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In this Jan. 4, 2021, file photo, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., center, joins other freshman Republican House members for a group photo at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

While contending with a persistent sickness, American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote to a friend, "It is not true that life is one damn thing after another — it's one damn thing over and over."

Her message was obviously cynical, and yet easily transferable to politics, especially after articles by three publications following the Nov. 3 election.

On Dec. 26, by The Associated Press: "Despite Smooth Election, GOP Leaders Still Seek Vote Restrictions."

From Politico on Jan. 24: "State Republicans Push New Voting Restrictions After Trump's Loss."

And finally, a Jan. 31 New York Times report: "G.O.P. is Full Speed Ahead on Seeking Voting Limits."

Those reports are hardly surprising, given the GOP's history of enacting voter suppression measures. To paraphrase the title of a Vern Gosdin song, "This ain't their first rodeo."

To be fair, Republicans are hardly alone in seeking to manipulate elections to their political advantage. In the post-Civil War South, states run by Democrats passed Jim Crow laws that denied Blacks the right to vote, one of many segregationist tactics they enacted.

The disenfranchisement of Blacks was backed up by violence in the 1960s when Martin Luther King Jr. and others launched peaceful demonstrations demanding the right to vote. Their cause succeeded with congressional passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In the Senate, 47 Democrats and 30 Republicans voted yes; only Democrats representing Southern states voted against it. The House vote was equally lopsided: 221 Democrats and 112 Republicans voted for the bill, and 85 against.

Decades later, the sentiment has changed. In state legislatures where Republicans hold a majority, recurring efforts ostensibly offered to prevent virtually non-existent voter "fraud" have proliferated.

Now, just weeks after the election in which voters repudiated President Trump, and after two previously Republican states, Arizona and Georgia turned blue, giving Democrats control of the Senate, the GOP is scrambling.

One problem: The party is at war with itself.

Republicans are acutely aware that Trump's obsessive embrace of conspiracy theories are undermining the party's cohesiveness in two distinct ways.

His dismissive attitude toward American democracy began right after the 2016 election when he claimed the election was "rigged" because Hillary Clinton received a larger share of the popular vote than he did (but fewer electoral votes).

In July, a businessinsider.com headline stated, "Trump hints that he could refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election if he loses."

Sure enough, when millions of Americans turned out to elect Joe Biden as president, Trump's obsessiveness went viral. His consigliere, Rudy Giuliani, filed one doomed lawsuit after another that trumpeted fraud in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia and elsewhere. Even after the states and Congress certified the electoral votes, Trump clung to the fiction that he had won.

Now, after that deadly insurrection at the Capitol and a not-unexpected acquittal of a second impeachment, Republicans are at a seeming impasse.

Many congressional Republicans are still wary of the Trump "base," fearing their willingness to primary GOP incumbents deemed insufficiently loyal to the former president. The 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the Capitol insurrection and seven GOP senators who voted to convict him are prime targets of that tactic.

Ironically, the more President Biden ensures the vaccination of most Americans against the COVID virus by mid-summer, gets students back in classrooms as soon as possible and rolls out a stimulus package intended to revive the nation's upended economy, the signs of a return to a "new normal" might be just the thing to calm the chaos that has spread nationwide for nearly a year.

It's uncertain whether Republican state legislators will rethink the wisdom of enacting partisan legislation making it harder for people to vote. But then, how did restrictive election laws work out for the party last year? The nation needs two parties who are respectful competitors motivated to help heal a nation riven by a deadly virus — and political chaos.

Michael Loftin is a former opinion page editor for The Chattanooga Times.

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