It comes as little surprise that an event as defining as the ouster of Liz Cheney from House Republican leadership would attract a wave of on-the-fly analysis. It is similarly unsurprising that many of those takes are opportunistic blather.
So, in no particular order, here are ten themes struck in recent days that amount to a giant hill of garbage analysis:
1) Liz Cheney was ejected “for telling the truth.”
This attempt to convey the honor of ideological martyrdom is a favorite of Trump-haters across party lines. If her only point was to distance from the definitive assertion of election theft, that would not have been so alienating. Plenty of Republicans harbor doubt about the validity of the election tally without going full Sidney Powell. But Liz Cheney’s position, which she shows no indication of shelving, is that all election misgivings are wholly discreditable and that Trump’s voicing of them caused the January 6 riots. The first is a slap to tens of millions of voters, the second an outright slander.
2) Cheney was compelled by her oath and a “duty to the Constitution.”
Here’s where we meet one of the most grating characteristics of Trump’s tormentors— the stunning narcissism. If Liz Cheney or anyone else has sharp criticism of Trump, bring it. Make the case. Invite debate. But that’s not how these people roll. Their lofty condemnations are never simply a point they wish to make or a contribution to an ongoing dialogue; they paint themselves as the sole examples of high character. The accompanying supposition is that to oppose them is a dereliction of duty amounting to abandonment of the Constitution. This is the height of preening condescension
3) Cheney was a brave loner among Republicans in her willingness to denounce the riots of January 6.
Republican revulsion over the insurrection was immediate and widespread, and it has not dimmed. Cheney’s obsession is a weaponization of that day as an intended stab at Trump for the imaginary crime of incitement. Necessary to this narrative is a kinship with the left’s assertion that this somehow rises to a 9/11-level wound on the Republic. It is by this historically illiterate exaggeration that she is able to stumble toward the ham-handed conclusion that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a President.”
4) Her liberal fan base is just sticking up for a viable Republican Party.
I love this one. How many Democrats have you heard lamenting the unfortunate decline of the GOP as it mysteriously remains appreciative of Trump? How sad, they weep, that Republicans have blazed such a ruinous trail. They claim to hope for an epiphany so that America will not witness the collapse of one of its great parties.
I’m so touched. But this is an amateur game of reverse psychology. Anytime Chuck Schumer is getting misty about the loss of a vibrant GOP, that’s when you know he is actually wary of real energy that poses a threat to the status quo he has known for years: a compliant Republican party that will predictably roll over to the whims of liberalism. Trump changed that game; Democrats and a small sliver of Republicans miss the old days.
5) Cheney’s dismissal is “cancel culture.”
Cancel culture involves driving offenders from the marketplace of ideas. Liz Cheney is free to attack Trump all day every day, which it appears she will continue to do. What she has learned is that she is not going to be given the high platform of Republican leadership from which to do it. The party is interested in winning in 2022 and 2024, not dwelling over old grudges from 2020. She made an unwise strategic choice, and has paid the price.
6) Her opponents are in a a trancelike thrall to Trump.
Trump supporters, who understandably recoiled at her adventure, come in many degrees of devotion. They include voters who long for him to run again in 2024, those who appreciated his presidency but are open to an heir to his revolution, and others who are grateful for his service but ready to move on. What these groups share is a low opinion of anyone harboring deep, mysterious grudges that seek to savage him for the sin of doubting a messy election and the actual crime of treasonous incitement. Cheney and her amen corner have a vested interest in discrediting critics as mindless acolytes.
7) She is the heroic backstop against “The Big Lie.”
It is not a lie that countless votes were tallied in November 2020 that should not have been. It is not a lie that many norms were abandoned as laws were amended in haste, sacrificed on a flimsy altar of COVID urgency. It is not a lie that this gives rise to proper skepticism about the reliability of the result in several states. Judges in state courts were never going to find provable, demonstrable evidence of countable illegal votes that would flip states, but the U.S. Supreme Court punted the opportunity to examine the constitutional basis for finding fault with the totals.
Cheney is part of the daily effort to conflate principled suspicion with the farthest reaches of conspiracy-theory extremism.
8) Cheney deserved a pass for past cooperation with Trump and other conservative achievements.
No one should forget the many praiseworthy moments in Liz Cheney's career, in and out of office. But the decision she has made at this critical juncture to waste enormous energy on a bitter vendetta is a disqualifier. Republicans may have varying degrees of Trump devotion, but they nearly unanimously have no interest in following her down a distracting, dispiriting rathole of bad blood.
9) She will emerge from this setback with a powerful megaphone.
Wishful thinking can have a narcotic effect. By what definition does this broad thumbs-down from colleagues get painted as a vindication that adds to her political capital? She has the same admirers on the left as she had yesterday, and precisely the same treehouse of Trump-hating Republicans. She is not slinking away in shame, but it is a vast leap to suggest that this chapter somehow earns her waves of new converts.
10) Cheney will enjoy the last laugh as history heaps discredit on the GOP for opposing her.
No one should guarantee that deep Trump fervor will necessarily define the party for the next few election cycles. But one thing appears clear: hatred of him is not a winning look in any state, at any level of Republican America. There may be one benefit of this week’s expulsion: Wyoming voters, widely offended by her misadventure but noting the price she has paid, may not be as eager to return her to private life in next year’s primaries.