In Brief

Liz Cheney’s ousting: a turning point for the Republicans?

Cheney is a distinguished conservative who has consistently backed her party’s agenda. But she has one unforgivable flaw

“This is a big moment in American history,” said Thomas L. Friedman in The New York Times. One of the country’s two major political parties has decided that it will grant senior roles only to those willing to embrace a lie. How else to interpret the ousting last week of the third-most senior Republican leader, Liz Cheney, from her post as Conference chair? The daughter of a former vice-president, Cheney is a distinguished conservative who has consistently backed her party’s agenda. But the representative of Wyoming has one unforgivable flaw: she refuses to have any truck with Donald Trump’s claim that he was the rightful winner of the 2020 election. It seems such honesty is now incompatible with GOP leadership, so her colleagues have voted to replace her. “It’s hard to accept that this is happening in today’s America, but it is.”

Don’t feel too sorry for Cheney, said Byron York in the Washington Examiner. She brought this on herself. One of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump on the charge of inciting the 6 January Capitol riot, she comfortably survived a leadership vote later that month. But she “couldn’t seem to stop talking about Trump”, and her endless media appearances started to grate on colleagues. She became “a distraction from the GOP’s mission to oppose the Biden agenda and win back the House in 2022”. In purely practical terms, the Republicans had a “legitimate case for removing her”, said Russell Berman in The Atlantic. The job of Conference chair is to preside over meetings between Republican members of Congress, and to communicate the party’s message to members. It can’t be done by someone who is constantly undermining the party line.

The GOP has made its choice, said Kurt Bardella in the Los Angeles Times. It has embraced Trump’s claims of electoral fraud and is using them to justify voter-suppression laws in Republican-controlled states. We’re not talking about a Republican civil war any more, but “a battle for the future of democracy”. The stakes could not be higher, agreed Mona Charen on TheBulwark.com. What will happen if the GOP wins control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections? If Trump then runs in 2024, disputes the result, and asks Congress to override the Electoral College, will Republicans defer to the rule of law – or to Trump? By purging truth tellers like Cheney, the GOP has aligned itself with the Capitol rioters. Beware: “The real steal is coming.”

There are still plenty of dissenters within Republican ranks, said Greg Sargent in The Washington Post. Following Cheney’s ousting last week, a group of more than 100 Republicans – including members of Congress, former governors and state officials – threatened to launch a breakaway party if the GOP didn’t change direction. Such a party would surely be doomed at the polls, but a challenge from this quarter might have a chastening effect on the GOP. Whatever happens, the US can only benefit from more “centre-right voices who are willing to flatly articulate the principle that accepting democratic electoral outcomes is a precondition for a functioning liberal democracy”.

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