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Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) faces political doom as the possibility of being ousted from her leadership position as chair of the Congressional Republican Party is gaining steam. The GOP appears to be decisively turning against her due to her committed criticism of both former President Trump’s role on the January 6th assault on the nation’s capital and attempts to remain a powerful voice within the GOP.
The current political position of Cheney within her own party is tenuous and quickly deteriorating with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who said he has “lost confidence” in her on a hot mic tape before an interview. Additionally, Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) has publicly declared he is supporting Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) for taking Cheney’s position as chair, a move clearly illustrating the deteriorating position of Cheney in her party.
Liz Cheney faces political doom due to her clean break with Trump
Cheney has been an outspoken Trump critic in the post-election months and especially on his role on January 6th Capitol Hill riots. Cheney said Trump “summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of his attack” in a statement where she announced her decision to be one of the 10 Republicans who ended up voting for the impeachment of Trump.
Cheney faced a vote to oust her of her position in the leadership earlier this year, as many congress members from the more pro-Trump wing of the party forced the vote in the GOP caucus. She survived the measure by a comfortable 145-61 margin, however, three months after that vote her position appears to be significantly weaker.
Back in February, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered his support to Cheney and the memory of January 6th was still too fresh in the minds of many lawmakers. However, this time around even McConnell has refrained to give the same type of outspoken support to the embattled Wyoming Congresswoman.
The congresswoman has continued to issue periodical comments against Trump’s allegations that the election was stolen from him. She said she thought that Trump should not have talked at CPAC, that Senators who openly supported overturning the election in January should be disqualified from running for higher office, and recently tweeted that anyone who continues to say that the 2020 election was stolen is spreading the “big lie” and “poisoning our democratic system”.
She has also responded to the growing reports of an incoming political move against her by penning a scathing op-ed in The Washington Post in which she argued that Trump’s continuous claims that he won the election go against the “most conservative of conservative values”, adherence to the rule of law. She also said that the GOP is currently at a turning point as she calls for her party to veer away from the “anti-democratic Trump’s cult of personality”.
She also said that is vital for the GOP to reject Trump’s most toxic claims in order to establish a broad base coalition that can bring sanity back to the country, especially as Democrats fall into what she calls “ridiculous wokeness”, “irrational policies at the border” and “runaway spending”.
Former President Trump has not remained away from the controversy, issuing a typically blistering statement on his newly created blog accusing Cheney of being a “warmongering fool” who has “no business in Republican party leadership” before also supporting Rep. Stefanik’s bid for replacing Cheney as chair of the conference.
A test on the future of the Party
The almost certain upcoming vote against Liz Cheney will certainly give us some indication on how is the top brass of the Republican Party how to address the growing divide between those in the party who want to take a more belligerent approach against Trump’s actions after the election and those who are actively looking for his endorsement and support.
An ousting of Cheney from her position and — most importantly — her replacement by a Trump-endorsed candidate would show that former President might not have the same amount of power as he is no longer in the Oval Office, being on his good graces still remains a vital must for those who want to retain leadership positions in the GOP.
A Cheney defeat would also create more incentives for the more anti-Trump wing of the party to focus solely on opposing the expansive and ambitious legislative agenda of the Biden administration, leaving aside the January 6th assault as it could stoke more divisions within the GOP. This, by the way, appears to be the path that McConnell, Romney, and others are following as they have adopted a tactic of simply ignoring the constant attacks of the former President.
Regardless of the outcome of the attempts to oust her, Cheney will face the political test of her life in 2022 when there will surely be great energy from the most pro-Trump wing of the GOP to support a contender in the Republican Primary, a formidable threat as Trump won Wyoming by very large margins and had a very high approval rating within GOP primary voters.
Cheney knows that every time she condemns Trump she is further eroding her position within vast sectors of the GOP, even if she remains solidly conservative on basically all issues. If she loses the primary, then she might still try and pursue the seat as an independent in the hopes that many Democrats and the never-Trump wing of the GOP rally to her support as one of the most prominent never-Trumpers in the country.
Will this risky strategy work? Nobody knows but it appears that Cheney is committed to risking her political future on it.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.