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Op-Ed: Forget compromise. The GOP isn’t likely to accept Biden — ever

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at a lectern in front of a row of U.S. flags
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks after meeting with the Senate Republican caucus on Tuesday. Neither he nor most Republicans in Congress acknowledge Joe Biden as president-elect.
(Associated Press )

Anyone who has been following the current Republican-led effort to undermine democracy and orchestrate a coup has probably asked themselves, “When are Republicans going to stand up to Trump and admit that Joe Biden won the election?”

I’m sorry to say, that’s the wrong question, because the answer is never.

Many people have said in recent weeks that it feels like Republicans and Democrats live on completely different planets. I wish it were that simple. In reality, what’s happening is that one side sees a planet where the other sees nothing because they don’t even care to look. Democrats believe in facts, while Republicans have learned to believe in a world they make up for themselves.

Whether or not you agree with them, Democrats are largely defined by positions on issues like education, environment, social justice, healthcare, etc. These are policies that can be debated, though reaching consensus within the party’s ranks is always a struggle. Even now, you see the Democrats squabbling over Biden’s Cabinet appointments.

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The GOP isn’t built for debate — which is why you don’t see any reporting about the GOP being in disarray. But you can’t call this consensus, which would imply agreement achieved after rigorous discussion. At this point, if Trump were to tell his supporters that the Earth is flat and the elitist scientists have been lying all along, they would play along and raise questions about the scientists’ faulty instruments.

This is why, despite zero evidence, the majority of Republicans still believe Trump’s lie that the election was rigged and that he won. A Washington Post survey found that only 26 Republicans, out of 249 in both the House and Senate, would acknowledge Biden’s victory.

At the most basic level, Republicans view the world through the lens of villains and heroes — a posture that gives them an advantage in political warfare. They create the villains and cast themselves as the heroes. For the better part of this decade, Republicans have cast figures like Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton as the enemy. They use words like “socialists” and “extreme” to scare their voters into believing that the Democrats are coming to take away life as they know it.

They operate with the thinking that any attack will send Democrats into retreat mode. They believe the very thing that makes Democrats Democrats is a weakness they can exploit and weaponize. And in some ways, they are right.

Being inclusive, especially as a Democrat, in this political climate is downright tedious and exhausting. I left the GOP four years ago because I could no longer reconcile the party’s words and actions with my moral compass. As I spent more time having conversations with Democrats, I realized a truth I hadn’t been prepared for: Democrats care about — and will argue over — everything.

Republicans, however, have managed to boil down their entire identity into bumper-sticker-ready catchphrases like “build the wall,” “drain the swamp” or the more recent refrain, “stop the steal.”

How have they been able to do this?

Because the Republican Party has no diversity of thought. Getting everyone to march to the same beat is easy because no one would dare challenge the conductor of the orchestra.

During my time working for Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, the committee, led by California Rep. Darrell Issa, unleashed an investigative tsunami against the Obama presidency. These so-called investigations were nothing more than public relations vehicles to attack Obama administration officials.

Whether it was pursuing documents from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner or holding Atty. Gen. Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, I never saw any dissent from the Republicans about the overtly political agenda. If anything, they wanted the committee to be even more aggressive. Members like Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, who have become central figures in Trump world, first rose to prominence on Issa’s oversight committee.

Republicans also don’t have to worry about how their words might hurt or offend someone because they truly do not care. Unlike Democrats, Republicans don’t have to concern themselves with navigating different racial, geographic or socioeconomic boundaries because they don’t like to acknowledge differences. They view the world through the same lens.

According to a new Gallup survey, 89% of Republicans don’t believe the voting process worked well. There is probably no going back from this level of cynicism, and there’s every likelihood that the GOP will spend every moment of the Biden presidency trying to delegitimize him.

The Republicans are already setting up for a comeback. They have unburdened themselves from the limits imposed by inconvenient facts. They see fresh opportunity with a Democratic Party in conflict with itself. If the Democrats aren’t careful, they could lose Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024.

Joe Biden was right. This election was a battle for the soul of our country. That battle has only just begun.

Kurt Bardella is a senior advisor to the Lincoln Project. He is a former aide to California Republican Reps. Darrell Issa and Brian Bilbray and was an aide in the California State Senate and Assembly. @KurtBardella


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