Representative Liz Cheney on March 9, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)
Rep. Liz Cheney, third in command of the House Republicans, is set to lose her leadership position in a vote of the full Republican caucus this week. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claims that Cheney is incapable to “carry out the message” for the GOP going forward.
Ever since the violent coup attempt at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Cheney has called on her party to abandon the Big Lie and the president who told it. She has implored her fellow Republicans to embrace what she called “the most conservative of conservative values, is reverence for the rule of law” and to “choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.”
Truth, rule of law, fidelity to the Constitution. This is the message that has put Cheney at odds with her party and will lead to her ouster. Which raises the question, what message does McCarthy want Cheney to “carry” if not the truth?
Stefanik’s record is not conservative
Set to take her place is Rep. Elise Stefanik, a moderate upstate New York Republican handpicked by Donald Trump and endorsed by McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise. If the concern is being able to articulate the ideology of the conservatism, Stefanik is a peculiar choice.
Contrary to Cheney, who is actually a conservative, Stefanik is far from it. As co-chair of The Tuesday Group, a caucus of moderate Republicans, with a score of only 48% from Heritage Action For America, she is widely considered one of the least conservative members of the caucus.
With Republicans in Washington turning up the heat to oust Rep. Liz Cheney, a firm Trump critic who holds the No. 3 GOP role in the House, the defiant third-term congresswoman faces mixed reviews in her home state. (May 6)
But Stefanik has done what Cheney will not. In spite of being an early and consistent critic of Trump, like so many others in her party, Stefanik has abandoned her principles and literally sold her political soul.
After the first Trump impeachment, during which she defended the president from the “Russia hoax,” she raised over $13 million for her reelection. She has since consistently prostrated herself before the throne of the only twice-impeached president in history – including advancing the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, which ultimately led to the violent insurrection attempt.
In choosing Stefanik over Cheney, the Republican Party is making a much more consequential decision than who will serve in leadership for the next two years. These intra-party elections are about the future of the party itself. In this case, it is a reflection of where Republican leaders believe the party needs to go in order to win back the majority in the House in 2022.
Banished for truth-telling: Trump Republicans have had it with Liz Cheney and the democracy she chooses to defend
So what is really on the ballot at the caucus meeting Wednesday is not just Cheney vs. Stefanik, but truth vs. propaganda, leadership vs. fealty, the Constitution vs. Trump.
Throughout this process, McCarthy has exposed another Republican message that should not be ignored. Liz Cheney is what today’s GOP can’t seem to accept: a strong, principled, fearless woman. Trump himself has never hidden his disdain and disrespect for women. His belief that even in professional roles women should serve first as accessories to him is obvious.
Trump’s presidency, however, has emboldened the chauvinism of the right. While there have been dozens of even more radical examples over the past five years, it can be heard clearly in McCarthy’s derisive hot mic moment when he told Fox News anchor Steve Doocy, referring to Cheney, “I’ve had it with her.”
Sexist and unrepentant Republicans
Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger has been more vocal and more aggressive with his “message” than even Cheney, but none of the men in leadership has declared they’ve had it with him. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz is being investigated in connection with sex trafficking and payments to a teenager, and he hasn’t even been removed from his committee assignments.
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., in 2019. (Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVE)
Yet Cheney – one of the only women in the party who has had the temerity to confront the cult-like Republican veneration for Trump – is targeted for destruction by her male counterparts in the House. For telling the truth.
On Monday, in an epic display of a total lack of self-awareness, McCarthy sent a letter to every Republican in the House notifying them of the upcoming vote – and lauding the GOP as a “big tent” and defenders of the First Amendment. Apparently, that includes everyone except his conference chair.
Cheney’s audacity: Rep. Liz Cheney is courageous while Republican men are profiles in cowardice
Party politics are often petty and spiteful. The greater public generally does not even pay attention, and you can’t blame them. But in this case it is important that America understands exactly what is happening here.
Republicans who have been elected to represent the people in Congress are sending an unrepentant message to us all. No matter how much he loses, how corrupt he has proved to be, how often he calls for a violent overthrow of our constitutional democracy, the Republican Party is now, and will for a very long time be, the party of Donald J. Trump.
Former Republican Jennifer Horn, a communications strategist and a senior practitioner fellow at the University of Chicago Center for Effective Government, chaired the New Hampshire Republican Party from 2013-17 and was a co-founder of the Lincoln Project. Follow her on Twitter: @NHJennifer
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