Republicans for Democracy
American democracy may depend on a conservative-liberal alliance.
American democracy may depend on a conservative-liberal alliance.
Liz Cheney opposes most abortions and most gun control. She favors tax cuts for the wealthy and expanded drilling for oil. The right-wing Family Research Council has given her voting record a perfect score. Her political hero is her hawkish father, who was the architect of the second Iraq War.
This description may remind you why you loathe Cheney or have long admired her. Either way, it helps explain why she has become such an important figure for the future of American democracy.
Today is the first anniversary of the violent attack on the Capitol, by a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters who were trying to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election. The mob smashed windows and threatened the vice president and members of Congress. Seven people died as a result of the attack, including three police officers.
The Jan. 6 attack was part of a larger anti-democracy movement in the U.S. In the year since, the movement — which is closely aligned with the Republican Party — has changed some laws and ousted election officials, with the aim of overturning future results. The movement’s supporters justify these actions with lies about voter fraud.
Encouraged by Trump, other Republican politicians and conservative media stars, the anti-democratic movement is following a playbook used by authoritarians in other countries, both recently and historically. The movement is trying to use existing democratic laws — on vote counting and election certification, for example — to unravel democracy.
“We are in a terrible situation in which one of two major parties is no longer committed to playing by democratic rules,” Steven Levitsky — a political scientist and co-author of “How Democracies Die” with his Harvard colleague Daniel Ziblatt — told me. “No other established Western democracy faces such a threat today, not this acutely anyway.”
(Related: “I fear for our democracy,” former President Jimmy Carter writes in Times Opinion.)
The experience of other countries does offer some lessons about how to defeat anti-democratic movements. The most successful approach involves building coalitions of people who disagree, often vehemently, on many issues but who all believe in democracy.
As Ziblatt wrote to me this week:
A classic dilemma of democracy, going back to the mid-20th century, is how to respond to a political party that uses democracy’s very openness to gain power and attack democracy. One response that has worked in the past in other countries in the 1930s (e.g. Belgium, Finland) that have overcome this dilemma is for broadly small-d democratic parties, even with big ideological differences, to overlook their differences in the short run to contain autocratic leaders or parties. Big coalitions are often necessary in the short run.
Trump supporters attacking the Capitol a year ago.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times
This is why Cheney and the rare other elected Republicans combating Trump’s “big lie” are so important. (Here’s a look at the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year.) If the fate of American democracy becomes a partisan contest between Democrats and Republicans, democracy could lose.
In our closely divided and highly polarized country, each party is likely to hold power at some point in coming years. But when the Republican Party does, it may change the rules to ensure that it remains in power, as Trump tried in 2020 and as Viktor Orban has done in Hungary.
Understand the Jan. 6 Investigation
Both the Justice Department and a House select committee are investigating the events of the Capitol riot. Here’s where they stand:
Inside the House Inquiry: From a nondescript office building, the panel has been quietly ramping up its sprawling and elaborate investigation.Criminal Referrals, Explained: Can the House inquiry end in criminal charges? These are some of the issues confronting the committee.Garland’s Remarks: Facing pressure from Democrats, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed that the D.O.J. would pursue its inquiry into the riot “at any level.”A Big Question Remains: Will the Justice Department move beyond charging the rioters themselves?
Only a cross-ideological coalition is likely to prove strong enough to prevent this outcome. A coalition makes it easier for Republican officials across the country to beat back future attempts to overturn elections; when the Cheney family is standing up for democracy, it does not look like just another liberal position.
A broad coalition can also win more votes, keeping anti-democratic politicians out of power. Levitsky is alarmed enough that he believes the authoritarian threat should shape the Democrats’ 2024 campaign strategy, and perhaps its presidential and vice-presidential nominees. Once the authoritarian threat has receded, Americans can focus on their other disagreements, he argues:
There is obviously no easy way out, but in my view the Democrats need to work to forge a broader (small-d) democratic coalition that explicitly and publicly includes all small-d democratic Republicans. This means Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, the Bush establishment network and other conservatives (as well as major business leaders and Christian leaders) need to publicly join and support a fusion ticket with the Democratic Party.
I know that many Democrats will recoil at this idea. Some anti-Trump Republicans will, too. It has real downsides and could forestall progress on other important issues, starting with climate change. I also know that some progressives believe that Liz Cheney and her father have helped create the radicalized Republican Party and are themselves part of the problem with American democracy.
But whatever you think of their policy views, that last claim strikes me as inconsistent with American history. Opposing abortion, gun control and environmental regulation is well within the bounds of this country’s democratic traditions. So is — uncomfortable as this may be to acknowledge — starting a disastrous foreign war, as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did in Iraq, or playing hardball over vote counting, as they did in Florida in 2000. Democratic presidents have done those things, too.
Violently attacking the Capitol is not consistent with American democratic traditions. Nor is trying to airbrush the horror of that attack, as many top Republican officials have. Nor are flamboyant, repeated lies about election results — and promises to act on those lies in the future.
“The vast majority of Americans — Republicans and Democrats — want to live in a country that continues to be characterized by the freedoms that we enjoy and that they are fundamentally faithful to the Constitution,” Cheney told “The Daily.” “It’s a dangerous moment. The stakes are really high.”
You can listen to Cheney’s interview with my colleague Michael Barbaro here.
More on Jan. 6
A year after the attack, Trump remains the G.O.P.’s dominant figure.
Merrick Garland, the U.S. attorney general, vowed to hold the perpetrators of the attack “at any level” accountable.
The House committee investigating the attack aims to release a final report by November.
The attack casts a pall over Congress, Carl Hulse writes. Staff members are frightened to go to work, and lawmakers are checked for weapons.
FiveThirtyEight’s Alex Samuels wrote about the noose, Confederate flag and other symbols of white supremacy at the riot.
Representative Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, spoke to NPR’s Terry Gross about losing his son to suicide days before the attack.
“The Argument” podcast asks if America is sliding toward authoritarianism.
THE LATEST NEWS
Getting a Pfizer shot at a school in the Bronx last year.Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times
The C.D.C. recommended boosters of the Pfizer vaccine for children 12 and up.
A White House official said Americans could start getting reimbursed for at-home Covid tests next week.
A study found that some rapid tests failed to detect Omicron cases early in an infection.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said he wanted to antagonize the unvaccinated, including by barring them from public places.
Australia told Novak Djokovic to leave the country, rejecting his vaccine exemption for the Australian Open. He has appealed the decision.
Other Big Stories
A fire official said 26 people were in the three-story home.Credit…Alejandro A. Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer, via Associated Press
A house fire in Philadelphia killed 12 people, including eight children.
The F.B.I. arrested a man accused of tricking authors into sending him unpublished manuscripts.
The Omicron wave will be different. These charts show how.
Women are told pregnancy gets riskier after 35, but there’s nothing magical about that age, says Jessica Grose.
Ryan Kaji on the set of “Ryan’s Mystery Playdate.”Credit…Ilona Szwarc for The New York Times
Boy King of YouTube: A family has turned toy videos into a multimillion-dollar empire.
Be prepared: How to stay safe if you’re trapped in your car during a snowstorm.
Advice from Wirecutter: Christmas decorations still up? Here’s how to store them.
’85 and up’: At the end of a long life, what matters, and what is noise?
Lives Lived: William Ellinghaus led AT&T at the height of its power and presided over its breakup in the early 1980s. He also helped save New York City from default. Ellinghaus died at 99.
ARTS AND IDEAS
A partial solar eclipse over New York City last year.Credit…Justin Lane/EPA, via Shutterstock
The year in space
Save the date: The James Webb Space Telescope, a modern successor to the Hubble, is set to finish unfolding its massive mirrors in the coming days. Its mission is to peer deeper into space than ever before, in search of light that has been traveling toward us since just after the Big Bang.
Key Figures in the Jan. 6 Inquiry
Michael Flynn. Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser attended an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18 in which participants discussed seizing voting machines and invoking certain national security emergency powers. Mr. Flynn has filed a lawsuit to block the panel’s subpoenas.
The Webb’s deployment is the next event on The Times’s space calendar, which lets you add major astronomical events like meteor showers and rocket launches to your digital calendar.
Michael Roston, the Times editor who leads the project, said one of his favorite events was NASA’s upcoming Psyche mission. “The spacecraft will visit a large asteroid that may have once been a planetary core early in the solar system,” he said. “It’s basically all metal!” — Tom Wright-Piersanti, a Morning editor
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times
This poppy seed tea cake is a throwback to old New York.
The Year in Art
2021’s most memorable illustrations, as chosen by art directors at The Times.
Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx talk about reprising their roles in the latest “Spider-Man” sequel.
The hosts joked about Donald Trump.
Now Time to Play
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was antagonizing. Here is today’s puzzle — or you can play online.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: National flower of the United States (four letters).
If you’re in the mood to play more, find all our games here.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David
P.S. Kathleen Hennessey is joining The Times’s Politics desk as an editor.
Here’s today’s front page.
Natasha Frost, German Lopez, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti, Ashley Wu and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at email@example.com.