During an appearance on Fox Monday night, former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was asked for her take on the ongoing fight between Donald Trump and Mike Pence over the 2020 election and its aftermath. Here’s the key part of what she said:
“I will always say, I’m not a fan of Republicans going after Republicans because the only ones that win when that happens are the Democrats and the media, and we have to keep our eyes on 2022.”
Which, OK. She’s not wrong from a purely political standpoint. But she is also sort of missing the point – and, in so doing, minimizing exactly what’s at stake here.
We are not talking about a policy disagreement between Trump and Pence. This isn’t about immigration or trade or education. At root, this fight is about the health of American democracy.
Trump is saying that Pence was within his constitutional rights to reject some of the electors on January 6, 2021. Pence is saying that to do so would have been to ignore not just the Constitution, but also the will of the public, which elected Joe Biden.
The stakes of that fight are massive. It’s about protecting both free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power – two traits that sit at the heart of American democracy.
And it’s not a “reasonable people can disagree” sort of issue. On one side are people who see that the Constitution gives the vice president a purely ceremonial role in the counting of the Electoral College votes. On the other side are those who would overrun that prescribed role in pursuit of furthering their own political interests.
Haley is far from the only culprit here. Asked Monday about the Republican National Committee’s decision to censure Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their roles on the January 6 committee, Texas Sen. John Cornyn told CNN, “I think Republicans ought to stop shooting at Republicans.”
Which, again, isn’t wrong politically. The more Republicans fight amongst themselves, the less time they dedicate to shining a light on Biden and the Democrats.
But it fundamentally misunderstands – and underestimates – what is going on here.
The battle lines here are not Trump versus Pence or the RNC versus Cheney and Kinzinger. It’s democracy versus an attempt to overthrow that democracy.
Republicans – up to and including Haley – do a disservice to the fight for democracy when they paint the debate between Pence and Trump in standard political terms. This is about way more than just an internecine fight within the GOP.