“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me”. Any student of history will quickly recognise these words as those of Martin Niemöller, the Lutheran Pastor in Nazi Germany. He was most probably commenting on the Gestapo tactics in the Third Reich and lamenting his own complicity in that regard by not admonishing the practice. Niemöller’s fundamental hypothesis was that whenever there is a sinful or wrongful act, one should always speak out and stand up against it, without the pressure to curry favour or fear of criticism! It is quite a stretch from Niemöller’s quote to the Republican party but unfortunately the US presidential election in 2020 makes that stretch tenable. Consider. Even before the November election, Donald Trump was pandering lies about the electoral process and questioning its integrity. So there was no surprise that he doubled down on his rhetoric after he lost the presidency to Joe Biden. Throughout this whole debacle, Republicans have been conspicuous by their absence and by their lack of speaking out and standing up against Trump. Even after he lost the election and even after when they saw how Trump threw his former cabinet members and confidants under the bus one by one! Firings on Twitter anyone?! Thus, the Republican party in general and Trump’s hardcore sycophants in particular, have a lot to answer for. That some had to wait until the Capitol Hill insurrection to rebuke Trump is bewildering at best – surely that which was wrong after the assault must have also been wrong before the assault! To reflect the current state of affairs in the Republican party, Michael Gerson – from the Washington Post – calls out three stages of Republican political timidity. First, feral cowardice – ‘a flight or fight’ response seen in the wild-eyed Republican senators asked to comment on the president’s latest insane or destructive tweet. Second, calculating cowardice – here an elected Republican hopes he or she can refuse comment in the several days after a presidential outrage. Third, complicit cowardice – this is defined by silence in the face of presidential attacks on the constitutional order, something that can be construed as approval and permission. Without fail, almost all members of the GOP fall within a particular stage. Even after the Capitol riot, the likes of the Ted Cruz’s of this world are still hell bent to remain in complicit cowardice mode! They must remember that government of the people, by the people, for the people functions because of moral restraint in power not only by law but also by ethics Even before the Capitol Hill siege, the Georgia senatorial runoff elections were an indication of the kind of firm grip Donald Trump had on the Republican party, including future elections. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the two Republican candidates lost but they quite clearly displayed at-least ‘feral cowardice’ to Trump’s insinuations of election fraud in Georgia including repeating the same lie in a leaked call to Georgia election officials. Now, the fallout from the insurgency at the Capitol and the two Democratic victories in Georgia must give the GOP stalwarts a moment to pause. Do they really want a party hanging onto the coattails of Donald Trump? Is it worth the price to alienate independents and moderate Republicans? Is he more of a liability than an asset? Is this the way the Republican party can carve out a respectable future? These are not easy questions to answer especially when Trump has bullied so many of his own party into submission over the last four years and the fact that still just under half of the population supports him wholeheartedly! Because of this, majority of the GOP hopefuls realise that the path to winning future elections may go through hardcore Trump supporters. And to walk that path, they need Donald Trump’s blessing and all his prowess to raise campaign funds – thus political expediency trumps moral arguments! Another nightmare that must keep up the Republican National Committee at night is to see Trump running as an independent presidential candidate in 2024 and taking all his supporters with him! Afterall, if he has his supporters then why would he need the GOP? Hence, they can’t afford to poke the old bear too hard! Moreover, dumping Trump may not necessarily mean going back to saner politics. It is quite conceivable that another MAGA (Make America Great Again) devotee comes to the fore, to whom all Republicans have to bow! Ted Cruz anyone?!! But all Republicans must remember one thing – the soul of the Republican party is at stake. They must remember that democracy depends on democratic values as much as it depends on democratic institutions. They must remember that government of the people, by the people, for the people functions because of moral restraint in power not only by law but also by ethics. They must remember that democracy needs to be reaffirmed in every generation by reiterating the principles that shaped it. Only with this introspection, the GOP will forge a decent path ahead and jettison the cruel, condescending and brutal opportunistic thuggery that was the hallmark of the last four years.