The Liz Cheney saga is one I haven’t felt compelled to write about, in part because although it’s basically a shallow issue, the polarization over it wades immediately into deep waters.
I don’t really want to spend too much time on it here. As it begins to recede, however, it matters to register a couple of points.
One is that the reason Rep. Cheney had to be removed from leadership is that she couldn’t do anything except rant angrily about Donald Trump. I watched this sadly, because over the last 20 years I’ve found a lot of basis for agreement with her on numerous issues. It’s been melancholy watching people of similar profile succumb to Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Great Q from @BretBaier to Liz Cheney: "You, and your colleagues….were elected to block the Biden agenda which Republicans believe is too far left…Aren't they correct to claim you are focus on the election & President trump was somehow not going to get them to that goal?" pic.twitter.com/Rc02NkQL0o
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) May 13, 2021
Excellent follow-up from @BretBaier: "You're saying you are dedicating your life to opposing him…Why should Wyoming say reelect you when you're spending so much energy opposing him so little opposing Biden?"
Cheney: "Well, you're wrong."
Chaos ensues. It's worth a watch. pic.twitter.com/tWf4vQXPWu
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) May 13, 2021
I know there will be plenty of replies from readers who simply write her off as a Swamp Rat, and we can fight that out later. The point I want to make, and what I’m going to stick to, is that there is neither percentage nor leadership in ranting against Trump.
That is basically because of point number two. Those who range themselves on Cheney’s side frequently claim as their own the project of giving the Republican Party a future. By definition, in their view, the future must be one without Trump.
But regardless of Trump’s presence or participation, where Cheney wants to focus is not the future of the Republican Party.
It’s the past.
Repudiation of “Trump” never comes with the essential statement of how a future GOP is going to achieve what Trump did between 2017 and 2021, and then go beyond that to remodel the structure of government so a “Biden” can’t come in and snap it all back.
That’s what so-called Trump voters want, and they have good reason to want it. With Trump in office, they had hope and a future again. Why would they want to go back to any set of conditions between about 1990 and 2016? They certainly didn’t want to go back to 1979, which is the year 2021 is currently on course to top.
Millions of Republican voters don’t want to go back to the Before-Trump GOP, because it wasn’t working for them. They voted, and voted, and kept being handed more intrusive government, more loss of freedom, more loss of economic opportunity, more psychotic social atmosphere shaped by media and government-enabled activists running over a cliff to the left.
We are now living through another “Before-Trump GOP” outcome, and it’s worse than lousy. All this that we see around us? America staggering through broken glass, flames, rubble, gunfire, the media giving us a daily-changing narrative about a disease that’s been used as an excuse to kill our businesses and jobs, our children denied the normal, healthy patterns of school, friends, and outdoor activities, our churches and synagogues held at gunpoint lest they fill up with people who want to call on God for succor and guidance, and our “entertainment” media offering us TV series about cannibalism and contact with the demons?
Even now, when the promise of restoring some semblance of normal life is being extended from the federal level, we see the outlines of a price being shaped up: an electronic “vaccination passport” whose inner workings only central programmers will know, but to which we will be required to submit ourselves if we want to get some part of our lives back.
It took only the restoration of the Before-Trump GOP’s status quo to plunge us back into this. But now times twelve, with no sign of leadership that would marshal us against it, from the Before-Trump GOP.
Where does anyone get off demanding that the millions of “Trump voters” go back to that – for the sake of anything? We don’t even need to argue over what sake it’s for. Whatever: Not-Trumpism, “moral tone,” seemliness in demeanor and self-presentation. It doesn’t matter. That all amounts to nothing but depending on our own righteousness anyway.
What matters is that the Republican Party post-Reagan is not something anyone can be faulted for not wanting to go back to. The Trump-hating party centered in Washington doesn’t fight against this: this unleashed resurgence of long-building social and national destruction.
These eruptions around us are the fruit of the Before-Trump GOP, the impotent one that couldn’t get the repeal of Obamacare sealed when it had a comfortable majority in Congress and a president ready to sign it off.
I say that having never hated or despised any of its leaders in that period. I was rather frequently disappointed in them – even George W. Bush, whom I voted for twice. But I don’t call them swamp creatures, or at least not most of them. I don’t find that language helpful.
On the other hand, I don’t despise people who do use such language. Those folks have borne the entire cost of having a GOP that doesn’t deliver. Aspiring leaders who berate them for not toeing some imaginary line of litmus-test purity should think shame on themselves.
Stop heaping them with crushing burdens first. Get weaponized government off their backs and out of their bank accounts and their moral consciences; then maybe it will be time to read them lectures.
That trial by achievement will take most everyone off the field. There will be a lot fewer people still around haranguing Republican voters with polemics about the voters’ shortcomings.
In the end, that was Liz Cheney’s problem as Trump’s term wound down. For me, her reflexive acceptance of a pat, unproven narrative about the 6 January riot – the rote narrative of an “insurrection” of implicitly insurrection-minded citizens, “incited” “by Trump” over a “big lie” about the election – is the final deal-breaker. Every piece of that narrative rejects facts that are not getting a fair hearing as evidence (and assumes as “fact” things that are not in evidence). It writes off tens of millions of Americans as feral dupes, insurrectionist dealers in Big Lies, instead of acknowledging them to be reasonable people who are thinking for themselves, and who see a reason to press for actual answers where those answers haven’t been forthcoming or satisfactory.
Think about it rationally for just a few seconds. Those millions of people, according to this narrative, are an Army of Darkness inside the United States, being led into doing preternaturally disastrous things by … Donald Trump, whose own history of action contains no such features – there’s no pointing to them, because they aren’t there – and whose chief infractions as POTUS are crude, inelegant habits of speech, such that those habits make his hostile critics feel that any allegation about him, no matter how evidence-free, is probably true. His critics navigate by that feeling to the point of hoping for years on end that the evidence has finally arrived, no matter how many times the hope is shown to be forlorn.
And then – this is the kicker – the leading lights of the Cheney contingent, including the hopeful consumers of invariably falsified “evidence,” want the despised Lost Voters to, well, come back and vote for them.
Unlike Cheney, I don’t claim to be certain what happened on either 3-4 November 2020 or 6 January 2021. I don’t think it’s very bright or an act of good faith to be certain of the media-touted narrative at this point, and to demand that others affirm a catechism of certainty as a condition of participation.
That doesn’t mean I think anyone needs to be given the pitchfork and torches treatment. There are orderly ways to approach the problem, and they should be employed.
It does mean I don’t agree to be led by people who, in my view, are injudicious and even paranoid about dealing with reasonable possibilities, such as that their narrative about an “insurrection” on 6 January is flawed.
There’s no reason why disputes over that point have to shape the future of the Republican Party – except that a few lingering in leadership, like Cheney, can’t talk about anything else.
Kevin McCarthy, whatever his flaws, has expressed it well. That’s not how we move forward.
If you want to lead the party, talk about how to regain Congress in 2022 and outdo “Trump 2017-21” after 2024. Leadership is being able, precisely, to appreciate Trump and what he’s done, and think constructively and without mentally-disabling annoyance about him and his influence on politics.
Don’t make it “about” ensuring that it won’t be Trump himself who gets a crack at 2024. Get a grip. The voters have finally seen something that works, so the plan can’t be warmed-over candidates, policies, and mindsets from before 2016.
The candidate could be Trump in 2024. The legacy media would hate that – as far as we can see today – but no one out here cares what they hate anymore.
Maybe Ron DeSantis will still look like the One by then. Maybe not.
What we can say for certain is that it won’t be any Republican who wants to focus on repudiating Trump instead of doing the right thing for Americans, including things that Trump would do, while being respectful of Trump and his legacy and continuing political significance. Be a happy warrior. Be glad Trump is on our team, currently in the role of team captain.
The team captain is on the sideline for half the game. If you’re a top skill player, you appreciate the heck out of him. Same if you’re the immovable object or the irresistible force on either side of the line. It takes the whole team to get the job done. And teams choose captains because there needs to be someone who keeps coming back play after play with the hope-and-a-future message.
If you don’t like the message Trump is putting out, put it out there yourself: speak hope and a future – not vengeance, biased reckonings, and the past – in your own terms and let it compete.
That’s the deal. If you can’t do that, go in peace and let others carry the standard from here.
Choose life. And let freedom ring.