Losing Liz

Resentment and anger and an overwhelming desire to hurt those who disrespect you, or those who you have been told disrespect you, or those you suspect might secretly disrespect you, laughing at you behind your back, an overwhelming desire to hurt them badly, an overwhelming desire for some sort of revenge, the desire to hit back ten times harder, made Donald Trump president. You should be angry. You should hit back. And you shouldn’t be politically correct. Sneer at those people. They deserve it. Trump sneered at NATO. You can sneer at all those Black people whining about good cops shooting their useless little unarmed children dead. Maybe they should raise their kids right. And so on and so forth. Donald Trump stirred up something powerful with all this.

That’s why he’s still around. That’s why no Republican will say he lost the election. The angry and resentful would turn on them. He created that tidal wave of anger and resentment, a tidal wave that’s still roaring in each and every day. Those are the new Republican voters. No Republican in elected office will cross them. That would end their career. These days, that might cost them their life. That’s why Liz Cheney is losing everything.

The New York Times’ Nicholas Fandos and Catie Edmondson cover the basics:

Top Republicans moved swiftly on Wednesday to purge Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from their leadership ranks for vocally rejecting Donald J. Trump’s election lies, laying the groundwork to install a replacement who has embraced his false claims of voting fraud.

The move to push out Ms. Cheney as the No. 3 House Republican in favor of Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, a Trump loyalist who voted to overturn President Biden’s victory in key states, reflected how thoroughly the party’s orthodoxy has come to be defined by fealty to the former president and a tolerance for misinformation, rather than policy principles.

“The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution,” Ms. Cheney wrote in a searing opinion piece published in the Washington Post on Wednesday evening. She framed her fate as a referendum on the party’s future and warned that Republicans must “steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality.”

In that searing opinion piece she argues that delegitimizing election results has nothing to do with conservative principles, like the rule of law:

I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law. Each of us swears an oath before God to uphold our Constitution. The Electoral College has spoken. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president’s arguments, and refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud.

And this authoritarian stuff isn’t exactly All-American either:

I have worked overseas in nations where changes in leadership come only with violence, where democracy takes hold only until the next violent upheaval. America is exceptional because our constitutional system guards against that. At the heart of our republic is a commitment to the peaceful transfer of power among political rivals in accordance with law.

And a real commission to investigate that January 6 attack is actually a good idea:

We must support a parallel bipartisan review by a commission with subpoena power to seek and find facts; it will describe for all Americans what happened. This is critical to defeat the misinformation and nonsense circulating in the press and on social media. No currently serving member of Congress – with an eye to the upcoming election cycle – should participate. We should appoint former officials, members of the judiciary and other prominent Americans who can be objective, just as we did after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

And continuing to embrace Trump risks “profound long-term damage” to the country:

While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fund-raising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country… History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be.

But really, sticking with Trump is stupid:

There is much at stake now, including the ridiculous wokeness of our political rivals, the irrational policies at the border and runaway spending that threatens a return to the catastrophic inflation of the 1970s. Reagan formed a broad coalition from across the political spectrum to return America to sanity, and we need to do the same now. We know how. But this will not happen if Republicans choose to abandon the rule of law and join Trump’s crusade to undermine the foundation of our democracy and reverse the legal outcome of the last election.

That’s over. Move on. There are other things to do. But no one is moving on. Fandos and Edmondson cover that:

Ms. Cheney, 54, is a conservative who rarely defected from Mr. Trump’s policy positions in Congress, but she has refused to absolve him or the party of their roles in fomenting the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol with groundless claims of fraud in the 2020 election. Ms. Stefanik, 36, is more moderate and has more often parted ways with Republicans over her years in Congress, but she has emerged recently as one of Mr. Trump’s most vociferous defenders, willing to indulge and even amplify those claims.

And that was that:

After days of quiet discussions about ousting Ms. Cheney, the effort erupted into open Republican warfare on Wednesday morning. Party leaders and Mr. Trump himself publicly boosted Ms. Stefanik, both women issued defiant statements about their intentions and dueling factions in the party competed to frame an episode with broad implications for the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.

By day’s end, even President Biden had weighed in on what he called a “mini-rebellion” in the Republican ranks, arguing that the party was plagued by an inability to define itself.

This was quite a mess:

What was clear on Wednesday was that House Republicans were headed for a confrontation, as soon as next week, that now appears likely to result in Ms. Cheney’s firing from her leadership post. Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican, became the highest-ranking figure to call for her removal, endorsing Ms. Stefanik as Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, lobbied behind the scenes on the New Yorker’s behalf…

Support from Mr. McCarthy, in particular, had helped save Ms. Cheney from a similar challenge in February after her vote to impeach Mr. Trump. But the top leader, like rank-and-file Republicans, had grown increasingly frustrated in recent weeks as Ms. Cheney continued to call out Mr. Trump in media interviews and took shots at her own party for tolerating his falsehoods, including during a party retreat in Orlando last week.

By Wednesday, as it became clear that Mr. McCarthy had turned on her, Ms. Cheney was hitting back at him personally, noting that while the leader had initially condemned Mr. Trump for failing to call off his supporters during the Jan. 6 riot, “he has since changed his story.”

Mr. Trump, who had been furious at Mr. McCarthy and others for backing Ms. Cheney earlier this year, sought to drive a nail in her political coffin on Wednesday. In a statement, he derided her as a “warmongering fool” and endorsed Ms. Stefanik, whom he called “a far superior choice.”

But not everyone joined this brawl:

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader who vocally stood behind Ms. Cheney in the past and had previously made clear he wanted to purge Mr. Trump from the party, declined to address her predicament on Wednesday.

“One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this administration,” he said, repeating the sentence almost word for word in response to follow-up questions about the move to oust Ms. Cheney.

He knows this is trouble. Politico reports on the Democrats:

Donald Trump is back in control of the House GOP inner circle, and Democrats can hardly believe their luck.

Republicans are days away from dethroning Rep. Liz Cheney as their No. 3 leader after her repeated broadsides against the former president. And in doing so, Democrats believe the GOP is handing over the ingredients for a political litmus test that could energize their push to beat the historical odds and hang onto their narrow House majority next fall. The Cheney ouster opens the door to tarring the GOP, once again, as the party of Trump.

That’s because the turmoil over Cheney’s future has elevated Trump’s voice in the party to a degree last seen before his encouragement of baseless election fraud claims turned to violence on Jan. 6, getting the former president impeached a second time. Trump’s emergence this week, cheering the Cheney leadership purge and supporting likely successor Rep. Elise Stefanik has handed Democrats an unexpected gift ahead of the 2022 election.

Even as they brace for a potentially perilous midterm battle, Democrats are back on the offense, and the faster Republicans line up behind Trump, the harder Democrats plan to hit them.

They have a plan:

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said the “first question in every race in the country” should be whether GOP candidates believed the “big lie” that the election was stolen. Cheney’s potential ouster will “link them more to the big lie,” Khanna added of House Republicans. “It’s not about Trump. It’s about, do you believe in truth?”

That may be misguided. To them, the truth is that Trump won in an overwhelming landslide. Now all they have to do is prove that. But they will. They will. They really will. Or they won’t:

The GOP’s escalating push to silence the Wyoming Republican, specifically over her criticism of Trump and his unfounded claims about the election, has given new ammunition to the Democrats who are ready to make him a bogeyman again for the midterms. Trump may not be on the ballot, but his relatively low popularity outside the GOP base allows Democrats to warn voters what could happen if Republicans do take back control of Congress next year.

“I think it’s a real weakness in the Republican Party that they have jettisoned their principles, jettisoned adherence to the truth and simply pandered to one individual – Donald Trump,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said during a Washington Post event on Wednesday.

He may be right about that:

Democrats hope that the drama consuming their opponents across the aisle, and what it means for the GOP’s future, could tilt the scale a bit toward them — at least for now.

“Liz Cheney is a staunch conservative, but she is being ousted from Republican leadership because she is not an enthusiastic adherent of the ‘Big Lie,’“ Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who leads the House Democrats’ campaign arm, said in a statement to POLITICO.

“It seems like the only way to get ahead over there is to be a dangerous liar, accused sexual predator, or perpetrator of white supremacist ideology,” Maloney said, referencing scandals that have affected a few GOP members.

What else do they have to offer? Jonathan Chait offers this:

Precisely because Cheney’s reasoning is so simple, many people have failed to grasp how radical, brave, and essential her position is.

The primary argument in How Democracies Die, by Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky, is that the survival of a democratic regime against an authoritarian threat usually comes down to choices made by ideological allies of the authoritarian side. They can decide either to support an authoritarian party or leader that advances their policy agenda, or break from their natural allies and defend the system. According to their historical study of threats against democratic regimes, when the authoritarian candidate’s allies defect, and join with their natural ideological opponents to save the system, democracies survive.

When they stay loyal to their normal partners on the other hand, democracy perishes.

That is what is happening here:

Cheney, of course, shares the party’s objectives on nearly every issue. It is because she is such a partisan, conservative Republican that her dissent is so significant. There is no hidden agenda at work, no subtext of quiet sympathy for Biden’s policies. Cheney believes in right-wing policy and settling control of government at the ballot box.

The Republican party is sliding into authoritarianism at a terrifyingly rapid clip. To stand by is to let it happen. Republicans who have reservations about this trend have tried quiet hand-wringing for five years. It hasn’t worked. Somebody has to fight back, and Cheney has volunteered for the role.

But she has a formidable opponent. Slate’s William Saletan covers him:

In choosing Trump over Cheney, the party isn’t just choosing lies over truth. It’s choosing servility over patriotism. While pretending to stand for “America First,” Trump has been working steadily to fracture, weaken, and discredit the United States.

As president, Trump consistently sided with foreign dictators against his domestic political opponents. On Jan. 6, he carried his treachery as far as he could, sending a mob to the Capitol in an explicit attempt to stop Congress from certifying his electoral defeat. The coup attempt failed, and Trump left office on Jan. 20. But since then, in more than a dozen interviews, speeches, and written statements, he has continued to tell his followers, falsely, that the 2020 election was “rigged,” “totally fraudulent,” and “stolen” through “tens of millions of fake ballots.”

But it’s more than that:

In delivering these lies, Trump chooses language that’s particularly likely to incite rebellion and destabilize the government. On Feb. 28, a month after leaving office, he told the Conservative Political Action Conference that President Joe Biden was never truly elected. “Did Biden win? No,” Trump told the crowd. As his followers chanted, “You won! You won!” Trump egged them on, saying, “We did.” Three weeks later, in a “Statement by Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States of America,” he declared that “we had an Illegitimate Election.” On April 12, he wrote that the U.S. government was in the grip of “an unconstitutionally elected group of Radical Left Democrats who are destroying our Country.”

And he doesn’t let up:

Trump has recommended specific steps to sabotage American democracy. In a March 22 interview with right-wing podcaster Lisa Boothe, he suggested that Republican senators should block Democratic legislation by refusing to “show up.” For the past two weeks, he has promoted a partisan charade disguised as a ballot recount in Arizona. While other Republicans have called for ballot security, Trump has gone further, demanding that access to the polls be curtailed even for legal voters. “Georgia’s election reform law is far too weak,” he protested last month. He argued that “far too many days are given to vote” and that the state should have completely “eliminated” drop boxes, weekend early voting, and no-excuse absentee voting.

Lisa Boothe is useful:

When Republican senators acquitted Trump of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, they said he hadn’t intended to provoke the violence that followed his speech to the mob. But Trump, having witnessed the violence, keeps using the same language he used then. In a March 22 Newsmax interview, he said Democrats were “destroying our country.” He told Boothe’s listeners that Democrats were “vicious,” that “we have to stop them,” and “we’ve got to fight like hell.” He castigated former Vice President Mike Pence—who was targeted for death by the insurrectionists—for failing to block certification of the election. If Democrats had been robbed in an election the way he was robbed, Trump raged, “You would have literally had a revolution. But guys like Mitch McConnell, they don’t fight.”

This guy is out to destroy everything now:

Trump doesn’t just dispute one election. He endorses the narrative, promoted by Russia and other U.S. adversaries, that the whole American system of liberty and democracy is a sham. “We have a very sick and corrupt electoral process,” he told CPAC. Two weeks later, he told Fox News, “We’re like a Third World country.”

Perhaps so, but he’s making it so, and Tom Friedman adds this:

President Biden’s early success in getting Americans vaccinated, pushing out stimulus checks and generally calming the surface of American life has been a blessing for the country. But it’s also lulled many into thinking that Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen, which propelled the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, would surely fade away and everything would return to normal. It hasn’t…

In fact, we are closer to a political civil war – more than at any other time in our modern history.

Yes, it’s that bad:

Under Trump’s command and control from Mar-a-Largo, and with the complicity of most of his party’s leaders, that Big Lie – that the greatest election in our history, when more Republicans and Democrats voted than ever before, in the midst of a pandemic, must have been rigged because Trump lost – has metastasized. It’s being embraced by a solid majority of elected Republicans and ordinary party members – local, state and national.

“Denying the legitimacy of our last election is becoming a prerequisite for being elected as a Republican in 2022,” observed Gautam Mukunda, host of Nasdaq’s “World Reimagined” podcast and author of the book “Indispensable: When Leaders Really Mattered.”

“This is creating a filter that over time will block out anyone willing to tell the truth about the election.” It will leave us with “a Republican Party where you cannot rise without declaring that the sun sets in the East, a Republican Party where being willing to help steal an election is literally a job requirement.”

Friedman says that this is not an exaggeration:

To be a leader in today’s GOP you either have to play dumb or be dumb on the central issue facing our Republic: the integrity of our election. You have to accept everything that Trump has said about the election – without a shred of evidence – and ignore everything his own attorney general, FBI director and election security director said – based on the evidence – that there was no substantive fraud.

What kind of deformed party will such a dynamic produce? A party so willing to be marinated in such a baldfaced lie will lie about anything, including who wins the next election and every one after that.

There is simply nothing more dangerous for a two-party democracy than to have one party declare that no election where it loses is legitimate, and, therefore, if it loses it will just lie about the results and change the rules.

That’s exactly what’s playing out now.

And that leave the country with just one political party:

I have reservations about where the left of the Democratic Party is pulling Biden on some economic, immigration, foreign policy and education issues. But Biden and his party are putting forth real ideas to try to address the real challenges that an increasingly diverse 21st-century America needs to address to become a more perfect union. The best tool for keeping the Democratic Party close to the center-left on more issues is a healthy Republican Party that hews to the center-right.

We don’t have that. We have, instead, a GOP trying to cling to power by leveraging a Big Lie into voter suppression laws that leverage the party back to power by appealing solely to a largely white 20th-century America. Trump’s GOP is making no effort to offer conservative alternatives to the issues of the day. Its whole focus is on how to win without doing that.

Liz knows that:

On Monday, CNN quoted Cheney as telling Republican donors and scholars at a retreat for the American Enterprise Institute in Sea Island, Ga.: “We can’t embrace the notion the election is stolen. It’s a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy. We can’t whitewash what happened on Jan. 6 or perpetuate Trump’s Big Lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on Jan. 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.” A “peaceful transfer of power must be defended.”

And without a war of ideas inside the party, one that is won by principled Republicans, we run the real risk of a political civil war in America over the next election…

Unless more principled Republicans stand up for the truth about our last election, we’re going to see exactly how a democracy dies.

But it’s too late for that. Trump already killed this democracy. Liz lost.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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