The Electoral College declared Joe Biden the winner of this year’s presidential election. For rational people, it was no surprise. For too many Republicans, it was the continuation of a huge conspiracy to steal the election from the American people. They’ve never really been able to articulate how the fraud occurred or who led this secret insurgency of millions, but they are sure it happened. 

For those Republicans not living in the fever swamp, they’ve already accepted Biden’s victory. Now, they are trying to minimize the damage their fellow Republicans are doing to our democracy. The two dominant themes coming out of traditional conservative publications and twitter personalities are denial and whataboutism. 

One sentiment claims that the mainstream media and Democrats made a big deal over nothing. The system held, as, of course, they always knew it would. They point to the judges who dismissed cases and the Supreme Court that outright rejected even entertaining the wacky conspiracy theories. We were never at the brink of losing our democracy, they claim, and the stress test we just went through proves the resiliency of our system. They blame the press for making more of the situation than was warranted.

The other argument claims Democrats did much the same thing four years ago. They point to tweets and emails from activists and some Clinton campaign officials discussing the possibility of faithless electors throwing the election to Clinton. They claim the Russia investigation and then the impeachment were more evidence of Democrats trying to undermine the will of the people. What’s happening now is no different. 

Both are bad takes. While the “system held” crowd is right that the layers of our government ultimately protected our democracy, they ignore the fact that the President of the United States and a majority of the Republican Party wanted to overturn the will of the people and destroy our electoral system. The actions bordered on sedition. They offer no consequences for the bad behavior of top elected officials and seem content to exist in a party that based on lies and distortions so long as they get their tax cuts and deregulation. They are in a state of denial about the seriousness of the actions of Trump and company and refuse to demand accountability for their actions. 

The whataboutism of the “Democrats did it, too,” crowd downplays the fact that the people who signed onto the GOP’s attempt are not just activists and loyalists. They are the most powerful people in the world. In Commentary Magazine, Noah Rothman writes, “As with the plotters in 2016, the threat posed by Trump’s brand of agitation is its potential to radicalize individuals prone to radicalization.” Those individuals include almost the entire North Carolina GOP Congressional delegation. The individuals prone to radicalization are the leaders of the Republican Party. 

The assault on our election by the President of the United States, the attorneys general of 19 states, and more than half the Republican Members of the U.S. House of Representatives is unprecedented and unpatriotic. Mainstream conservatives and more rational Republicans should stop downplaying the actions of the would-be authoritarians in their midst. If they want to save their party, they need to address the problems that led to Trump. First, though, they must admit there’s a problem. 

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