I am not a Republican, but in today’s politics, with our democracy in the cross-hairs, I do think about the Grand Old Party of the past.
Nobody should be nostalgic for the good old days of Richard Nixon, or Iran-Contra, or George Bush’s “Wednesday: good-day-to-start-a-war,” disaster in Iraq. But there was a time when Republicans, along with most everyone else in the country, shared a basic principle: we live in a democratic republic and persuasion, within the norms of that system, was the way to political power.
History shows that ideal was often beyond our reach, but we clearly and publicly shared the same desire to make life better for everyone. We just had different ideas about how to get there.
But not anymore.
I realize I’m not saying anything original, or even new. Liz Cheney made the case, and then became Exhibit A. If you aren’t all-in on the Trump version of reality—most importantly the Big Lie—there is no place for you in the Republican Party. Take it or leave it. Period.
The harm lies in how thoroughly this attitude has insinuated itself into even the lowest levels of the party. In Lyon County, where I live in northern Nevada, you don’t have to look very hard or very far to find Republicans who have not only adjusted comfortably to this new version of their party, but they’re enthusiastic participants in a personality cult which is, to steal a phrase, not their fathers’ political party.
For a small, but telling example, look no further than the flyer posted on the Lyon County Republican Party Facebook page, advertising the upcoming Lincoln Day Dinner. It is, we are told, being held in “Recognition of our 45th President Donald J. Trump’s birthday.”
The ex-president’s photo occupies a central place on the flyer, right under “Honoring Abraham Lincoln.” This is not just brutal irony. It is calculated ignorance, the denial of past historical fact that sets the stage for denying reality today.
The only thing missing is a Confederate flag, like the one Trump supporters paraded through the Capital on January 6 when they attacked us—the American people—and our democracy.
The special guest speaker is Michael McDonald, Nevada GOP Chairman, whose responsibilities include keeping the Nevada version of the Big Lie alive. He was one of several Republican officials who delivered what they said were 120,000 election fraud complaints to the Secretary of State in March. Although they filled four boxes, there were in reality only about 4,000 of them, and once these were examined only a handful warranted further investigation. Mr. McDonald and his colleagues then proceeded to officially censure the Republican Secretary of State for her trouble in sorting out the mess they dropped in her lap.
The Lyon County Commission—all five of them Republicans—also took their shot at promoting the Big Lie. One very vocal-on-social-media Commissioner was certain scores of dead people were voting in Lyon County, or at the very least the County Clerk was making no effort to stop them. She did set him straight at the November, 2020 Commission meeting, when the final election results were being approved. His work done, said Commissioner did say he meant no criticism, and offered an apology.
The meeting also included an absurd attempt by the Republican minority leader in the Assembly, who happens to be a Lyon County resident, to convince the Commissioners to add a caveat to their approval of the vote stating the results weren’t accurate. Again, the County Clerk was having none of it.
As we know, Joe Biden was elected president, although Donald Trump won handily in Lyon County. In the midst of Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the election, his one-time national security advisor, and beneficiary of a presidential pardon, seriously advocated the declaration of martial law, nullification of the election, and a do-over under military supervision. That same, vocal Lyon County Commissioner posted on social media that “I think this would be a good idea.”
I wish this was all just cherry-picking a comment here or there, and getting laughs at the expense of politicians. I wish it was something we, as Lyon County residents, could just dismiss and get on with our business. The problem is the decisions the county commissioners make—more than any other level of government—have the most direct impacts on day to day life. They deal with land use issues that can end up changing whole neighborhoods, fire and police protection, and a whole range of other regulations, big and small.
So what happens when you have an issue before the Commissioners—five staunch members of a party whose leaders not only regularly deny reality, but question the very rules of democracy? We cannot know where this abandonment of principle ends, nor do they, because the limits—if there are any—come only from one man, and only at his choosing.
Our Republican County Clerk, for one, is an exception. So is the Secretary of State. I hope the Commissioners take their examples to heart. I hope the people of Lyon County, Republicans in particular, demand that their elected officials remember their duty is to all the citizens of Lyon County, not just the people who voted for them, and certainly not to the extremist faction of a political party that has left reality and faith in democratic principles in the dust bin.
Erich Obermayr is an author, community activist, and career archaeologist specializing in sharing historical and archaeological research with the public. He writes about Nevada politics and social issues. He lives in Silver City, Nevada, with his wife.
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