Liz Cheney will almost certainly lose her leadership position, not because there’s anything moderate about her politics but because she won’t accept Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen or remain silent about it:
The current theater of conflict is a looming purge of Liz Cheney from her position as House conference chair, the third-ranking position in its leadership. Cheney’s crime is that, unlike almost every other prominent Republican not named Mitt Romney, she hasn’t budged from the posture she adopted January 6. Rather than accept the facts on the ground — namely, that the party’s base overwhelmingly believes Trump’s lie that Joe Biden stole the election — Cheney has continued to affirm the legitimacy of Biden’s win and denounce Trump’s coup.
As punishment for her stubbornness, she is facing not only a Trump-backed primary challenge but also an approaching vote to strip her of her leadership rank. McCarthy has been subjecting Cheney to the slow fade-out. McCarthy has been “refusing to appear with Cheney at press conferences for months” and denied her “a moderating role at the [party’s] retreat,” reports Politico.
His allies have made no effort to disguise their intentions. “There is no way that Liz will be conference chair by month’s end,” one McCarthy ally texted a reporter Monday. “Liz is gone. Just a question of how and when,” a senior Republican tells CNN. Fellow Republicans are already angling for her soon-to-be-vacant job. McCarthy himself tells Fox News, “I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message,” all but handing her a termination letter on-camera.
The rationale for Cheney’s defenestration is that she has violated decorum. Her forceful denunciation of Trump’s lies “suggested that Cheney was not looking to persuade but to bludgeon. Rhetorical devices like putting THE BIG LIE in all caps gave the tweet a feeling of something one might hear on CNN or MSNBC,” explains Byron York. “The question is, how to address those Republicans and their beliefs.” National Review’s Dan McLaughlin adds, “If she can’t move off this topic as Mitch [McConnell] has, she needs to do that from the back benches.”
The catch, of course, is that Trump and his minions have neither modulated their tone nor moved off the topic. Nor, for that matter, has the rest of the party. The Republican establishment has made a display of affirming the defeated president’s status as its leader. Republicans leaders have made the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring of their president-in-exile. Aspiring candidates — including not just Trump sycophants like Josh Hawley, but even candidates who have maintained some distance from him, like Nikki Haley — have announced that they will defer to Trump rather than run against him.
The Republican party has embraced or placated Trump’s lies about fraud by enacting voting-restriction measures. Both the official Republican party and its affiliated media have continued to magnify Trump’s lies. Senate Republicans went so far as to present Trump with a newly created “Champion of Freedom” trophy, which is not the thing you would award somebody fresh off a coup attempt.
The demand that Cheney stop forcefully refuting Trump’s lies about the election is designed to force his enemies into unilateral disarmament. Republican leaders are free to flatter and placate him, but they are not free to call out his lies or return his attacks in kind. Trump’s critics can stay in the party, for now, but they must act like guests in somebody else’s home.
When Cheney is defenestrated, her most likely replacement will be Elise Stefanik, who started out her House career by posing as a thinking-person’s Reasonable Republican but fully embraced Trump’s authoritarianism during the first impeachment hearings and has never looked back, joining Josh Hawley’s Cynical Ivy League Seditionist caucus. Hopefully NY Dems are carefully trying to figure out how to fold parts of Albany and Schenectady counties into NY-21 without jeopardizing Tonko…