There’s an ever-rotating group of GOP politicians Democrats will temporarily pretend to like. They can sit at the cool-kids table just so long as they let the cool kids copy their homework — or, to be less metaphorical, lend faux bipartisan support to liberal ideas.
In 2008, then-Texas Rep. Ron Paul fit the bill because the libertarian-leaning presidential candidate was entertaining and against the Iraq War. Never mind that liberals previously called him a racist (and would continue to do so after he stopped being useful), but he was also a guy Republicans could get behind.
In 2016, it was members of the Bush family — who’d been called murderous warmongers just a few years prior — because they refused to endorse Donald Trump. Then it was the amoral political operatives of the Lincoln Project.
Now it’s partisan hack and (putting it charitably) semi-professional oenophile John Boehner, whose recent scathing memoir takes down every GOPer to the right of John Lindsay. Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is currently a hip Republican in the halls of The Washington Post; in 2012, when he was the Republican standard-bearer, The Post didn’t tire of reminding you Romney put his dog on top of his car during a family trip.
Never in my life, however, did I predict the Democrats would make temporary peace with a Cheney.
On Wednesday, Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney was ousted from chair of the House Republican Conference, the number three position in the party, during a closed-door meeting, according to Fox News. The reason depended on who you asked.
Liberals were quick to say that Cheney’s ouster had to do with her hard line against claims of election fraud from former President Donald Trump and others.
Conservatives, meanwhile, noted she’d previously survived a vote of no confidence handily even though she’d voted to impeach the former president; it was her refusal to move on from the topic that eventually led to her welcome being worn threadbare.
Whatever the case, the Democrats took up Cheney’s cause posthaste. In fact, on the same day Cheney was being ousted, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer made an impassioned plea to pass the “For the People Act” to honor profiles in courage like Liz Cheney. Better known as H.R. 1, the Democrats’ sweeping election legislation would eliminate voter ID requirements, invalidate bills banning absentee ballot harvesting, publicly fund campaigns and nullify states’ abilities to prune voter rolls.
“Down the hall from us, House Republicans are plotting the demotion of a Republican member for the crime of repeating the truth: that Joe Biden is the president of the United States and that Donald Trump is lying,” Schumer said during Senate debate, according to Fox News.
“Liz Cheney spoke truth to power, and for that, she’s being fired.”
“Every Republican in this room knows Joe Biden won the election fair and square,” he added. “Every Republican knows that Donald Trump perpetrated the big lie. But the price of admission in today’s Republican Party is silence in the face of provable lies.”
LIZ CHENEY: After the House GOP voted this morning to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) from leadership, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor to commend her “courage” while calling it a “dark moment” for Republicans pic.twitter.com/RcXXQTM6TW
— Forbes (@Forbes) May 12, 2021
“Aren’t there a few Republicans who will refuse to follow the rush of their party? Who will follow the example of a Liz Cheney?” he added. “Maybe there will be a Republican who will support this bill, or at the very least offer constructive amendments. Where are the few?”
Being Rep. Liz Cheney and not Sen. Liz Cheney, she could not be part of the few, given she had no vote in the matter. If she were Sen. Liz Cheney, however, she would not be part of the few. That’s because Cheney, the subject of Schumer’s empurpled oration on Wednesday, voted against H.R. 1 and called it “unconstitutional.”
In a March 3 statement, released after Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi brought the “For the People Act” to the House floor, Cheney’s office dismissively referred to it as the “For the Politicians Act” and said the bill would “federalize elections, taking power away from state and local governments where it belongs.”
“The past two weeks have proven that Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats are not serious about governing or leading our nation,” Cheney said in the statement.
“The bill they brought to the floor today steals power from the people, violates Americans’ First Amendment Rights, and is designed to protect Democrat politicians. The legislation would force hard-earned taxpayer money to fund political campaigns and enable the federal government to control all aspects of our elections.
“It’s clear that we need common sense election reform, but this unconstitutional federal takeover would only create more uncertainty for the system,” she concluded.
The bill passed the House with only Democratic votes. The irony of Cheney’s vote wasn’t lost on GOP Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
“I note that the distinguished Democratic leader has a great admiration for the distinguished representative from the state of Wyoming, Rep. Cheney,” Wicker said, according to Fox News.
“He waxes on about her judgment and her courage. I would point out to my colleagues that this newfound hero of Sen. Schumer voted no on H.R. 1 and perhaps he should follow her logic and her judgment on that since he has joined me in admiration of Rep. Cheney.”
Well, that’s uncomfortable.
And then there’s the fact Cheney isn’t losing her leadership position because she’s pointing out Joe Biden won the election, Donald Trump lost and we should get over it. Nor, in fact, is she losing it because white Republican men have fragile egos and she hurt them, as one memorably execrable New York Times Magazine article posited.
Rather, this is an internecine political squabble with a number of moving parts. Liz Cheney viewed the power vacuum in the chaotic aftermath of Jan. 6 as a political opportunity but overplayed her hand.
Moreover, she continued to play that hand again and again against compelling evidence it wasn’t working, all the while alienating and attacking the same Republicans that had overwhelmingly supported her during the first vote of no confidence.
Cheney may be in a very big doghouse at the moment over all of this, and nobody’s saying she’s anything but the platonic form of the squishy conservative — but she’s no more a covert liberal in favor of federalizing elections than Bernie Sanders is a clandestine Republican who secretly yearns for election integrity legislation.
I have to give Senate Majority Leader Schumer credit, though. On the selfsame day he lionized a member of the Cheney family, he implored those on the Senate floor to follow her example — which would mean to vote against the “For the People Act.”
On this rare occasion, the senior senator from New York and I find ourselves in accord.
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