After the Supreme Court declined to hear a suit filed by Texas’ attorney general attempting to overturn the results of November’s election, Texas GOP Chairman Allen West posted a response that sent shockwaves throughout the nation. West admonished the court for letting supposedly “unconstitutional” actions go unpunished, before suggesting that “law-abiding states… bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.” In other words, secede.
This may seem like an isolated incident, but it’s not. Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh expressed similar sentiments during his show this month, announcing that he sees the nation “trending toward secession” over political differences. One Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives has declared that he will introduce legislation to allow the state to secede from the union, though it would be a largely symbolic measure.
Any state successfully seceding from the union is, of course, a ridiculous notion, and it may seem that those suggesting it are the radicals and whack jobs of the Republican Party. However, the fact that they are so open about sentiment that is so blatantly treasonous points to a troubling trend for Republicans, one they will have to grapple with even in the months and years after Trump leaves office: the fervor of radicalism.
It is thus largely unsurprising that 19 state attorneys generals and 126 members of Congress, all Republicans, backed that second lawsuit from the Texas attorney general; it’s not as if they had much of a choice. If they refused to sign on, they would easily be labeled as “anti-Trump” or “RINOs” (Republicans In Name Only) and could be defeated in a primary election by a more stalwart supporter of the president. Given that recent polling suggests that 61% of Republican voters are “not at all confident in the election’s fairness and accuracy,” supporting Trump’s lawsuit was, from a political standpoint, common sense.
However, the question of whether this is a sustainable strategy in the long-term has no clear answer. The president has already started asking his supporters whether he should run again in 2024, to which their answer will presumably be an overwhelming yes given just how strongly they feel about him. Now that the dust has settled, and Joe Biden is all but sworn in as our next president, the decisions they make in the next couple of months will determine the fate of their party and thus, the fate of our country. I see two possible scenarios.
First, they stand up. There is growing hope that this could happen, especially since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulated Biden on becoming president-elect. However, for his party to well and truly survive the next few election cycles, they will need to unify behind that message. They’re going to need more than Mitch McConnell; they’re going to need Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise and Dan Bishop. They’re going to need widespread agreement that the election is over and that the party must move past it. After all, there is strength in numbers, and Twitter’s character count could make sure that Donald Trump can’t publicly lambast all of them. Now is the time for them to reclaim their party and reorient it towards its traditional values rather than their main policy position: assaulting democracy.
However, Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise and Dan Bishop haven’t chosen the first option. They’ve chosen the second option: give into the chaos. Embrace the radical lunacy of the conspiracy theorists and MAGA-hat bearers and cry “fraud” until the cows come home. This might, as I said before, be the best option in the short-term. However, looking long-term, none of the ways that this ends bode well for anyone, even Republicans. Why? Because of people like Allen West.
Opposing the results of an election isn’t like opposing a policy or a politician’s personal scandal because you’re not just resisting a party, you’re resisting the institution itself. This is no longer a political act, it is inherently an anti-political act, and, by giving into this sentiment, Republicans become the anti-political party. That means that Republican voters might not secede from the union in reality, but do so in practice. They put a complete end to their participation in the federal government, which not only means that they upend the system of federalism on which our country relies, but also that they stop voting for the Republicans that need them.
That’s the best-case scenario. The worst case is that the post-election violence that has so far been isolated to a few incidents grows into a nationwide phenomenon. Egged on by politicians that refuse to de-vow their actions, the same people that descended on the home of Michigan’s Secretary of State with guns in hand, the same people that turned downtown D.C. into a storm of violence, may continue to grow more and more aggressive. That would not only mean that innocent lives are lost but that our government becomes paralyzed as it has to deal with a pandemic, an economic disaster and what effectively amounts to a civil war.
Whether or not Republican politicians decide to put an end to this nonsense, the next few months are going to be hard. At least a vocal minority of President Trump’s supporters will persist in denying the results of the election for years to come. Nevertheless, if our politicians can at least band together to say that they will work together to solve issues regardless of who the president may be, we might be able to stave off the worst possible result. However, until then, polarization will only grow, and America’s descent into chaos will grow along with it.
This story was originally published on Wayland Student Press on January 7, 2021.