Rep. Liz Cheney’s official portraitPhoto: US House Office of Photography
Rep. Liz Cheney’s (R-WY) days as a leader in the House Republican Conference are essentially numbered.
Cheney, the current number three person in House Republican leadership as the Republican Conference chair, has committed the unpardonable sin of refusing to forget former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overthrow last year’s election results, and inciting a violent insurrection in January to that end.
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“The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution,” Cheney wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
Continuing to promulgate the lie that the election was stolen “might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes,” Cheney wrote before adding, “that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country.”
For her advocacy to protect the legitimacy of our elections, Cheney is about to be thrown underneath the Republican bus. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, perhaps the most feckless representative in Congress today, was caught on a hot mic saying, “I’ve had it with her.”
The feeling is mutual: Cheney, in her op-ed, noted that McCarthy “changed his story” about Trump’s culpability in the insurrection after his failed impeachment.
There is a certain delight in seeing Cheney being defenestrated, given her own willingness to trash her sister Mary for political gain. When Cheney was running for Senate in 2013, she made a point of calling out her opposition to marriage equality, even though Mary had married her partner Heather Poe.
By contrast, the father to the two sisters, former vice president Dick Cheney, had been generally supportive of marriage equality, in a low-key way.
“I love Mary very much, I love her family very much. This is just an issue on which we disagree,” Liz said at the time. That prompted a fierce rebuke from Heather (and presumably, Mary, by extension).
“Liz has been a guest in our home, has spent time and shared holidays with our children, and when Mary and I got married in 2012 — she didn’t hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us,” Poe wrote in a Facebook post.
“To have her now say she doesn’t support our right to marry is offensive to say the least.”
It’s unclear that the rift has ever been healed. Not only did Liz Cheney alienate her sister, she didn’t succeed in her campaign, ultimately withdrawing from the Senate race. She was elected to Congress as a representative in 2016.
By many accounts, Cheney is never going to win a ‘Miss Congeniality’ contest. She inherited her father’s certainty of purpose, as well as his hawkish views. A glad-hander, people-pleaser she is not. But Republicans were willing to overlook her criticisms of Trump and her vote last January for his impeachment — as long as she kept quiet.
The party’s mantra now is that it’s time to move on, as if an attack on the citadel of democracy was nothing more than a bad case of indigestion.
Cheney recognizes that the party is abandoning the rule of law (her phrase) and drifting toward authoritarianism. Trump’s worst excesses — the lies, the racism, the transphobia, the use of power to punish enemies — are now proud tenets of being in the GOP.
Many elected Republicans would like you to think that they actually despise Trump and kept quiet to avoid his wrath, but the silence now means that they are not only willing to overlook his gravest offenses, but actually undermine the electoral process by spreading Trump’s lies for him.
Consider the fact that 139 Republicans in the House voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. Among them is Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Cheney’s likely successor in the House leadership.
Should the Republicans take control of the House by the time the next presidential election rolls around, what are the odds that they will throw out the results if the Democrats win again? Unfortunately, the chances aren’t all that small. The only election that Republicans acknowledge now are those that they win.
Cheney is a repellent figure in many respects. But she is standing for a basic principle. Sadly for her, her party no longer believes in those principles.
That’s the legacy of Donald Trump.