The Liz Cheney/Donald Trump/Republican Party Infighting, Explained
Let them fight.
Donald Trump has been out of office and out of our lives for months but he still has a strong grasp on the Republican Party. Nowhere is that clearer than in the GOP’s treatment of the few members who have spoken out against Trump.
This past weekend, Senator Mitt Romney—a vocal critic of Trump’s and one of the few Republicans to vote to convict in the second impeachment trial—was booed and heckled while speaking at the Utah Republican state convention. Members of his own party yelled “traitor” and other insults. Romney asked the crowd “Aren’t you embarrassed?” which, clearly they are not.
Meanwhile, over in the House, Republican members of Congress are working to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from her position of party leadership.
Cheney voted to impeach Trump and she’s continued to be outspoken in her feelings about him and everyone else who has continued to push election fraud conspiracy theories even after Trump left office.
On Monday of this week, Cheney tweeted a response to a statement from Trump in which he called the 2020 presidential election “THE BIG LIE.”
“The 2020 presidential election was not stolen,” she wrote. “Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”
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.
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) May 3, 2021
Even before that tweet, she was at odds with a number of her colleagues, having publicly condemned Republicans who supported Trump’s lies and those who downplayed, justified, or otherwise supported the Capitol riot on January 6th.
She retweeted this back in March:
I will not forget. pic.twitter.com/ETZttQUsuT
— Gen Michael Hayden (@GenMhayden) March 20, 2021
So this has been going on for a while. But, as the New York Times writes:
The tensions came to a head last week, after Ms. Cheney told reporters that any lawmaker who led the bid to invalidate President Biden’s electoral victory in Congress should be disqualified from running for president. She also broke with Mr. McCarthy on the scope of a proposed independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 riot, telling reporters in response to a question that she believed it should be narrowly focused on the assault on the Capitol.
Mr. McCarthy and other Republican leaders have instead argued that the inquiry should be broadened to include “political violence across this country,” including by Black Lives Matter and Antifa activists.
Some Republicans also appear to be upset that Cheney dared to accept Joe Biden’s fist-bump greeting ahead of his recent address to Congress. I guess they expected her to, I don’t know, spit on him and run away?
I disagree strongly w/@JoeBiden policies, but when the President reaches out to greet me in the chamber of the US House of Representatives, I will always respond in a civil, respectful & dignified way. We’re different political parties. We’re not sworn enemies. We’re Americans.
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) April 30, 2021
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been sidestepping questions about his direct feelings about Cheney, but on Tuesday, he was caught on a hot mic criticizing her ahead of a Fox News interview.
“I think she’s got real problems,” McCarthy told Steve Doocy off-air. “I’ve had it with her. You know, I’ve lost confidence. … Well, someone just has to bring a motion, but I assume that will probably take place.”
That motion he’s talking about is the start of the process to remove Cheney from her position as the House Republican Conference Chair, the third-highest position of power in House Republican leadership. A similar motion to her leadership came up in February, but she overwhelmingly won the vote, which was held by secret ballot, 145-61.
Now, though,some Republicans have been “openly predicting” (per the Times) that another vote is coming and that things won’t go her way this time. And Trump issued a “statement” (which is essentially just a tweet posted to his website) Wednesday slamming Cheney and recommending Rep. Elise Stefanik replace her.
You probably remember Stefanik from being completely insufferable during Trump’s first impeachment trial. Looks like the toadying finally paid off.
“Liz Cheney is a warmongering fool who has no business in Republican Party Leadership,” Trump scream-wrote. “We want leaders who believe in the Make America Great Again movement, and prioritize the values of America First. Elise Stefanik is a far superior choice, and she has my COMPLETE and TOTAL endorsement for GOP Conference Chair. Elise is a tough and smart communicator!”
Basically, Cheney wants the Republican party to decide if they have fully transformed into the party of Trump. She wrote as much in an op-ed published at the Washington Post Wednesday.
“The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution,” she wrote.
“History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be.”
That’s a nice sentiment but let’s also be clear that there are no heroes in this fight. In the same op-ed, Cheney feels the need to decry liberal “wokeness” and reminds everyone that she is “a conservative Republican.”
So on the one side, we have two hallmark old-school Republicans, so representative of the party that one was once its nominee for president and the other is the daughter of a war criminal who held the party in such a firm grip that he literally shot his friend in the face and no one said a thing about it.
On the other side, we have those who have hitched their wagon to Trump and have found they thrive in the environment he cultivated, where politics has little to nothing to do with public service and everything to do with outrage-based performance art—the Josh Hawleys, Marjorie Taylor Greenes, and Elise Stefaniks of Congress. They’re not going to let that go easily.
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]