Thousands of pro-Trump rioters storm the United States Capitol building following a “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump supporters had gathered in the nation’s capital to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory in the 2020 election. Photo by Spencer Platt | Getty Images
The Republican civil war is raging and the party’s defenders of democracy are losing.
On Wednesday, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who’s best described as a traditional, establishment conservative, was unceremoniously booted from her job as the third most powerful GOP leader in the House of Representatives by the sycophantic, white-supremacist-coddling, fascist wing of her party.
Her crime? Cheney doesn’t believe that former President Donald Trump is still president, or that he is above the law, or that he was sent by God to run America, much less the Republican Party.
Frankly, who would have imagined that after years of Republican Party leaders standing by as Trump single-handedly destroyed and then recreated the GOP in his image that Cheney, the staunchest of staunch conservatives, would turn out to be one of the good guys.
I don’t agree with the great bulk of the traditional Republican agenda, or Cheney’s own voting record in Congress, for that matter, but I’m a sucker for people who believe we should all defend our democracy against the enemies of free and fair elections.
On Tuesday, Cheney delivered a powerful and eloquent condemnation of Trump and his abettors from the House floor. The next day, instead of applauding her principled stance, GOP leaders punished her and purged her from their leadership ranks.
Only one other Republican, Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, was in the chamber when Cheney delivered her speech. No matter, her message was aimed at a far wider audience that included not only her fellow Republicans but the American people writ large, our democratic allies around the world, and the historical legacy of our nation itself.
Here are some excerpts of what Cheney had to say:
“Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence. . . The Electoral College has voted. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple judges the former president appointed, have rejected his claims. The Trump Department of Justice investigated the former president’s claims of widespread fraud and found no evidence to support them. The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process. Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution. Our duty is clear. Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy.”
To remain silent, as Cheney added, is to “embolden the liar” [AKA, Trump].” We mustn’t stand by as Trump undermines our democracy, and in the face of claims by China, Russia and other authoritarian regimes around the world, “We must speak the truth,” Cheney said, by letting the world know “our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.”
Cheney closed her remarks by reminding her colleagues in Congress, Republican and Democrat alike, that the oath they swore when they took office requires that “we love our country so much” that “we will stand above politics to defend her. That we will do everything in our power to protect our Constitution and our freedom that has been paid for by the blood of so many. . . That is our duty.”
Cheney’s right. That is our duty. It’s taken more than 240 years to make it this far. This is not time and Trumpism is not the reason to throw it all away.
There have been other equally eloquent speeches delivered over the past several years in response to the rise of Trumpism, but Cheney’s is the most powerful rebuke yet against the wannabe dictator by a Republican.
But Cheney’s courageous salvo this week in the battle to keep Trump from assuming absolute control of the GOP may have been too little too late.
At this point, the best Cheney and others in the shrinking, pro-democracy wing of her party may be able to achieve is to survive long enough to pick up the pieces in the wake of Trump’s necessary but still uncertain political demise.
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