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Column: Democracy-loving conservatives must split from GOP

Column: Democracy-loving conservatives must split from GOP

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As Donald Trump’s Republican Party descends into madness, dragged down by the president’s lies, threats and possible mental illness, it’s become hard to imagine democracy-loving conservatives continuing to live in the same house. They’re in a marriage that can’t be saved.

The framework for a new party is already up, thanks to the seasoned Republican operatives behind the never-Trump movement. They can establish a safe space for the likes of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, among others. And their tribe will increase.

The new bloc could call itself the Lincoln Party or the Elephant Party or even the New Republican Party. Meanwhile, its leaders could reassure conservatives that a divorce from the Trump cult would not necessarily lead to splitting their votes. On the contrary.

First off, the Trump wing isn’t conservative. It’s radical right. There’s nothing conservative about a personality cult willing to grovel before an authoritarian thug. Stalin was a communist.

Moreover, America’s conservative institutions have already turned against Trump. All 10 living former defense secretaries, including two who served under Trump — Jim Mattis and Mark Esper — have joined to warn against overturning the election results. And don’t even think, they said, about using the military to keep Trump in office.

Almost 200 top business executives, many of them heavy donors to the Republican Party, issued a letter urging Congress to certify Joe Biden’s win and cooperate in the transition to the new administration.

A new center-right party could attract some of the former Republicans who’ve turned independent in recent years. Last year, for the first time, more Americans were registered as independent than Republican. Many of them could conceivably join a traditional party more resembling the one they left.

The spectacle of Trump enforcers menacing good Republicans cannot have enhanced party membership. Trump scraped the bottom when he delivered a Mafia-style threat of criminal action against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger if he didn’t throw the state’s election results his way. (That creep show certainly could have enhanced the Democrats’ vote counts in the U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia.)

And what about moderate Democrats? They’re known to split tickets. All six New England states have become reliably blue in national elections, yet three of them have very popular Republican governors. Same story in Maryland. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, for one, probably wouldn’t mind a different party ID.

The point is that many Democrats are happy to cross party lines on the state and local level if the candidates are pragmatic and socially liberal. A new centrist party could attract Democrats aggravated by their party’s woke left fringe. It would have to come to terms with guaranteed health coverage and addressing the climate crisis, but center-right parties in Europe went there long ago.

True conservatives must know that any dream of taking back the Republican Party as the Trump clown car leaves town is futile. That’s because it’s not one car but nearly the entire showroom. Over 100 Republican congressmen participated in the outrageous effort to ignore the Electoral College results. And 87 percent of self-identified Republicans approve of Trump, according to the latest Gallup poll. There’s not much there to take back.

They should also realize that being called a RINO — Republican in Name Only — has lost its sting. The shine is truly off the Republican label.

And so, leave the banners and the old Republican letterhead behind and start anew. America needs a center-right party to rein in Democratic excesses. Now and forever, pro-democracy Republicans need to work with Democrats to ensure the survival of the republic.

And their survival requires that they get out of that house.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com.

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