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”.