The effort to dump Liz Cheney is the consequence of a party that lost its way

That is the point. Romney, like Cheney, is part of a Republican Party with a long history. But that party no longer exists. The GOP that elevated Romney and Cheney’s father and the Bushes was a party that was conservative in its values and policy positions, but also open to disagreement and debate. It was not a cult of personality. Now the litmus test is plain: Cross the former president and suffer consequences.

Romney, who voted to convict Trump in both impeachment trials, came to Cheney’s defense this week with a tweet. “Every person of conscience draws a line beyond which they will not go: Liz Cheney refuses to lie. As one of my Republican Senate colleagues said to me following my impeachment vote: ‘I wouldn’t want to be a member of a group that punished someone for following their conscience.’ ”

That senator, Romney told me last October, was John Cornyn of Texas. Romney was then recalling the reaction among his colleagues when he stood alone among Republicans and cast his vote to impeach Trump in early 2020. “He [Cornyn] said, ‘I don’t agree with where you came out,’ but he said, ‘I would not want to be part of any group that was critical of someone who voted their conscience,’ ” Romney said in the interview. He said he was heartened by such reactions to his vote.

Yet principled conservatism no longer seems in vogue among the bulk of the Republican Party. Fealty to the former president, no matter what he says, is more important. That and winning power at whatever cost to truth.