Why this newspaper couldn’t bring itself to endorse any Republicans

So at first glance, the fact that the Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial board didn’t endorse a single Republican ahead of Tuesday’s primaries in the Keystone State isn’t terribly surprising.

But in an op-ed explaining its decision, the Inquirer shines a bright light on a fundamental fact of our current political moment that is too often overlooked: We can’t even agree on some of the most basic facts undergirding our democracy.

As part of their endorsement process, the Inquirer editorial board sent Senate and gubernatorial candidates a questionnaire designed to outline some basic policy positions. One of the questions was, “Who won the 2020 presidential election,” with the options being Joe Biden (the correct answer) and Donald Trump. Only one Republican running for Senate — longshot Jeff Bartos — acknowledged Biden won. Among the Republican candidates for governor, three — none of whom are given much of a chance of being the nominee — responded to the survey and said that Biden won.

“How do you find points of agreement when you can’t reach common ground on facts so basic that they could be used in a field sobriety test? …

… There is no inherent virtue in supporting the policies that this board supports — but that’s not the point. The question isn’t how can more people agree with us, but how can this nation come to a place where we reach different conclusions and hold different opinions while operating from the same commonly shared set of facts? We don’t have an answer.”

Which is a very important point — and a seismic shift in the way the two parties relate to both one another and the broader political world.

Start here: We have two political parties in this country for a reason. They represent, in aggregate, two opposing views of the role government should play in an individual’s life. That they do not agree on this vision is a good thing — offering every person in the country a choice of how they want to live in our society.

At times throughout our history, one side had been ascendant — Democrats in the New Deal era, Republicans during the Ronald Reagan years — but never have we been where we find ourselves today: With members of one party simply unwilling to acknowledge a fact as basic as who won the last election.

There’s a tendency, of course, to suffer from recency bias when examining the state of our country and our politics. Everything that happening to you seems like the biggest deal possible — and entirely unique in the sweep of history.

But the thing that the Inquirer op-ed makes clear is that we really are in a historic moment — and not the good kind.

Since the 2020 election, Trump has not only steadfastly refused to acknowledge his defeat, but has turned that election denialism into a litmus test for his much-coveted endorsement.

Take today’s primary for governor in Pennsylvania. Trump has endorsed state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who not only wrongly insists that the election was stolen from Trump and worked to overturn the result in the state, but also was seen near the US Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. Mastriano, thanks to that Trump endorsement, is favored to become Republican nominee — which means he has a decent chance at being the battleground state’s next governor, in place for what could be a 2024 rematch between Trump and Biden.

The metaphor I keep coming back to as a means of explaining where we are is a basketball game. One team, the Democrats, is generally trying to abide by the rules — no traveling, double dribbles or illegal screens. The other team, the Republicans, aren’t even acknowledging that rules of the game exist. They are just doing whatever they want on the court and saying they’re right.

What you have then is not a game of basketball. Or a game of anything. Because if the two sides can’t agree on the underlying rules, well, then you can’t play a game.

There’s a tendency in politics to think of the two political parties on a spectrum, with Democrats on the left and Republicans on the right. But that image is not useful when it comes to understanding where we are in this moment. Because what Republicans are embracing in the “big lie” isn’t conservative in any way, shape or form. It’s not even on the political spectrum. It’s a denial of basic truth and facts that have always been at the center of the vitality of American democracy.

“We were all operating in the same reality,” reads the Inquirer op-ed, reminiscing on elections past. “That can’t be said in 2022.”

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