“If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person,” Liz Cheney told House Republicans, as they voted to oust her from the party leadership Wednesday.
“You have plenty of others to choose from,” she added.
A drama weeks in the making was over in the blink of an eye, apparently. A voice vote “sounded like a roughly three-to-one margin for removing Cheney,” The Intelligencer wrote. Her ouster “happened so quickly” that some GOPers “were still showing up as she was removed,” the same linked article noted.
Members didn’t go on the record. But Cheney did. Again.
For the second time this week (and the umpteenth time this year), the (former) GOP conference chair lambasted Donald Trump and his supporters on Capitol Hill. “We cannot let [him] drag us backward and make us complicit in his efforts to unravel our democracy,” she chided, before warning Republicans that continuing “down that path” could “potentially [destroy] our country.”
Speaking to the media after the vote, Cheney appeared to take things up another notch, promising to “do everything I can to ensure that [Trump] never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.” Trump fired back, calling Cheney a “horrible human being.”
It’s difficult to overstate how perilous this situation is for the Republican party. This is an existential crisis. House GOPers are engaged in a bizarre kind of mass, political suicide that’s hard to understand, let alone rationalize.
Trump was an aspiring authoritarian, yes, but he never had anything close to the kind of military buy-in needed to establish a real autocratic regime. If he did, the events of January 6 wouldn’t have been necessary. Real autocrats don’t lose elections. If they hold them at all, they fix them ahead of time and if, by some fluke, the outcome is unfavorable, they nullify it.
The point is, Trump isn’t coming back anytime before January 20, 2025. He’s not going to ride into D.C. on a tank wearing a red MAGA beret and mismatched battle fatigues. And even if he manages to win another term, there won’t be any military tribunals or any real “purges,” in the authoritarian sense of the word. So, that’s not it. House Republicans might find the prospect of being shouted at by burly, gun-toting constituents at town halls uncomfortable, but they’re not worried about any firing squads.
The only risk from rebuking Trump is the prospect of losing his base, but I struggle to understand how a party with almost nothing in the way of an agenda can possibly govern effectively or, perhaps more poignantly, enjoy the spoils of power.
Mitch McConnell was aghast last month when corporate America gave an unequivocal thumbs down to Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters. While those efforts are ongoing in multiple states, success (i.e., winning elections through belabored efforts to make it harder for some people to vote) would come at a heavy cost.
Companies can sell “Black Lives Matter.” They can sell “Save The Polar Bears.” But Nike can’t sell “Disfranchisement: Just Do It.” Pepsi can’t sell “Gatorade: QAnon Edition.” And JPMorgan isn’t going to be opening any “whites only” branches.
So, where is the money going to come from if, by some miracle, the GOP manages to win back Congress and the White House on some Frankenstein coalition comprised of conspiracy theorists, would-be libertarians and bottom-tier billionaires who never made quite enough money to stop being irritated by the prospect of having to give some of it back?
Sure, Republicans will still be able to fundraise, and lobbyists will be lobbyists, but from a 30,000-foot perspective, and considering societal trends (which corporations are keen to exploit for profits), it’s hard to understand were, exactly, Republicans plan to go from here.
NY Magazine wrote Wednesday that “Cheney’s desire to keep defending the integrity of the election was an irritant to [GOP] goals, which were laid out in an email from House Republican whip Steve Scalise minutes after the meeting with the subject line ‘Staying focused on fighting the socialist agenda.'”
Fair enough, I suppose, but is that amorphous talking point not getting old? What even is “the socialist agenda?” Higher taxes on people making $400,000 or more per year? Higher capital gains levies on households making at least $1 million? Free child care and community college? Do Republicans actually believe they can convince Trump’s base that those types of proposals are bad? How many people at a typical 2016 Trump rally do you imagine made $1 million or more in 2015? Who among Trump’s hard core supporters sent back their last stimulus check because they didn’t need it and wanted to send Janet Yellen a message about the perils of fiscal largesse and the dangers of Joe Biden’s “socialist agenda?”
That’s not to say that fear of socialism isn’t an effective scare tactic, but it takes a special kind of demagogue to convince the people who benefit from Democratic policy initiatives to vote against their own self interest. Kevin McCarthy ain’t that guy.
It seems to me that the only way out of this for establishment Republicans is to simply disavow the party, wash their hands of Trump and, assuming he refuses to stop calling himself a Republican, start a new party on the assumption that the likes of Scalise and McCarthy wouldn’t risk being stranded on an political island with Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz. Even if Ted Cruz would.
Speaking to the press Wednesday, Cheney ally Adam Kinzinger described her removal. “There were no speeches. It was just Kevin standing up and then the vote happened,” he said, calling it a “sad day” for the party. “Truth cannot coexist with lies,” he told reporters.