The writer is a Republican politician and former Pennsylvania congressman
From his first chaotic days in office, Donald Trump showed us what kind of president he would be with his crowd-size obsession and horribly-executed travel ban. I warned about the consequences of his chaos. The never-ending insults and name calling, the glorification of ignorance, the peddling of dangerous conspiracy theories, a total disinterest in public policy, and lack of history have defined his presidency.
These four years have borne witness to US political chaos and instability on a grand scale. But too many of our leaders and fellow citizens failed to acknowledge this reality publicly. If Wednesday’s mob at the Capitol is not enough to persuade them, nothing ever will.
The Republican Party must reflect and accept responsibility for what it has all too willingly enabled. Radical groups like QAnon and the Proud Boys and other dangerous elements have gained a foothold in Mr Trump’s GOP. It’s time to drive them out.
The attack on the Capitol was a frontal assault on America’s constitutional order and the very foundation of our institutions of government. By interfering with the certification of the electoral vote and encouraging others to do so, Mr Trump has committed crimes against the Republic. Trying to steal an election in plain sight will not help his already shameful legacy.
Out of the ashes of this week’s events, which include revelations of a presidential phone conversation with honourable Georgia election officials who defied Mr Trump’s attempt to unlawfully overturn a fair election, must come a new beginning for the Republican Party.
The foundation of new leadership has emerged in recent weeks. US representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger and a growing number of senators stepped up in defence of American values. They now must redefine the GOP as a party based on principles and ideals and move away from being driven by loyalty to one terribly flawed man.
Social tolerance, constructive engagement on the international stage, rejecting cronyism, embracing free markets with reasonable and modern regulation are good places to start. Advancing centre-right policy solutions on issues outside the GOP’s comfort zone, such as climate change and immigration, will send a message of seriousness. Complaining about far-left Democrats is no substitute for a robust agenda.
It is time to expand the ranks of the adults in the Republican party and retake it from those who continue to embrace anarchy, nativism, cronyism and this ugly form of populism. The image of a rioter walking through the Capitol carrying the Confederate battle flag has indelibly stained the national psyche. I often showed my constituents a bronze plaque next to an outsized bust of Abraham Lincoln located in the Capitol not far from where that flag was displayed. It memorialises military units known as the “honorary first defenders”, including the Allen Rifles from my Pennsylvania hometown. These patriots were the first to answer Lincoln’s 1861 call to defend the Capitol against Confederate rebels. Their noble legacy was trampled upon on Wednesday.
How anyone could support rejection of the certification of the electoral vote after this violent insurrection, with its intent to undermine the peaceful transfer of power and the constitutional order, is beyond me.
A political infrastructure must be constructed to support those leading the reconstruction effort. This struggle will be hard and time consuming. To start, former president George W Bush, former vice-presidents Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle, and every GOP congressperson must attend the Biden inauguration as a sign of national unity and reconciliation. Leadership change at the Republican National Committee and many state committees should follow to remove Trump enablers. None of this will be easy; the RNC’s chair and co-chair were re-elected on Friday. Mop duty is never fun but necessary.
Mr Trump cost the GOP the White House, the House of Representatives and now the Senate. Democrats control the levers of power by the slimmest of majorities. This represents an opportunity for the Republican party to not just block ill-considered Democratic policies but to engage in good faith bipartisan negotiations to reach agreements on cyber security, infrastructure, China and more. Incremental progress can be made in a closely-divided Congress.
It is time to begin again if only to honour Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and the Bushes. These Republican leaders left a legacy of decency and a commitment to the advancement of freedom. Let’s not squander that inheritance. The US needs a healthy GOP more than ever. Time to get to work.