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Many pundits fear American democracy will be in existential danger if Republicans capture one or both houses of Congress in this November's elections. I disagree.

If we make one assumption, these fears make sense. Democracy is only possible if those losing elections are willing to concede, as Marine Le Pen commendably just did in France. Otherwise you just have what is often derogatorily called a "banana republic."

The apparent problem is that so many Republican candidates facing primaries say they agree that the 2020 presidential election was "stolen."

The assumption upon which the fears rest, however, is that these Republican politicians are all expressing their true opinions about 2020. If they really believe the election was stolen, it would be extremely troubling.

This assumption, however, is probably a false one. Americans---including Republicans---- who venture into politics are nearly always above average in intelligence and education, skilled at critical thinking, and able to evaluate the credibility of things other people claim.

As I have often said, our leaders are smarter than they act!

Most Republican candidates probably understand full well that, although Republicans did well in winning other offices, their candidate lost the presidential election, his persistent claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

(If Democrats were able to steal the presidency, why didn't they also steal enough congressional elections to secure majorities in House and Senate too?)

The problem for these candidates is that the former president was a marketing genius who managed to convince a large number of Republican voters that the election was stolen. Like any excellent marketer, he started claiming this well before the election, when his private pollsters predicted he would lose, and repeatedly articulated that claim after the election.

Republican primary voters who have fallen for the lie that 2020 was stolen will likely vote as a bloc against candidates who disagree with them.

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The ideal strategy for Republican candidates who understand that 2020 was not stolen is therefore to pretend they agree with it. Seeking to neutralize the political consequences of the big lie that 2020 was stolen, these candidates are telling smaller lies.

These smaller lies are probably in the general interest, since otherwise candidates who actually believe the big lie might win the primary elections. And thanks to partisan gerrymandering, the extremist candidates could win the general election, even though this is less likely.

Cowardice, never admirable, is far from unusual among politicians, who generally cannot afford to be "profiles in courage."

But this is why I am not contemplating the possibility of a Republican takeover of Congress this November with great dread. Unhappiness, yes, since I disagree with many of their policy preferences. But dread that this will mean the end of American democracy, no.

The basic problem American democracy faces, therefore, is not with its politicians. It is with a public where a substantial minority has been sold a bill of goods by a talented demagogue.

Republican politicians pretending to have swallowed that bill of goods in order to win primary elections are behaving responsibly, in this regard at least. They are good Americans who realize that to save the democracy bequeathed to us by our ancestors, they will have to get their hands dirty.

History will absolve them, just as it has absolved Abraham Lincoln for the unscrupulous things he did to keep the country together and rid it of slavery.

History will absolve them, just as it has absolved Franklin D. Roosevelt for the terrible compromises he had to make with southern members of Congress in order to pull us out of the Depression and win World War II.

As sociologist Max Weber explained, a political career is not for those with weak stomachs.

As Weber put it, politics is indeed a "slow boring of hard boards."