With all of the terrible policy being drummed up in Washington, D.C. — from the 13-digit spending designed to make FDR look restrained, to investment-crushing capital gains tax increases, to a foreign policy that must be keeping Ukrainians, Taiwanese, and free Afghanis up at night — one would think that the Republicans in Washington would be making hay out of all of this, carefully deconstructing each economic aberration, and tilling the ground for a fertile 2022 midterm election.
But, no, they are, per usual, fighting amongst themselves, engaging in a pointless internecine war.
The current donnybrook centers around Rep. Liz Cheney of neighbor Wyoming, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump the second time around, who continues to call things as they are, at Mr. Trump’s expense, and who also happens to be — tenuously — number three in the House Minority leadership pyramid.
This is not sitting well with some, and certainly not with Mr. Trump, who still manages to command a loyal, almost Kim Il Sung-like, devotion among his staunchest followers. Trump has clearly reveled in the Wyoming congresswoman’s latest travails as the push to drive her from her leadership role, issuing statements referring to her invariably as a “warmonger” for her unapologetically interventionist neo-conservative foreign policy outlook, which mirrors her father's. Trump, of course, keeps stoking the fires of controversy with statements like that which he released Monday saying “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 202 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!”
This in turn spurred Cheney, who has steadfastly refused to buy into any of the conspiracy-twinged yarns spun by Trump about the election, to respond: “The 2020 Presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”
She is, of course, right. Though that may not make much difference.
A few things to consider: first, in both philosophic and practical terms, the GOP needs to move on from Trump, and the party knows it, or is at least starting to come to terms with the fact. Philosophically, Trump was never about conservatism as a movement, but about Trump as a brand. Whatever tenets of conservatism he championed were simply a means to an end. And in practical political terms, well, we all saw what happened in Georgia.
Naturally, Trump is trying his best to keep the party from moving on, even from beyond the political grave. And this is a problem, illustrated best by a far better exemplar of the Republican Party, it’s founder Abraham Lincoln, recalling the words of Jesus Christ, that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
A major part of the drive to remove Cheney from leadership is starting to come not from the MAGA-types in the caucus, but from more moderate Republicans who would love nothing better than to put the ghost of Trump to rest, and see the demotion of his most vocal in-house adversary as the surest way there. This puts McCarthy in a difficult spot, to say nothing of Cheney.
Those who harbor an appetite to quiet the discord therefore find themselves allied uneasily with those for whom the discord is music to their ears. Cheney handily won a leadership challenge the first time around; her prospects appear much slimmer this time precisely because a greater number of the judicious Republicans are eager not to be forced into one corner or another.
It is likely undeservingly optimistic to think that simply replacing the staunchly conservative Cheney — especially with a pro-Trump congresswoman saddled with a disturbingly liberal voting record — will put the lid on the Trump dilemma or bring about an armistice in the GOP civil strife. In any case, what is especially disgraceful about all of this is how desperately the nation needs a unified, cohesive loyal opposition right now, ready to resume the mantle after the 2022 elections to stand astride the tracks in hope of preventing a train wreck. The hyperactivity of the Biden administration, coupled with the unfettered dogmatic zeal of the House Democrats is the stuff of economic and cultural nightmares.
Liz Cheney is a bright, capable, levelheaded conservative congresswoman, who reflects many of the best traditions of the GOP, and is strong enough to call out the relative lunacies of both Trump and Biden. It would be a shame if the success of her party hinged on her removal from its leadership, but of course much of politics is a shame.