“If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person, you have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy,” she told the caucus this morning before the vote, one last flourish of shaming them for sitting silent while Trump continues to propagandize about a stolen election.
Then, fittingly, they turned around and ousted her by voice vote. Not even by secret ballot, which would have protected their anonymity but demanded some measure of accountability. In the end McCarthy and the caucus didn’t even want a tally on getting rid of Cheney, knowing that the result would be embarrassing if she lost narrowly and embarrassing for a different reason if she lost by a landslide. The voice vote let them all hide in a crowd, as usual.
She warned the caucus before they voted that dumping her from leadership won’t make her shut up. To the contrary, she told them she’ll be “leading the fight to restore our party” to make it “worthy again of being the party of Lincoln.” That was the peril for McCarthy in all this — by pushing her out of leadership and freeing her to speak only for herself going forward rather than for the caucus, he risked emboldening her in her antagonism towards Trump. And even though there’s nothing McCarthy can do about that, Trump’s apt to blame him for not bringing her to heel.
She wasted no time showing her colleagues that she was serious when she said she wouldn’t pipe down. Here was the scene after the meeting ended:
Rep. Liz Cheney: "We must go forward based on truth. We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution…I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office." pic.twitter.com/jrIwLTdP6t
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 12, 2021
And here’s what’s going on later today:
— Savannah Guthrie (@SavannahGuthrie) May 12, 2021
The media is filled with reports this morning about Cheney and her allies planning a long campaign to counter Trump’s lies about the election. That’s destined to lead to her losing her seat next November but she’ll get lots of coverage before then which she’ll use to counterprogram the former president and further shame her colleagues for biting their tongues as the party sinks deeper into becoming an autocratic personality cult. It will make her the de facto head of the GOP’s small anti-Trump wing for the next year and a half. “Cheney’s [national] profile is boosted by losing her seat at the leadership table. They believe she’s stronger for having being booted out of [leadership],” Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman wrote about the thinking within her camp.
If she’s concluded that the best thing she can do with what’s left of her political career is speaking out against Trump’s anti-democratic influence over the party — and she has concluded that, pretty clearly — then letting the caucus martyr her for speaking out on behalf of the truth is a rational move. It’s a kamikaze approach, but if she succeeds in making Trump’s illiberalism a live issue for swing voters ahead of the midterms (an effort Trump himself will assist in by attacking her relentlessly and doubling down on claims of a stolen election) then she can do some damage. At the very least, she’s an excuse for the media to continue to confront House Republicans about the party’s anti-democratic drift. The more pressure they feel to distance themselves from Trump on that point, the less likely they’ll be to enable another coup attempt if the 2024 election doesn’t go their way.
In theory. If they take back the House and Senate in 2022, all bets are off.
Last night Laura Ingraham asked Jim Jordan about the floor speech Cheney had just finished delivering and he accused her of spouting “Democrat talking points.” Watch it and see what’s now considered “Democrat talking points” in the eyes of a Republican populist. All Cheney says is that she stands for democracy and won’t enable propaganda aimed at undermining it: “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that.” Jordan’s telling us straight out that telling the truth about the election and opposing an autogolpe is now a partisan issue. In the end, as Tim Miller noted elsewhere today, the only Republican in Congress to have paid a political price for the “stop the steal” campaign and the insurrection it inspired is Liz Cheney for telling the truth about both. What else is there to say?
WATCH: Complete remarks from Rep. Liz Cheney.
"We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen and America has not failed." pic.twitter.com/pewuBnMoQh
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 12, 2021