Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his electoral defeat is alarming, but unsurprising. It is Mr. Trump’s character to reject even reality itself when it conflicts with his ego. More alarming is the long list of state and national Republican leaders cravenly falling in line behind his desperate efforts to topple American democracy.
On Friday, the Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit to overturn the election, a legal challenge that was as frivolous as it was anti-constitutional. Yet more than 60 percent of House Republicans signed a supporting brief, joining 18 Republican attorneys general who filed their own and embracing entirely the unreality of Trumpism by lending their names to undoing an election that put them in office.
These were not just fringe elements. The minority leader Kevin McCarthy and the whip Steve Scalise signed their names, as did the incoming ranking member for the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Some, such as Kevin Brady, Bill Flores and Ann Wagner, were Republicans who the NeverTrump movement once hoped would break with the president once we made him an electoral loser.
That they instead clung to his mad king strategy, like sailors lashed to the mast of a sinking ship, proves that the majority of the party has, at least for the foreseeable future, forsaken democracy. Even though Trump has been defeated, there is still no home for Republicans committed to representative government, truth and the rule of law, nor is one likely to emerge anytime soon.
So what’s next for Republicans who reject their party’s attempts to incinerate the Constitution in the service of one man’s authoritarian power grabs? Where is our home now?
The answer is that we must further develop an intellectual and political home, for now, outside of any party. From there, we can continue working with other Americans to defeat Trump’s heirs, help offer unifying leadership to the country and, if the GOP continues on its current path, launch a party to challenge it directly.
Although we hoped that defeating Trump would start to right the Republican ship, our efforts over the last four years have not been in vain. We defeated and removed immoral and dishonorable Republicans like Roy Moore, Dana Rohrabacher, Steve King and Martha McSally. We turned out to ensure that Democrats nominated a unifying leader who a majority of voters could support. And we were a key part of the coalition that defeated Trump himself.
But the NeverTrump movement has mostly been inward looking thus far. It emerged to defeat Mr. Trump and defend foundational principles such as self-government, liberty and justice, sovereignty, pluralistic society, the sanctity of all life, decency and objective truth.
But to turn back Trump’s dangerous ideology, which has survived his defeat, and move America forward, we must build on these ideals and look beyond ourselves.
We must now offer our own vision for the country capable of uniting more Republicans, Democrats and independents to advance solutions to the immense challenges we face. Because Trumpism will be on the ballot again, in 2022 and 2024.
It should start with unyielding commitment to the equality and liberty of all, and then to facts, reason and knowledge. It should champion democracy and its improvement and cherish life in all its phases. It should promote personal responsibility, limited government and government’s vital role for the common good. It should advance for justice to all, and uphold the personal and religious freedom of a diverse people. It should expand economic opportunity, rejecting cronyism and protectionism, while defending innovators and workers from theft and predatory practices abroad. It should recognize immigration as a vital national asset and universal access to quality health care, public and private, a national obligation. It should imagine new methods of learning and work. It should be decent, ethical and loyal to the Constitution.
If the coalition that defeated Trump and elected President-elect Joe Biden, of which we are a part, fails now to lead the nation past the coronavirus pandemic, widespread job losses and economic instability, social division and injustice, inaccessible health care, fiscal shortfalls and disinformation, we will invite a resurgence of Trumpism and even more formidable illiberalism in the future.
Soon, we may field and promote our own slate of candidates running on either party’s ticket or as independents, but under our ideological banner. To advance this vision and support these candidates, we should further develop the infrastructure we’ve created over the last four years: including data firms, messaging platforms, research capabilities and grass roots networks.
Eventually, we will have to make a decision: Will we return to a Republican Party liberated of fear, corruption and authoritarianism, or will we attempt to replace it with a new conservative alternative? Our hope is that we can still help foment a broad rejection of extremism inside the GOP. But our immediate task is to build our home for either eventuality, and to continue the fight for liberty, equality and truth.
Evan McMullin is a former C.I.A. operations officer, former chief policy director of the House Republican Conference and was an independent candidate for president in 2016.
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