Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NB) is never going to be an ally for LGBTQ rights. He has a zero rating from HRC for his voting record in the last Congress. When he first ran for Senate, Sasse declared that “marriage is defined by God and it predates government.”
Then there’s Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). HRC gave him a paltry 11 percent for his voting record. Or there’s Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), who ran a homophobic smear campaign just last year against his gay opponent.
However, all of these Republicans have one thing that can be said in their favor. They are among the handful in their party who are willing to stand up to Donald Trump and the authoritarian extremism that has taken hold of the GOP.
Cheney, Kinzinger, and Upton all voted to impeach Trump. Sasse has blasted the party’s “weird worship of one dude,” which he described as “this ‘civic cancer’ for the nation” that is “also terrible for our party.” Sasse was one of just six Republicans who voted to move forward with the Senate trial for Trump.
These Republicans deserve credit for being truth-tellers and holding Trump accountable for the insurrection last month.
They will likely pay a steep price for their willingness to say publicly what many of their colleagues are only willing to say in private. Both Sasse and Cheney are under attack by their state party for their apostasy. All of the House Republicans who voted in favor of impeachment and all the Senate Republicans who may vote to convict can expect a primary challenge.
As bad as these Republicans are in terms of policy, they at least are trying to rescue the GOP from becoming completely controlled by what Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson calls “a crypto-fascist sect with Mar-a-Lago as its Jerusalem.”
The more the Republican party devolves into a Trump cult animated by conspiracies, white supremacy, and religious extremism, the worse it will be for the country and democracy. The MAGA army has shown that it has no qualms embracing violence. The efforts of feckless politicians like House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to make nice with Trump and his acolytes only allows the extremism to extend its grip on the party.
This isn’t to let Sasse, Cheney, and the rest off the hook entirely. (Sasse is pretty extreme in his own right.) For a long time, they were willing to go along with Trump, vote for his radical judicial nominees, and pretend his tweets were the sign of a damaged individual. Even Sasse, who had been a consistent critic of Trump, eventually ended sucking up to him.
At least these rogue Republicans were willing to say that Trump crossed a line with the insurrection and lies of electoral fraud. You can argue (rightfully) that Trump crossed the line long before that.
But the insurrection was a historical attack on the seat of democracy. If you can’t call Trump out for that – and apparently a majority of Republicans in Congress cannot – you have essentially turned a blind eye to one of the darkest days in the country’s history.
Maybe it’s not three cheers for the small band of Republicans standing up to Trump, but they deserve at least one cheer. They are willing to stand up for the basic premise of how our democracy should function and how a president should behave.
That doesn’t mean that these Republicans should win our vote when they come up for re-election. On LGBTQ policy alone they wouldn’t deserve it. But on this one point at least, they should earn our respect.