A group of House Republicans are working overtime to oust GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney from her leadership position as punishment for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump earlier this month. The effort is plainly tribalist, and it says far more about the members pushing it than it does about Cheney.
Cheney’s vote against Trump is fair game for criticism. But several Republicans, led by Reps. Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, and Andy Biggs, have gone one step further, urging their colleagues to vote for Cheney’s demotion during a caucus meeting this week because she broke with the former president. Others have begun to rally around two new primary challengers who see Cheney’s dissent as a political opportunity. Even her state party colleagues have turned on her, arguing that Cheney no longer represents Wyoming’s Republican voters.
All of this because Cheney decided to vote her conscience.
Whether they realize it or not, these Republicans are justifying Cheney’s vote. She voted to impeach Trump not just because she believed the former president’s behavior before and after the Capitol riot warranted it, but because she believed it was time for the GOP to confront and distance itself from a man who had clearly become toxic. By seeking to punish her, Gaetz, Biggs, and the rest are proving her right: As long as Republicans remain committed to appeasing Trump, the party as an institution will suffer.
The irony here is that if Jordan, Gaetz, Biggs, and even Trump himself had listened to Cheney over the past year, things might be different right now. Cheney was one of the only Republicans who consistently urged the American public to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously, which Trump failed to do time and time again. Polls prove Cheney’s approach resonated with the American public far more than Trump’s, as November’s election confirmed.
It should also go without saying that the Capitol riot would have almost certainly never occurred had House Republicans followed Cheney’s example and denounced Trump’s constant stream of lies about the November election. Instead, they indulged the former president’s election fantasies and helped convince millions of voters that they had been disenfranchised. And as a result, several people died, the Republican Party was disgraced, and Trump was impeached for the second time.
Trumpian Republicans’ inability to see past one man is what got us here in the first place. They will doom the GOP to failure unless more Republican leaders step up like Cheney and demand that the party do better.