The Wyoming Republican congresswoman is about to lose her No. 3 House leadership post after a lonely defense of the truth that last year’s election was not stolen and that Trump incited a riot in the US Capitol to try to overthrow it.
Those facts are unpalatable for most of Cheney’s House Republican colleagues, who have ambitions to rise in a party controlled by the former President despite his two impeachments, botched reelection bid, failure to properly handle the pandemic and insurrectionist exit from power.
“We Republicans need to stand for genuinely conservative principles, and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality,” Cheney wrote. “We believe in the rule of law, in limited government, in a strong national defense, and in prosperity and opportunity brought by low taxes and fiscally conservative policies.”
Her article made an implicit case that the Republican Party may be irrevocably damaging itself in the eyes of the American public by ignoring Trump’s offenses against the basic democratic principles that underpin the country.
But the frightening reality for traditional conservatives who support Cheney’s stand against Trump is that she appears to be defending a vision of the GOP that no longer exists.
While low taxes and fiscal prudence still appeal to some conservatives, ideological purity has long since receded as the organizing principle of the party in favor of personal tributes to Trump and appeals to his anti-establishment base.
Club for Growth, a conservative organization focused on economic issues, came out Thursday against Rep. Elise Stefanik, who Trump and some in GOP leadership have endorsed to relace Cheney, saying saying the New York moderate-turned-MAGA congresswoman is “NOT a good spokesperson” for the conference.
“She is a liberal with a 35% CFGF lifetime rating, 4th worst in the House GOP. House Republicans should find a conservative to lead messaging and win back the House Majority,” the group tweeted.
For Trump backers, “strong national defense” is a code word for long, bloody wars in the Middle East started by President George W. Bush and the Wyoming lawmaker’s father, ex-Vice President Dick Cheney.
Liz Cheney’s version of the GOP has already been superseded by a populist, autocratic, anti-free-trade and deficit-oblivious vehicle for Trump’s personal gratification, having been reshaped and now dominated by the former President.
That means that the likes of Cheney, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois likely face years in the wilderness until political winds shift — all because they put principle over personal loyalty to the ex-President.
Trump defies predictions he would fade after defeat
Trump’s hold on the GOP — which is, if anything, even more powerful, at least in the House, than when he was in office — is one of the most remarkable achievements in modern politics.