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The significance of the Liz Cheney auto-da-fe

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The tiny remaining remnant of genuine Never Trump conservatives is pointing out that there’s something happening here, and what it is is precisely clear.

Amanda Carpenter notes that if Liz Cheney — who was an all-in Trump supporter until January 6th — hadn’t piped up, the new GOP consensus that, going forward, no victory by a Democratic presidential candidate will ever be certified by Republicans would have remained somewhat under the radar. And Mona Charen emphasizes that this is now the official party line:

Today, we stand on the precipice of the House Republican conference ratifying this attempt to subvert American democracy. They are poised to punish Liz Cheney for saying this simple truth: “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.” In her place, they will elevate Iago in heels, Elise Stefanik, whose claim to leadership consists entirely of her operatic Trump followership.

Let’s be clear: The substitution of Stefanik for Cheney is a tocsin, signaling that the Republican party will no longer be bound by law or custom. In 2020, many Republican office holders, including the otherwise invertebrate Pence, held the line. They did not submit false slates of electors. They did not decertify votes. They did not “find” phantom fraud. But the party has been schooled since then. It has learned that the base—which is deluded by the likes of Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, and Mark Levin—believes the lies and demands that Republicans fight. As my colleague Amanda Carpenter put it, the 2024 mantra is going to be “Steal It Back.”

If Cheney must be axed because she will not lie, then what will happen if Republicans take control of Congress in 2022 and are called upon to certify the Electoral College in 2024? How many Raffenspergers will there be? How many will insist, as Pence did, that they must do what the Constitution demands? How many will preserve any semblance of the rule of law and the primacy of truth?

With this sabotage of Cheney, House Republicans are figuratively joining the January 6 mob.

We are on the precipice of a massive constitutional crisis. If Republicans control Congress in January of 2025 they will not certify the victory of a Democratic candidate in the previous November’s election. They may not even have to go that far: It’s now quite possible that Republican state legislatures in enough states will simply refuse to ratify electoral results that would give the Democratic candidate the majority of electoral votes. (This is all above and beyond the possibility that the Democratic candidate gets ten million more popular votes but loses “legitimately,” via the Wisdom of the Framers).

This is what Donald Trump begged and pleaded with Republicans to do after last November’s election. The line held then, barely — mainly because the GOP didn’t control Congress, so refusing to go along with Trump’s coup attempt had no practical effect on the results — but it has since collapsed completely. Cheney’s expulsion from the GOP leadership simply puts an exclamation point on that.

All this is happening right out in the open, and it’s hard to know what Democrats can even do about it — passing the VRA isn’t going to magically force Republicans to follow that or any other law, now that they have collectively crossed this particular Rubicon.

What can be done is to point out constantly to voters that one of the two major parties in this country is now completely under the control of a man who has rejected the American constitutional order, explicitly, openly, and unambiguously. That’s what’s at stake in next year’s Congressional elections. We are on the verge of not having meaningful presidential elections in this country, just as there are no meaningful national leadership elections in places like China and Russia.

I’m aware this sounds like hysterical hyperbole when stated in words of one syllable. It’s nevertheless nothing but a simple statement of the present danger.

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