Was Liz Cheney too honest?
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) at a March news conference. | Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesIf Trump critics just end up purged from the GOP, the next electoral crisis will be even worse. House Republicans are preparing to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from her leadership position — for the crime of reiterating that she strongly condemns former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election result.
Back in February, the House GOP batted down an initial effort to oust Cheney from her role as the No. 3 House Republican for the same reason. She survived easily, in a closed-door, secret ballot vote of 145 to 61. Cheney’s views have not changed since then. The problem now is just that she’s kept talking about those views.
“The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE,” Cheney tweeted Monday, referring to Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was rigged against him.
Cheney’s tweet was just one of several recent statements that have annoyed Republicans who think accurately describing Trump’s attempted election theft is unhelpful for the party’s message, given that most GOP voters incorrectly believe the election was stolen from Trump. As a result, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has said he is “fed up” with Cheney, and is backing a bid from Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) to replace her. Cheney’s ouster is now viewed as near-certain. (Cheney isn’t backing down, as she made clear in an op-ed published Wednesday.)
Some Democrats have claimed that every Republican who refuses to back Trump’s bogus election fraud narrative is now being purged from the party. Things are not quite so simple — not yet, at least. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who also harshly condemned Trump’s actions on January 6, remains ensconced as Republican leader in the Senate, despite the former president’s urging of senators to dump him.
But McConnell’s own behavior reveals the limits of what’s acceptable. He faced his own grumblings of discontent within his conference as he criticized Trump, and he eventually voted to acquit the former president during his second impeachment trial. Since then, McConnell has been careful and guarded about his comments on Trump, and he’s fully on board with the GOP strategy of moving on to focus on criticizing the excesses of the Biden administration and trying to win in 2022.
The problem is that, with the supposedly “reasonable” Republicans deeming it gauche to point out that Trump’s claims of a stolen election are nonsense, those claims just keep spreading unchecked in conservative spaces (as seen in the troubling Arizona election “audit”).
And yet, while the media and Democrats may love a doomed principled stand, if Republicans who do speak out against Trump’s lies quickly see their careers implode and get replaced by Trump loyalists, it’s hard to see how they’re helping much — because they won’t be around anymore to temper the GOP’s response to a future electoral crisis.
What did Liz Cheney do?
Cheney, the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney, was a rising star in the House GOP. Having entered Congress just four years ago, she’d already risen to become conference chair, making her the third-highest ranking Republican in the House, and she was viewed as a potential future House speaker or even presidential candidate.
Then Donald Trump started trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Making false claims of massive voter fraud, Trump tried to get Republican officials in key states not to certify legitimate Biden victories. When those efforts failed, he moved on to an attempt to get congressional Republicans to reject those state results on the day Congress would count Electoral College votes: January 6.
In the days before the storming of the Capitol, Cheney recoiled at Trump’s behavior. She wrote a 21-page memo to House Republicans saying there was “no appropriate basis” for rejecting state results, and that a move to do so would “set an exceptionally dangerous precedent.” Then, when audio leaked of a Trump call in which he pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes for him, Cheney said it was “deeply troubling.”
Then, on January 6, Trump gave his infamous speech on the Ellipse (in which he criticized Cheney by name), and his supporters broke into the Capitol afterward. “A violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes,” Cheney said in a statement the following week. “The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.” She added: “There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution. I will vote to impeach the President.”
Cheney’s political future has been in question since then, with Trump vowing to back a primary challenger against her in 2022.
But as mentioned above, Republicans over
May 6, 2021 - VOX
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) at a March news conference. | Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesIf Trump critics just end up purged from the GOP, the next electoral crisis will be even worse. House Republicans are preparing to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from her leadership position — for the crime of reiterating that she strongly condemns former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election result. Back in February, the House GOP batted down an initial effort to oust Cheney from her role as the..