I take the censure as further evidence that the Democratic Party, if it wants to protect small-d democracy, must try to save the Republican Party from itself. To have a functioning democracy, the United States needs a responsible right-of-center party, which is willing to engage in electoral competition according to the rules, a well as a left-of-center party that does the same. Alternatively, the United States could move towards a multi-party democracy along the lines that Lee Drutman, among others, has suggested. But it doesn’t suffice for Democrats simply to condemn the GOP as anti-democratic. The task for Democrats is to take on the project of figuring out how to return the Republican Party to small-d democratic premises, when regrettably the Republican Party is clearly incapable of doing this on its own.
The answer, it seems to me, must lie in some sort of institutional reform that liberates the Republican Party that is causing it to bend to the anti-democratic pressures within it, when it’s clearly that there are elements within the party (like Lindsey Graham and Kevin McCarthy) who are doing this bending even though we’ve seen signs that they would prefer not to. It’s fine (even necessary) to condemn the GOP when it acts contrary to small-d democratic values, as it has with its censure of Cheney and Kinzinger. But this condemnation, by itself, won’t fix the problem: as has been proven again and again since January 6, this kind of condemnation won’t make the GOP any less anti-democratic or reduce the risk of losing democracy because a GOP dominated by anti-democratic forces manages to gain power through the procedural weaknesses of America’s plurality-winner electoral system. Every capital-D Democrat who professes to be worried about the future of American democracy should be asking: what changes in electoral procedures would most likely save the Republican Party, as America’s inevitably necessary right-of-center party, from the anti-democratic forces that are currently destroying it?