee fib. Not even a bald-faced lie. A lie so big it deserves to be written as a proper noun — the Big Lie. 

This Big Lie led to violent insurrectionists storming the United States Capitol, attempting to stop final certification of election results. It has led to Republican state representatives falling over themselves to try to cut back on voting rights. And how do they try to justify it? They say their supporters have lost faith in the voting system. But that is because their supporters have been lied to by the same politicians who are now using that as an excuse to stifle democracy. Propaganda and authoritarianism play on in a destructive feedback loop. . . . 

Now to be fair, not EVERY Republican has fallen in line. Take the high-profile case of Liz Cheney, the daughter of former vice president, Dick Cheney. She’s certainly no liberal . . . but she has had the temerity to say what her colleagues won’t, that the would-be emperor has no clothes . . . [So] her fellow House Republicans are coming for her like a political version of Murder on the Orient Express . . . 

Who thrives in such an environment? Craven opportunists like Elise Stefanik. You would think this Harvard-educated congresswoman from upstate New York would know better about the Constitution and the ridiculousness of the Big Lie, but she long ago pegged her future to prostrating at the altar of [the former president]. And now she is poised to replace Cheney in Republican leadership. Some conservative groups are grumbling that Stefanik’s voting record is far more “liberal” than they would like, but . . . whatever tenuous links the Republican Party had to a consistent ideology [are now broken]. It’s now a cult of personality, not a political party. And fealty is prized over all else. . . .

It brings me no joy in saying that one of the factors that is exacerbating this dangerous era in our national history is a Washington press corps that is struggling to make sense of a disorienting landscape. The bedrock of American democracy, for better and worse, has been a stable two party system — with some notable moments of exception. The press is used to two opposing forces waging battle over policy. At least nominally. Now the no man’s land between Republicans and Democrats is over a belief in democracy itself and not things like taxes or foreign policy.

Once again, this is not a theoretical musing. Is it too much to say that giving oxygen to the Big Lie, let alone actively espousing it, is a form of sedition? Full stop. Think about it. Is lying about the truth of last November making a mockery of any pledge of patriotism? No matter how many flag lapel pins you wear or how often you quote the “Founding Fathers,” to deny a fair and honest election and the orderly transfer of power risks placing you squarely in the camp of dictators and autocrats, and helping with the demise of democracy.

The press needs to start taking this even more seriously than it does now. Every elected Republican who has played footsie with the Big Lie should have to defend that record before they can speak on any other topic. They can’t be allowed to dodge. The questions aren’t difficult. Did Joe Biden win the election? Where is your evidence to the contrary? And because there is no such evidence, if they try to quote something, they should be pressed on the truth. Live interviews are particularly problematic because politicians can stretch out a string of lies so long that they can spin their way to a commercial break. Those with a history of such actions should not be given prominent platforms for their performance art. 

The Big Lie must be the context for everything that is taking place in Washington, and political stories across the country. It is not old news. January 6 is not old news. This denial of reality is the animating principle driving the Republican Party. We can’t talk about legislation in Washington, immigration, climate change, fiscal policy, foreign policy, civil rights, education, or any other issue politicians are “debating” without talking about the Big Lie. . . . 

Republicans desperately want the mainstream press to cover the daily news cycle through the lens of traditional party politics. At the same time, they go on their propaganda channels and stir up their base against the mechanics of fair and open elections. They spread the poison of illegitimacy to attack the Biden Administration. On Fox News you get a concerted and coordinated attack. Outside of that echo chamber you get what was once the normal news diet of a spectrum of different stories. But this is not a normal news environment. This is an attack on American values, and our ability to continue to function as a government that represents the will of the majority of Americans. The Big Lie is everything right now and the press and the American people must not provide safe harbor for it to continue to metastasize. 

I want to end with a note of some optimism. I believe the Big Lie is so ludicrous and outrageous that it can be made to collapse under the weight of its own perfidy. If it is put into the proper spotlight, if it becomes so radioactive that big business, the press, and the public at large refuse to bestow any legitimacy to those who traffic in it, then it can and will be defeated. . . .

Unquote.

Some in the press are finally referring to a Republican lie as a lie, which is progress. But it’s hard to believe anything but the passage of time (a lot of time) will weaken the Big Lie’s hold on what is now a reactionary cult.

Paul Waldman of The Washington Post, who is much less optimistic than Dan Rather, explains why:

Let’s not beat around the bush: The Republican Party has pretty much lost its mind. In the time since the 2020 election, rather than trying to make a new start after the disaster of the [previous four] years, it has become more radical and more extreme. Most important of all, it has emphatically and comprehensively rejected democracy itself.

Now here’s the scariest part: There’s almost no reason to believe that this will hurt the ability of Republicans to win elections and take back the power they’ve lost. . . . 

Outside of a few truly deranged members, almost all elected Republicans in Congress know that [their candidate] lost. But they’re making a calculation that because of polarization, it doesn’t matter how extreme they get, what kind of lies they encourage people to believe, or what kind of damage they do to our system. If they can keep their base angry, it will give them the path back to power . . . despite the fact that the Republican Party is still in thrall to the most disastrous president of any of our lifetimes, one whose incompetence helped result in hundreds of thousands of American deaths and the implosion of our economy.

Yes, [he] lost. But not by the 23-point margins of the 1964 and 1972 elections. By just 4½ percentage points.

In today’s Republican Party, polarization doesn’t just mean there’s almost nothing the party could do that would cause its support to collapse. It means there is literally nothing it could do.

. . . [The Republican] base remains sizable enough that they’re always in a position to win, even with those defections. And at the state level, they not only hold the bulk of the power, they’ve gerrymandered state legislative seats so ruthlessly that in some places it’s essentially impossible for Democrats to take control no matter how resoundingly they win the support of the electorate.

So show me the Republicans in Washington who will lose their seats for being too supportive of [their leader] and the “big lie” of the stolen election. . . . The combination of gerrymandering, geographical sorting and polarization means there are almost none. The party can get steadily more unhinged and more implacably opposed to democracy, with consequences for its electoral fortunes that are temporary at most.

All it would take to return them to complete power in Washington is an ordinary midterm election [when the president’s party usually loses seats] followed by an economic downturn in 2024, whereupon whichever cynical extremist they nominate for president could sneak into the White House.

We keep waiting for the moment when the country says, “Now you’ve gone too far, Republicans,” and sends them into oblivion. But the truth is, they see no reason to change the path they’re on. . . .

Once You Accept a Big Lie, All Bets Are Off

A scary article from David Atkins of The Washington Monthly:

. . . The entire left-leaning political world has spent the months after the 2020 election obsessed over the fairness of elections, and conservative attempts to rig the vote through gerrymandering and voter suppression. This is for good reason, of course: Republicans know they lack the support to win majority support in a fair contest, but believe they have the right to rule nonetheless for reasons that ultimately boil down to white supremacy, religious dominionism and antiquated patriarchal beliefs. So Republicans have been busy passing bills to restrict voting among young people and non-whites, while doing their best to ensure that exurban conservative whites continue to be dramatically and unfairly overrepresented in the House, Senate and Electoral College.

But there’s another even more sinister trend among conservative politicians that deserves greater attention: an unwillingness to concede any electoral victory by a Democrat as legitimate, and an eagerness to punish any Republican elected official who concedes the will of the voters. The Big Lie that [their candidate] really won the election is now canon among a majority of Republican voters. Any Republicans who refuses to toe the line is branded a heretic, and elections officials who dared to certify Biden’s win are being censured or stripped of their power. Arizona Republicans have sponsored a bogus “audit” of the election full of crackpot conspiracy theories, and Republican legislatures have been busy taking control of both running and certifying elections out of the hands of county official in Democratic-run cities and counties.

The context of the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol was the attempt by Congressional Republicans to refuse to certify the Electoral College tally, in the hopes of sending the election back to gerrymandered Republican state legislatures and handing [themselves] a win as part of a anti-democratic coup. It was a physical coup attempt designed to intimidate Congress into enforcing a legislative coup. Republicans who refused to back the latter are facing steep primary challenges.

It’s hard to overstate how dangerous this is, and what its consequences might entail in the very near future. As Greg Sargent notes, the “GOP appears to be plunging headlong into a level of full-blown hostility to democracy that has deeply unsettling future ramifications.”

Biden’s electoral college win was only certified because enough Republican secretaries of state and county election board officials did their duty to democracy and resisted pressure to thwart the will of the voters. Every lever of Republican power has since been wielded to punish them. Minor county board officials have been receiving organized harassment and death threats. Secretary of state Raffensperger in Georgia is not only facing a major primary challenge, he was also stripped of his power to certify the election in the future. Every Republican not already committed to preserving their power by any means necessary has been put on notice that if they do not cooperate they will be physically threatened and politically replaced.

So what happens in 2024 if President Biden or Vice President Harris win the Electoral College, but local Republicans on county boards with majority Democratic votes refuse to certify the election; when state legislatures who have seized control of certification refuse to certify their state tallies; when a potential Republican majority in the House of Representatives refuses to certify the Electoral College tally? What happens when they refuse to certify Democratic wins in purple state Senate races, throwing control of the Upper Chamber into limbo and chaos? What happens if Biden/Harris wins the popular vote by 8 million votes and 30 electoral college votes, only to see Republicans in states like Georgia and Wisconsin decide that their GOP legislatures will send electors for . . . Tucker Carlson or Josh Hawley instead? What happens if Democrats legitimately add to their lead in the Senate, only to see Republicans refuse to certify those tallies as well, keeping GOP Senators in place for the next session?

The short answer is that the matter would go to the courts. The clear rule of law says that state legislatures cannot overrule the will of the voters. But if the vote isn’t officially certified, there is no official will of the voters. There are laws stating that elections must be certified by certain dates, but there a dearth of precedent around what happens if they don’t. And given the [previous] administration’s stacking of the lower courts and the wildly conservative imbalance on the Supreme Court, it’s not clear that the outcome would favor the preservation of democracy. Nor is it clear that the matter would be resolved in time to prevent civil conflict–or, in fact, that Republicans in the state or federal legislative branches would honor the Court’s authority should it side against them.

A Republican Party hostile to democracy can use America’s creaky Constitutional system to create a series of unprecedented roadblocks to majority rule. Not just by suppressing the vote or drawing unfair districts, but by refusing to accept the vote itself. The result could throw the nation into political violence unseen since the days of Ku Klux Klan terrorism if not the Civil War itself.

There are ways of addressing these problems. The role of certifying elections can be taken out of the hands of either local or state partisan officials and given to independent judicial boards, electoral courts and elections commissions as in many other developed democracies. The electoral college can be bypassed by the National Popular Vote. We can strengthen laws around the requirement to certify elections per the tabulated results, and increase the transparency and security of those results by requiring paper trails and open source software on voting machines. We can end the gerrymandering that allows anti-democracy conservatives to control legislatures and House delegations in states where the majority of the population votes against them. We can stop the end-run tactics used to take elections administration out of the hands of local officials secretaries of state and put them under the thumb of partisan legislatures, and make it harder for legislatures to send separate slates of electors.

But to do almost any of those things would require at a minimum ending the filibuster. If Republican attempts at voter suppression and gerrymandering are not enough to spur Senators Sinema and Manchin to take appropriate action, then perhaps the threat of ending democracy itself might. The Senate won’t be a very collegial place if the country is melting down in violence from an anti-majoritarian coup. . . .

Unquote. 

It’s comforting to think “they’ll never go that far”, but given what we’ve seen in recent years, and since January 6th, it’s probably too optimistic.

Looking Toward January 6, 2025

Republicans are predictably screaming about their cult leader being kept off Facebook for the time being. They’re citing the First Amendment, of course, but that’s got nothing to do with social media platforms (until the government starts operating its own platform or regulating their content).

Or as our congressman, Tom Malinowski, tweeted:

The 1st Amendment gives us the right to say crazy things without gov’t interference. It doesn’t require Random House to give us a book contract, or FOX to give us a prime time show, or Facebook to amplify our rantings to billions of people. Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach.

A much more significant issue is the speed with which the Republican Party is deteriorating. From Greg Sargent of The Washington Post

Rep. Liz Cheney’s fate appears sealed: Republicans are set to oust the Wyoming Republican as the No. 3 in the House GOP leadership . . . This is being widely depicted as a battle over the past . . . Most accounts portray it as a sign that in today’s GOP, fealty to the former president is a bedrock requirement, denouncing his lies about 2020 has become unacceptable, and telling the truth about the Jan. 6 insurrection is disqualifying.

All that is true, but the forward-looking dimension to this story is getting lost. What also seems unavoidably at stake is that the GOP appears to be plunging headlong into a level of full-blown hostility to democracy that has deeply unsettling future ramifications.

. . . Republicans may be unshackling themselves from any obligation to acquiesce to future presidential election outcomes they don’t like — that is, liberating themselves to overturn those outcomes by any means necessary.

. . . A Cheney spokesperson denounced her GOP enemies for wanting to “perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on Jan. 6.” This comes after Cheney told GOP colleagues that those lies are “poison in the bloodstream of our democracy” and that insurrection “is a line that cannot be crossed.”

Cheney has also urged Republicans not to turn “their back on the rule of law.” And she insists that the commission examining Jan. 6 should focus on the insurrection, not on leftist extremism that Republicans are hyping to muddy the waters around their ongoing radicalization.

So why is all this disqualifying? [It’s because] she’s demanding something important from fellow Republicans: a full and unequivocal renunciation of the lie that the election’s outcome was dubious. . . .

Now consider what else we’re seeing. Some Republicans are increasingly asserting a willingness to overturn future elections: Rep. Jody Hice’s primary challenge to the Georgia secretary of state is driven by the promise to use his power to invalidate future outcomes.

Other Republicans are asserting the freedom to keep alive the fiction that the election was stolen forever. In Arizona, a GOP-sponsored recount is underway [in hopes of] bolstering that false conclusion.

This combination is toxic: Republicans are untethering themselves from any obligation to recognize future legitimate election outcomes, which will provide the rationale to overturn them, a freedom they are also effectively in process of appropriating. Cheney is insisting on a GOP future premised on a full repudiation of these tendencies, and getting punished for it.

Guess what: These same House Republicans might control the lower chamber when Congress is counting electors after the 2024 presidential election.

“We should start to very much worry about what Jan. 6, 2025, looks like,” Edward Foley, a renowned election law scholar and a Post contributing columnist, told me.

Imagine a 2024 election decided in one state, where a GOP-controlled legislature sends electors for the GOP candidate in defiance of a close popular vote. The same House Republicans who punished Cheney — many of whom already voted against President Biden’s electors, but now control the House and have continued radicalizing — could vote to certify that slate. . . .

This places burdens on Democrats. Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg told me that this obliges Democrats to level with voters about the threat Republicans pose to democratic stability.

“If Cheney is ousted, Democrats will have to make the radicalization of the GOP a major part of the 2022 conversation,” Rosenberg said.

And as elections scholar Rick Hasen told me, Democrats should try to get patriotic Republicans to support revisions to the Electoral Count Act, to make it “harder for a legislature to send a separate slate when there was no problem with how the election was run.”

Cheney’s ouster should prompt this, along with a much greater public and media focus on the brute reality of the GOP’s fundamental turn away from democracy.

“The core component of the democratic process is that we count the votes as cast,” Foley told me. The punishing of Cheney, Foley concluded, suggests that the Republican Party might [might???] be institutionally “abandoning the very essence of democracy”.