Why won't Liz Cheney's replacement move on from talking about the election?

There are two reasons being offered for why Cheney needs to go, one of which is true and one of which is spin.

The spin, from Kevin McCarthy on down to party apparatchiks at all levels, is that the caucus had no problem with Cheney voting to impeach Trump and criticizing him afterward. They stood by her in February, didn’t they? Cheney’s problem is that she just won’t move on. She keeps responding to Trump’s statements insisting that the election was rigged and fielding questions from reporters about the insurrection. The caucus needs a leader who’ll look ahead towards stopping Biden’s agenda, not someone who looks backward and wants to fight with Trump.

Focus on the future. The past is the past.

The truth, which you hear from Trump critics, is that the caucus doesn’t care if Cheney talks about the election and the insurrection until her lips bleed, they care that she’s taking the wrong position. Witness their indifference to Trump’s many statements lately that he was the real winner last November. The latest came just this morning:

The Fake News Media, working in close conjunction with Big Tech and the Radical Left Democrats, is doing everything they can to perpetuate the term “The Big Lie” when speaking of 2020 Presidential Election Fraud. They are right in that the 2020 Presidential Election was a Big Lie, but not in the way they mean. The 2020 Election, which didn’t even have Legislative approvals from many States (which is required under the U.S. Constitution), and was also otherwise corrupt, was indeed The Big Lie. So when they try to sell the American people the term The Big Lie, which they do in unison and coordination, think of it instead as the greatest Fraud in the history of our Country! An even greater Hoax than Russia, Russia, Russia, Mueller, Mueller, Mueller, Impeachment Hoax #1, Impeachment Hoax #2, or any of the other many scams the Democrats pulled!

If he were retired and out of politics, one could understand House Republicans declining to comment on that. Who cares what a private citizen thinks? But he’s still the unquestioned leader of the party, to the point where the 2024 nomination is his for the asking by universal consensus. He’s focused on the past more than Cheney is, yet no one in the House has an unkind word to say about him. National Review noticed in an editorial today:

It isn’t Cheney who is preventing Republicans from moving on and repairing the wounds from the 2020 election. It is Trump himself. Six months after being defeated, he still won’t drop it — in statements, in TV appearances, and in impromptu speeches to small crowds at Mar-a-Lago.

These statements are divisive and false, yet the same people now coming after Cheney don’t raise a peep about them. Indeed, Cheney is being accused of distracting from the fight against Biden when some Trump supporters have displayed more passion about taking her out than opposing Biden’s $6 trillion agenda. If Cheney’s enemies think we should be talking about Biden and not Trump, they’ve certainly picked a funny way to show it.

Cheney’s problem isn’t that she “won’t move on,” it’s that she insists on contradicting Trump about the election and the Capitol riot. If she spent as much of her time claiming that the election was rigged and the insurrection was no big deal as he does, not only would her leadership position be safe, she’d be one of his favorite members of Congress.

Despite being a “warmonger,” as he’s known to call her.

Anyway, there’s an easy test to see if the spin about why Cheney’s being removed is true. If in fact she’s being ousted because she “won’t move on” from whether the election is rigged then we should expect her successor-in-waiting, Elise Stefanik, to be scrupulous about avoiding that subject. Stefanik needs to show that she has moved on by comparison, right? So when someone asks her about fraudulent votes or stolen ballots or whatever, we’d expect her to say something like, “Let’s leave the past in the past. What matters now is stopping Joe Biden from spending this country into fiscal ruin. I’m focused on the future.”

Is that what she said here when Steve Bannon asked her about the Arizona Senate’s “audit” of that state’s votes, an endeavor so ridiculous that it has Republicans scrutinizing the ballots for traces of bamboo in hopes of proving that they were shipped in from China?

Stefanik hasn’t moved on either. She’s happy to relitigate the election, to the point of endorsing an “audit” being conducted months after the fact. The only difference between her and Cheney is that Cheney insists on telling the truth about the election and Stefanik is willing to lie and lie and lie about it. The anti-Cheney spin from McCarthy and others is nonsense and Stefanik’s proving it right here, in her first interview after becoming heir apparent.

In fact, dwell on the absurdity of her choosing Steve Bannon, of all people, to conduct that interview in light of the GOP spin about Cheney. If the caucus is eager to show that Cheney is being removed because she insists on dwelling on 2020 and its aftermath, not because she’s a critic of “stop the steal” propaganda, why the hell would Stefanik sit down with a former Trump advisor turned stolen-election propagandist? Bannon is as backward-looking a choice as one could imagine. Stefanik could have gone on “Fox & Friends” or whatever instead and done the whole I’m-looking-forward-not-backward shtick. And I’m sure she would have — if that were why Cheney was being dumped.

But Cheney’s actually being dumped because she’s a thorn in Trump’s side. In which case, who better for Stefanik to chat with to show that she won’t be a thorn in his side than Bannon? After all, although she’s worked hard to convince Trump voters that she’s true-blue MAGA, they know that Stefanik isn’t really “one of us.” She’s a Harvard grad who was lukewarm about Trump until the last few years, when she sensed an opportunity to advance herself by rebranding as an ardent Trumper. Her voting record is famously more liberal than Cheney’s is. House Republicans are willing to put her in leadership now, for the sake of ridding themselves of Cheney, but not all of them are thrilled with the prospect of Stefanik as a long-term influence. Stefanik will need to keep building her MAGA cred, which means sitting down with the Bannon types in right-wing media and may mean spending more time than she’d like chattering about the allegedly stolen election.

That’s the irony of replacing Cheney with her: Because Stefanik remains suspect as a populist leader, she may feel obliged to try to build goodwill by revisiting 2020 more than Cheney herself did. She won’t “move on” either. But because she’ll be articulating the MAGA perspective, no one will say a word. Maybe she’ll be around awhile after all.