If the hoopla in the Grand Old Party of recent days is anything to go by, Republicans are stuck with Donald Trump for the foreseeable future, at least until 2024.
On the one hand, conservative law makers are still arguing and debating on the extent to which the former 45th President ought to have a say in the party’s affairs. And, on the other hand, Trump continues with the outrageous lie that somehow the November 2020 elections were stolen from him despite the fact that Joseph Biden won the Electoral College and the popular votes by 7 million. Added to this is the fact that some 70 law suits challenging the election result by Trump and his allies were all tossed out of courts. And, the stinging embarrassment came from Trump’s own Attorney General and Justice Department that maintained the elections were not a fraud as claimed by the President and his close coterie.
The center of attention is now Liz Cheney, the third senior most Republican in the House of Representatives as House Conference Chair, following the Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican Whip Steve Scalise. Only some three months ago, Cheney handily beat back attempts to dislodge her from her privy position but this time around the attempts to get rid of her are far more serious and with active inputs from the former President.
And what is that the former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s daughter has done? Telling fellow conservatives that enough is enough and the time has come to choose between falsehood and defending the Constitution of the land. At one time, the Congresswoman from Montana was a close aide to President Trump on issues of domestic and foreign policies; but troubles started at the time of Trump’s second Impeachment and the incited mob attack on Capitol Hill of January 6.
Cheney took to The Washington Post to rip apart Republicans and President Trump stressing that she is committed to protecting freedom and the democratic process irrespective of the short-term consequences. “Trump has repeated his claims that the 2020 election was a fraud and was stolen. His message: I am still the rightful president, and President Biden is illegitimate. Trump repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on 6 January”, Cheney said in her Op Ed piece.
“The question before us now is whether we will join Trump’s crusade to de-legitimise and undo the legal outcome of the 2020 election, with all the consequences that might have. I have worked overseas in nations where changes in leadership come only with violence, where democracy takes hold only until the next violent upheaval,” she added.
“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,” she said. What also riled conservatives close to Trump is the assertion that the former President “is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work – confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this”.
The Republican Party, Cheney maintained, is at a turning point and that Republicans must decide whether they were going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution. “History is watching us,” the Montana Republican warned.
Cheney’s ouster, according to Capitol Hill insiders, could come as early as May 12 as top Republicans have “promised” Trump that she would be eased out of that powerful position. But the defiant Cheney has made it clear that she is not losing any sleep on account of what her colleagues are planning. In fact, she has reportedly told some Republicans that it was not worth holding on to any leadership positions in the party “ if lying is going to be a requirement”.
As the top House Republican leadership seem to be rallying behind Congresswoman Elise Stefanik for the Number Three position, Cheney has spoken of a “cult of personality” around Donald Trump.
Whether this is a “mini revolution” within the Grand Old Party as President Biden put it or something that will pass on soon remains to be seen. But generally there is a feeling that Republicans are hanging on to the coat-tails of the former President, fearing opposition at the primaries stage in the run up to the 2022 and 2024 elections.
Not many in the GOP may have much stomach for some of the outlandish things Trump has put out since the election of November 3 but the fact that Trump came away with some 75 million votes and his name still matters when it comes to fundraising makes all the difference. The former President may be out of Facebook and Twitter for now but many are worried at the prospect of Trump getting back on his social media handles if restrictions are lifted.
There seems to be yet another reason why prominent members of the Republican Party are against Liz Cheney—that she is somehow responsible for keeping the focus on Trump at a time when the GOP must move on and they should be training their guns on the Democrats for the elections of 2022 and 2024.
By harping on Trump and talking of the 2020 election, senior Republicans fear that the momentum is being lost on a host of domestic issues like taxation and immigration. But in hammering away at Liz Cheney, hardline Republicans are also quietly going about undoing voting rights in the guise of reform hoping to put a stamp of permanency on Capitol Hill beyond 2024.
A former senior journalist in Washington D.C. covering North America and the United Nations, the author is currently a Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the College of Science and Humanities, SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai.
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