Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
It’s been over a month since Donald Trump was soundly defeated in the 2020 election. Since then, Trump has had numerous days in court to prove his baseless claims of voter fraud or other voter irregularities – yet he has lost again and again.
The Trump-requested recounts in Wisconsin and Georgia have been completed and failed to change the election results. Add to that, Trump’s own notoriously loyal Attorney General Bill Barr announced last week that the Department of Justice had not found election fraud “on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
Yet on Saturday, The Washington Post reported that of the 249 Republicans in the House and the Senate, only 27 acknowledged Joe Biden won the election.
More alarmingly, when these same Republicans were asked if they would accept Biden as the “legitimate” winner of the election if (as expected) he’s awarded enough electoral votes to become the next President, only 32 said yes; 215 gave no answer or were non-committal. (One Republican Congressman, Arizona’s Paul A. Gosar, has said he would never accept Biden as the legitimately elected President.)
The traditional narrative during the Trump presidency is that GOP-elected officials – especially members of Congress – don’t vocally denounce Donald Trump when he does something that should be condemned because they fear him and his base. Some continue to suggest that’s the reason why Republicans remain silent now in the face of Trump’s un-American efforts to overturn the election.
It’s time that narrative be retired and replaced by what appears to be far more accurate: GOP members of Congress are not silent because they fear Trump, they are silent because they agree with him.
While some Republicans may truly fear Trump’s base turning on them, the reality is that many of the GOP members of Congress, like Trump, appear to crave political power at all costs. And if Trump was somehow able to wrest the presidency away from Biden by undemocratic means, they would be all too happy to accept and wield that power.
This is not just my view. As experts on authoritarianism have recently explained, over the years the GOP has increasingly rejected democratic norms and embraced autocratic tactics to acquire and retain power.
A study released in October by experts from the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden documented the GOP’s descent toward authoritarianism. Anna Luehrmann, one of the lead authors of the study, told CNN the GOP’s philosophy of “take all means necessary to achieve our policy” has left it resembling authoritarian ruling parties like Hungary’s Fidesz and Turkey’s AKP.
Luehrmann flagged as alarming the GOP’s “dangerous lack of commitment to democratic norms” and “disrespect of political opponents, the encouragement of violence and also the violation of minority rights,” which, she notes, “have all clearly increased with the Republican Party in recent years.”
More recently, Luehrmann also raised alarm bells over the collective silence of the GOP in the face of Trump’s attacks on the 2020 election results, telling The Washington Post: “That leading Republicans are not willing to defend the electoral process shows that Trump is not the only GOP politician who has a problem with key democratic norms.”
It’s true that a few Congressional Republicans have spoken out, such as frequent Trump critic Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) who called Trump’s actions “undemocratic.” The silence, however, from the majority of Republican Congressional members is deafening.
Look what happened at Trump’s rally Saturday in Georgia, where he spewed a buffet of lies with “fantastical stories about votes in suitcases” and claims the election was “rigged.” When Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, Georgia’s incumbent Republican senators – currently facing a run-off that could determine control of the Senate – were given a chance to speak at the rally, did they denounce Trump’s attacks on our democracy? Of course not.
Loeffler simply urged people to vote on January 5, where she and Perdue are in a tight race against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Perdue went further, as, in a reference to Trump’s fabricated claims of voter fraud, he pledged to make sure Trump would get a “fair, square deal in the state of Georgia.” Loeffler and Perdue are among the 88% of Congressional Republicans who haven’t acknowledged Biden won.
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Trump is not an aberration. He’s a manifestation of where the GOP has been heading. Until we hear GOP members of Congress say otherwise, we must assume they agree with Trump’s agenda of overturning the 2020 election results and getting re-installed as President for four more years.
My message to Democratic leaders is that it’s time to stop being timid about using words like “authoritarian,” “un-American” and perhaps even “fascist” to describe Trump and the GOP’s tactics. The stakes are too high not to call it like it is.