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During the campaign, Joe Biden framed the November election as a "battle for the soul of America,” and so it was. But a battle is not the war. The toxicity that brought us to the events of Jan. 6 is still out there and has a home in the Republican Party. In a recent poll, about 60% of Republicans said they believed the election had been “stolen” from Donald Trump.
This isn’t sustainable. Democracy cannot survive if only one party is devoted to it. As democrats — note the small “d” — we all need to make a special effort to encourage the forces of democracy wherever we find them.
As it happens, we now have an opportunity to do just that.
Michael Wood's run for Congress
Michael Wood is a Republican running for Congress in a May 1 special election in the 6th Texas Congressional District. Since it's a special election, it's what's sometimes called a "jungle primary" where all candidates, regardless of party, compete in one election and then the top two, assuming nobody gets more than 50%, advance to a runoff.
Wood is a conservative Republican, but he has based his campaign around disgust for Trump's anti-democratic behavior: “The country needs a strong, sane GOP that is not a Trump cult of personality or just a vehicle for ‘owning the libs’.”
He also publicly condemns Trump as a demagogue and places the responsibility for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol squarely on Trump’s shoulders.
Wood is absolutely clear-eyed on what is wrong with the Republican Party, and he’s charging right up the middle while lesser Republicans run and hide: “I joined the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan. I refuse to give it over to QAnon, Marjorie Taylor Greene, or the Trump family.”
This is not the sort of rhetoric we are used to hearing from Republican candidates. If we democrats want to hear more of it, it is up to us to nurture it and support it, not just with thoughts and prayers but with cash and votes.
There are 10 Democrats and 11 Republicans running in this special election. Several of them are former Trump officials. If a Democrat wins — an unlikely outcome; the seat has been held by Republicans since 1983 — it’s a mild rebuke to the Republican Party and one more Democratic vote in the House. If a Trumpy Republican wins — the most likely outcome — it’s business as usual.
But if Michael Wood wins, it’s a political earthquake, a public slap in the face for Donald Trump, and a call to arms for democrats everywhere in America, regardless of their political party.
More democratic Republicans
Does Wood’s quixotic campaign have a chance? Yes. For one thing, there are more democratic Republicans out there than you might think. Outrageous norm-breaking always gets more press than principled decency, but the real story of the November election wasn’t the baseless and often downright insane claims of election fraud — it was the dogged refusal of many state and local Republican officials to give in to them, despite almost unimaginable pressure.
But the real key to Wood’s victory will be whether Democrats choose to support him. And they should. The dividing line in American politics is no longer Republican/Democrat or even progressive/conservative. In post-Jan. 6 America, the dividing line is between those who are defending American democracy and those who are trying to subvert it. So if you live in the 6th Texas Congressional District, vote for Michael Wood on May 1, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat. If you live in America, donate to his campaign.
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Democrats are fond of saying that Republicans need to clean up their own mess, and that’s true. But this doesn’t mean that democrats of whatever political persuasion ought to be idle bystanders. Michael Wood is fighting for American democracy — not just for Republicans, but for all of us. Don’t let him fight alone.
Republican Chris Truax, an appellate lawyer in San Diego, is a legal adviser for The Guardrails of Democracy Project, CEO of CertifiedVoter.com, a legal adviser and spokesman for Republicans for the Rule of Law, and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Anti-Trump Republican in Texas can help clean up the Republican Party