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Opinion | Only Impeachment Can Save Republicans

The institutional case is clear. The president attacked the states, in their right to set their own election procedures. He attacked the courts, state as well as federal, in their right to settle the election challenges brought before them. He attacked Congress, in its right to conduct orderly business free of fear. He attacked the vice president, in his obligation to fulfill his duties under the 12th Amendment. He attacked the American people, in their right to choose the electors who choose the president.

I’ve spent much of my life listening to conservatives extol the Madisonian system of checks and balances, not to mention the rule of law. If these conservatives want to have any claim to be the champions of republican government — as opposed to the “mobocratic spirit” that Lincoln warned against — they have an obligation to impeach Trump now.

The philosophical case is clear. Senator Mitch McConnell was eloquent and right: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral. We’d never see the whole nation accept an election again. Every four years would be a scramble for power at any cost.”

Conservatives who like to see themselves as guardians of Christian ethics might remind themselves of a familiar admonition: “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” If Republicans don’t want to see a future Democratic president attempt what Trump just did, they have an obligation to follow the Golden Rule and impeach him now.

And the political case is clear. Republicans in Congress spent four years prostrate to the lower mind. What, other than the judges who helped affirm the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s election, do they have to show for it? The president, whom they fear, despises them merely for failing to steal the election for him. They are verbally assaulted at airports by the same angry losers whose paranoid fantasies they did so much to stoke. And Republicans will continue to live in political fear of Trump if Congress doesn’t bar him from holding office ever again.

Now they have a chance to make a break — not clean, but at least constructive — with the proven loser in the White House. Not many Republicans deserve this shot at redemption, but they still ought to take it. The G.O.P. came back after Watergate only after its party leaders — Howard Baker, George H.W. Bush, Barry Goldwater — broke unequivocally with Richard Nixon.

You’ll hear Republicans like the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, talk about the need for healing. Fine. But this sort of healing first requires cauterizing the wound. It’s called impeachment. Republicans mustn’t shrink from it.

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