Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney is up against it. She’s the most prominent Republican (sorry, Mitt) still standing firm against Donald Trump’s election lies and is being blasted for it. Most Republicans want her out of her position as House Republican Conference Chair and out of the party altogether. Several GOP reps have said they don’t have confidence in Cheney’s ability to do her job. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has stopped appearing with her in public. The writing is on the wall.
Predictably, Cheney’s moral stand has drawn praise. Fellow Never-Trumpers believe she’s continuing their fight, standing up for what’s right and good about conservatism. Many liberals have called Cheney courageous and praised her conviction in standing up to Trump’s lies and party rule. As Republicans continue targeting her, she receives more and more sympathy.
And Cheney deserves none of it.
There’s nothing wrong with giving Cheney props in a vacuum, of course. That the GOP has continued clinging to Trumpism after he left the White House is alarming. Elected officials still indulge his lies and attempt to subvert democracy in his service. Cheney’s actions are laudable in that she’s not partaking in the Republican Party’s current sycophantic authoritarian turn. She’s standing up to a bully, one of the worst political bullies America has ever known, and that’s something anyone can appreciate regardless of party affiliation.
But that framing absolves Cheney of being a member of that party and benefitting from its foundational rot. The GOP’s hyper-nationalist xenophobia and othering didn’t start with Trump. The Bush administration laid the groundwork for the Republican Party of today, and Liz Cheney was smack in the middle of it. She served in the State Department during the mid-2000s and helped intentionally escalate tensions with Iran and Syria.
She later rose to prominence off her father’s name and espoused the same filth he did. Cheney holds roughly all the same views on immigration, abortion, American imperialism, and [insert issue here] as any other Republican politician. She even denounced same sex marriage while running for Congress in 2013, effectively throwing her sister Mary into the fire for personal gain. Like everything else, Cheney viewed her rebuke to Trump as an opportunity to gain political capital and power, not a cross to die on. That sort of saps whatever moralistic conviction she believes is driving her blind faith in conservative principles or whatever it is she’s fighting for at this point.
We know now that Cheney is off base. At the very least she’s not powerful or convincing enough to kick Republicans’ Trump habit. As the party pushes her out and boos Mitt Romney in Utah, Trump lackey Matt Gaetz is receiving a virtual pass for salacious (and potentially criminal) behavior. The juxtaposition is ironic, since Gaetz has been one of Cheney’s loudest condemners and even held a rally against her in her home state.
Cheney and Romney hedged their bets, thinking other elected Republicans and the party base would go along with them. But this is the Republican Party now. Really, this is what the Republican Party has always been. Cheney had a hand in shaping it before it went off the rails, whether she realizes it or not. There’s no saving whatever she thinks the GOP is supposed to stand for. Standing up to a bully is admirable enough, but it doesn’t have much potency when your only real issue with the bully is aesthetic. What Cheney’s doing might be better than nothing, but it’s still the bare minimum. It’s not worth praising someone with accidental morals who can’t sense which way the wind’s blowing.