Joni Ernst on ousting Liz Cheney: "Cancel culture is cancel culture no matter how you look at it"

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

I’m sympathetic to Cheney but this is silly. She’s not a random Twitter user somewhere who’s getting fired for having a Bad Opinion. She’s a member of Congress in the Republican leadership. Having political opinions is what she does for a living.


If removing Liz Cheney from office is “cancellation” then what’s the difference between “cancel culture” and basic political accountability?

She’s out of step with her caucus and with her constituents even though she’s right on the merits about the election and the insurrection. It’s a travesty that the party would rather be represented by conspiracy theorists and riot-inciters but it is what it is. Preferring to be represented by someone who’s more in tune with your views isn’t “cancellation” or else the term has lost all meaning.

“I feel it’s okay to go ahead and express what you feel is right to express and, you know, cancel culture is cancel culture no matter how you look at it. Unfortunately I think there are those that are trying to silence others in the party,” Ernst told reporters on Monday asked about Cheney’s likely ouster…

Ernst, who is the Senate GOP’s conference vice chair, noted that she supports Trump and his policies, so she and Cheney aren’t coming from the same place, “but I still think we shouldn’t be trying to cancel voices.”

“What we can do is come together and try to win seats in 2022. I think that’s what all of us should be focused on,” Ernst said, adding that she thought the fight over Cheney was a distraction from that.

If I oppose Trump in the 2024 primary, am I guilty of trying to “cancel” him? C’mon. If “cancel culture” is going to be a galvanizing concept for the right, it needs to mean more than “penalizing a person I like for having an unpopular view.” Josh Hawley seems to understand that better than Ernst, although maybe not much better:


Cheney losing her seat wouldn’t be a case of “cancel culture” either. To me, “cancellation” is when someone suffers serious and disproportionate professional consequences for holding a disfavored personal opinion. That being so, I’m not sure how a politician could ever rightly be said to have been “canceled.” When your representative is too far out of sync with popular opinion locally, the proper recourse is to replace them with someone who isn’t. That’s not disproportionate. It’s … politics.

While we’re on the topic of bad pro-Cheney takes, gotta disagree with Mitt on this one:

I doubt the Liz Cheney saga — or at least this chapter of it — will matter to any swing voters next fall. Ask 100 Americans who the leaders of each House caucus are. Many could name Pelosi; how many could name McCarthy? Then ask them to name who the number two in each caucus is. What percentage would accurately name Steny Hoyer and Steve Scalise? Most voters have no idea about congressional leadership. If the Cheney thing comes back to haunt Republicans, it won’t be because the caucus ousts her on Wednesday. It’ll be because Trump and the rest of MAGAworld goes all-in next summer to try to primary her in Wyoming, earning Cheney tons of sympathetic media coverage shortly before the midterms about how the populist right can’t bear to have any Republican tell the truth about the election. Seeing Trump out on the trail attacking Cheney for holding an opinion which many swing voters share will influence them more than some arcane leadership fight right now, 18 months out from the vote, will.


By the way, for all the whining about Cheney refusing to move on from the election, her successor-in-waiting isn’t ready to move on either:

Washington Examiner: How are you going to make a change from Cheney and look forward to the 2022 elections when Trump, who has the biggest megaphone in the party, is so focused on 2020?

Stefanik: I disagree that it is binary between looking back and looking forward. I think the president is right to focus on the election integrity and election security issues. If you go to any Republican Lincoln Day dinner, any town meeting across the country, it is one of the top concerns of voters. And it’s very much in line when we talk about going on offense. H.R. 1 is the opposite direction. That’s a federal takeover of election. Republicans have put forth policies such as voter ID, ensuring that we have chain of custody of absentee ballots, signature verification process, the audit in Arizona. State legislatures like Florida are taking proactive policy action. So, I believe that the discussions of the 2020 election are integral to make sure that we can rebuild the American people’s trust in our elections, moving forward, and put forth those policy solutions to improve election security and election integrity. And I stand with the president’s focus on election integrity. As usual, he’s very in touch with the voters around the country.

“Election integrity” is the weaselly term “respectable” Republicans use when they want to walk the line between claiming that the election was stolen, as the base believes, and observing more mundanely that the country needs more confidence in the outcome of its elections whether or not 2020 was stolen. If Democrats win again in 2024 despite all of the “election integrity” laws currently being passed by Republican state legislatures, we’ll still be told that there are “election integrity” questions about that result too. Not a bit of it is on the level. It’s all about delegitimizing an unfavorable outcome.


Here’s another cringeworthy example of dressing up an unrespectable accommodation with conspiracy theories as somehow respectable:

As a Twitter pal said, what’s the “variety of views” in Cheney’s case? She’s anti-insurrection and the rest of the party is pro. Congratulations on that big tent.

I’ll leave you with Adam Kinzinger, one of two House Republicans (Anthony Gonzalez is the other) still willing to speak publicly in Cheney’s defense. I’m dying to see how lopsided Wednesday’s vote is.

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David Strom 6:40 PM | February 29, 2024