It was a tense closed-door meeting that lasted only fifteen minutes, and when it was over GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming was no longer the chair of her party’s conference. Why the third-most powerful Republican in the House had been summarily relieved of her position was left for Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to explain: he said it was to preserve party unity ahead of the 2022 elections. And as everyone knows by now, “unity” for Republicans means buying into the falsehood that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. It also means perpetuating that lie—as loudly as possible, and for as long as needed.
Cheney was having none of it. Instead of toeing the party line, she emerged as Trump’s most high-profile Republican critic, first voting to convict him for inciting the January 6 insurrection in his second impeachment trial, and then, in the months that followed, insisting that Republicans needed to choose “truth and fidelity to the Constitution...and the rule of law” over blind loyalty to the former president. Her swift replacement by Trump loyalist Elise Stefanik of New York shows just how little her attempts at persuasion registered with her colleagues.
In some sense, it’s hard to feel much sympathy for Cheney. There’s a lot to dislike about her ideological conservativism and the positions she’s taken: her support for torture and the war in Iraq (she helped write her father Dick Cheney’s unapologetic memoir in 2011); her opposition to the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage (despite the fact that her sister, Mary, is married to a woman); and her recent fearmongering (delivered in the same Washington Post op-ed denouncing Trump) over “Biden’s border crisis” and the “illegal Black Lives Matter and antifa violence” of last summer. There’s also the simple fact that she cast her 2020 presidential vote for Donald Trump, a decision she now says she regrets.