Liz Cheney’s Losing Gambit
Just a few weeks ago, Representative Liz Cheney survived her vote to indict Donald Trump for his actions that sparked the incidents of January 6th. A request to remove her from the leadership was slightly denied. But just a few months later, she is very likely to be ousted from her position in the leadership of the Republican House. Leader Kevin McCarthy was caught on a hot microphone discussing their fate. “I think she has real problems. . . . I’ve had it with her. . . . I’ve lost confidence, ”he said. Former President Donald Trump is clearly enjoying the prospect of Cheney’s demotion, and there is no doubt that he will be taking calls from potential Cheney key challengers in 2022. A Cheney spokesman made a statement: “This is about whether the Republican Party will perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and try to whitewash what happened on January 6th. “People who dislike Cheney’s particular foreign policy, or who want to continue the Trumpian Republican Party revision, are loudly insisting that Cheney’s views have no constituency beyond a few Never Trump experts. That is not true. Look no further than the results of the Georgia Senate elections. You don’t have to blink the results to find Republicans demoralized by Trump’s false claims and rabble. And then there are those who after Georgia were demoralized by the uprising. Cheney’s views do not represent a majority. Not even close. But room for the feeling she represents can be crucial to actually rebuilding a majority in purple states and holding Republican institutions together. And as a longtime critic of Cheneyism in foreign policy, I still think Cheney’s view of Trump is true. Trump has lost, and admitting that this is the only way to regain meaning in order to understand the political terrain. And in this terrain the truth is not a perfect defense. The political cost of Cheney’s stand is sure to be catastrophic to them. The political position on which Liz Cheney takes a position is extraordinarily weak for reasons well beyond her control. First, the structure of the Republican Congress Party is working against them. The individual members of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives are unable to form separate but permanent and stable factions. They are often looking for political protection in a substitute national entity. A few backbenchers can get away with flying their libertarian flags. But the Republican Party has very little internal coalition building. It is always in crisis for its soul because all internal debates are not negotiations but attempts at national renaming. The executive team of the house has an overwhelming need to define and monitor the boundaries of this bogus entity. You also have an implicit duty to represent them. A house caucus that had a larger, visible, and organized faction of Republicans who relied on the kind of suburban voters who held their noses and voted for Trump but were rejected by Jan 6, could protect a figure like Cheney as well even require the leadership to include someone like them. Something like that does not exist. And that brings us to the clear fact that makes their political position really untenable: the nature of their district. Liz Cheney represents Wyoming. Trump, who performed unusually well among country voters, won nearly 70 percent of the state’s vote. He only marginally improved Cheney’s own result in 2020. This is a rural state with a political structure shaped by voters who care deeply about energy policy. It benefits Trump, who threw the Paris Climate Agreement out the window and consistently tried to give America’s extractive industries an advantage. The Cheney family has also historically been identified with these industries. Congressman Cheney sits on the Natural Resources Committee. But Liz Cheney, like her father, is politically shaped by her passion for assertive and active foreign policy. It does not support primary challengers against Republicans who have different views on energy, but rather when they have different views on foreign policy. Cheney would be in a much stronger position if she were a figure like Senator Susan Collins, who has the relative freedom of the Senate and has a credible claim to a distinctive political brand capable of winning elections otherwise difficult for Republicans . At the moment, Donald Trump’s political power is creating an unstable GOP. Even if he is defeated, he still has the unreserved loyalty of a large segment of Republican voters. But his promotion of electoral conspiracy theories divides Republicans. He forced two viable Senate candidates to repeat these theories in Georgia and they lost. Rejection of the same theory is very likely to make Cheney in Wyoming indiscriminate. It’s not even clear that the majority of Republicans really believe Trump’s claims of electoral fraud, or when they just don’t want to look like they’re helping the Democrats by admitting he lost. The only thing that the Republican Conference can unite for now is not to try Trump any more and to oppose the Biden White House and the Democratic Congress, which empowers him. As pointed out by Peter Spiliakos, Mitch McConnell condemned President Trump’s actions on January 6th. But now that Biden is president, McConnell has focused on opposing Democrats. In this environment, all Republicans who seem genuinely more passionate about Republicans than Democrats are at risk – including Mitt Romney.