As expected, Rep. Liz Cheney lost her primary by a large margin Tuesday night, purely for the sin of speaking out against Donald Trump’s coup attempt. That was enough to have her Republican In Good Standing card stripped despite her reliably conservative positions on everything else. It just can’t be said enough: The desire to overturn an election, or at least the willingness to flirt with it, is a requirement for status in the Republican Party in 2022.
It’s not just Cheney, though she is the most prominent case. Ten House Republicans voted to impeach Trump in 2021. Just two will remain in Congress after this year, with four having lost primaries and four having decided to retire (before they could lose a primary).
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Top Republicans didn’t just fail to support an incumbent in a primary. They didn’t just actively support a primary challenger to an incumbent. They actively and publicly celebrated Cheney’s loss.
“Congratulations to @HagemanforWY on her MASSIVE primary victory to restore the PEOPLE of Wyoming’s voice,” Rep. Elise Stefanik tweeted, noting that she had joined Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in endorsing Harriet Hageman. Stefanik, of course, replaced Cheney as the third-ranking House Republican when Cheney’s ex-communication from the party really got rolling.
”Girl, BYE,” was all Rep. Lauren Boebert had to say. Similarly, Sen. Rand Paul capped his tweet celebrating Hageman’s win with a “Bye Liz.”
This level of venom is spurred not by broad policy disagreement but by Cheney’s disloyalty in refusing to embrace the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, or at least keep her mouth shut about her opposition to that. That’s it. That’s all. It’s a staggering statement about today’s Republican Party.
There’s a lot of debate among Democrats about how to assess Cheney. Is she a hero? Is she just meeting the minimum bar of not supporting coups? But Cheney isn’t the point. The point is that, among Republicans, Cheney’s courage in adhering to the idea that the outcome of elections should be respected stands out, and her willingness to keep talking and name names stands out still more. Yes, everyone in office should be where she is on the basic question of whether the winner of the presidential election should become president, but they’re not. Far from it.