Editorial: Republicans censure two true conservatives — and confirm their party is a cult | Editorial

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When future historians seek to pinpoint exactly when it was that the Republican Party stopped being a legitimate political entity promoting a coherent set of principles and was transformed fully into a cult of personality organized around a would-be autocrat, Feb. 4, 2022, might be in contention. That date — last Friday — was when the Republican National Committee formally censured two Republican House members, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, for clinging to genuine conservative ideals while refusing to promote the toxic populism and contempt for democracy that now defines their party.

As if to further detach themselves from reality, Republicans declared that the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection constituted “legitimate political discourse.”

Former Sen. John Danforth told us this declaration “should make all real Republicans sick,” adding, “It is now the official position of the Republican Party that the storming of the Capitol, including attacks on police officers, physical intimidation of members of Congress and destruction of government property, is ‘legitimate political discourse.’ … It is a complete reversal of what we always have been and should be.”

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The House committee investigating the attack has an urgent mandate: to bring out all the facts surrounding the first-ever significant attempt from within to violently overturn the result of an American presidential election. The decision by Cheney, of Wyoming, and Kinzinger, of Illinois, to participate in this important endeavor, defying their own party’s intransigence, was a display of selfless patriotism.

The RNC’s unprecedented sanction against both of them for that action confirms that the GOP no longer stands for anything beyond blind allegiance to the former president who fomented the violence.

The censure resolution itself is a marvel of alternate-reality thinking of the kind that former President Donald Trump is so good at. Among many other scoff-worthy passages, it claims the party’s “primary mission” is to “support the United States Constitution.” That lofty declaration is rendered ridiculous by the party’s continued and fervent support of Trump even after recent revelations that he personally pressed to have federal authorities seize state voting machines to get the election outcome he wanted.

That the Capitol attack and other outrages are today’s GOP version of “legitimate political discourse” should in itself settle the question of whether this is still a rationally functioning political party. Clear-headed Republicans like Danforth obviously are asking the same question.

Cheney responded with clarity about the deteriorating values of her party: “The leaders of the Republican Party have made themselves willing hostages to a man who admits he tried to overturn a presidential election and suggests he would pardon Jan. 6 defendants, some of whom have been charged with seditious conspiracy. I’m a constitutional conservative and I do not recognize those in my party who have abandoned the Constitution to embrace Donald Trump. History will be their judge.”

Those words should be engraved in stone and stand as a memorial to a once-great political party that no longer exists in any recognizable form.

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