John Bossange: The fate of the Republican Party and America’s democracy

This commentary is by John Bossange of Burlington, a retired middle school principal who now volunteers on a number of nonprofit boards in the Burlington area.

It’s been painful to watch so many Republicans in Congress use disingenuous reasoning, make illogical and irrational decisions, or remain either silent or vague during the past few months. 

To better understand their thinking, I did some research for examples of Republican beliefs taken from a variety of different professional surveys. I fully acknowledge these percentages can change over time, and can vary with source. 

However, in looking at these topics, I believe that what’s more important than total accuracy or the source is the broader picture these surveys paint of the values and beliefs now at the core of the Republican Party’s base. Here is what I’ve discovered:

72% believe President Obama was born in Kenya, still

72% believe the election was rigged, and President Trump won the election

77% believe there was widespread voter fraud in the election

70% believe the election was not free and fair

56% believe in the theories of QAnon and the “deep state”

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72% believe that white people are discriminated against because of their race

57% believe that Christianity should be the national religion of America

72% believe President Trump handled the Covid-19 pandemic well

61% believe wearing a mask does not help stop the spread of Covid-19

69% believe Antifa instigated the riots on Jan. 6 at the Capitol Building

92% believe the media reported “fake news” to hurt President Trump

85% believe that climate change is not a serious problem

71% believe in less funding for environment protection

72% believe a person should be able to carry concealed weapons in more places

69% believe teachers should be allowed to carry a gun in their classroom

73% believe in spending less for health care

62% believe in spending less for Social Security and Medicare

Surely there are those who identify as Democrats who may agree with some or parts of these belief statements. But taken as a collective whole, these percentages are illuminating. 

We should expect Republican members in gerrymandered House districts and senators from Republican-held states not to take issue with too many of these topics for fear of crossing their base and ruining their reelection chances. Heads down, and cruising with caution, Republicans — as others from both parties have done for decades — will put the beliefs and values of their constituents first to play it safe and ensure their job security. But that was in the past.

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Today, the situation is vastly different. It’s not just reelection chances that could be at risk. Given the events following our national election, America’s democracy could be at stake as well, because we have a bitter, angry ex-president who refuses to admit he lost an election, failed in an attempted coup, either began or supported all of these belief statements, and is still the leader of the Republican Party. 

The courage to stand tall for a different set of personal values or professional beliefs has all but disappeared among Republican members of Congress. Most are still gripped in fear of the ex-president’s wrath and concern for their personal safety inflicted by violent party militants. Sadly, that fear has driven most into silence and loyalty, and has allowed conspiracy theorists to remain active in the party’s platform.

The trial to convict the ex-president of treason might not be the most consequential event of this month. Far more dangerous than the fate of the ex-president could be the long-term fate of the Republican Party. If party leaders cannot summon the courage to confront militant, fringe extremists within their ranks and move the party back toward the middle of the political spectrum, it might split up. That’s one scenario. 

However, if fear and silence in their ranks continue much longer, militants will attract more militants, and the fringe will slowly become the core, solidify a new norm, and begin to hold more power within the party leadership. If that scenario proves true, the fate of the nation will be at risk. Polarization will intensify over time, and we will lose any hope of finding common ground in the middle from which to govern. 

As we all know, it has not always been a smooth 240 years of governing from the middle in America. But time and time again, compromise has been the soul of this nation and saved our democracy.

Republican leaders must step up and find the courage to confront the outrageous lies, ”alternative facts,” and the militant, fringe element in their new party. No more heads down, cruising with caution, and worrying about blowback from constituents or a defeated ex-president. 

It’s time to stand for something other than reelection security and maintaining position power. It’s time to stand tall for the truth, which most Republicans in Congress know is not reflected in many of those belief statements. 

It’s time for Republican Party leaders to show some courage and stand tall for America.

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