The fate of Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) will be determined Wednesday, May 12, when House Republicans vote on whether she should retain her position as conference chair. At this point, it seems that her days as the GOP’s third most powerful representative are coming to a close. In the lead-up to the vote, members of the chattering class have been chiming in on the matter, and it appears that Cheney’s likely ouster is indicative of a deeper conflict on the right.
Everyone Has an Opinion on Cheney
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been hinting at his view of Cheney’s future as conference chair over the past few weeks, after she once again ran to a camera to castigate former President Donald Trump. “Having heard from so many of you in recent days, it’s clear that we need to make a change. As such, you should anticipate a vote on recalling the Conference Chair this Wednesday,” McCarthy wrote in a letter obtained by Reuters.
McCarthy, who supported Cheney in her previous fight against being removed in February, lately has been a vocal critic of the lawmaker. In the letter, he decried her incessant focus on Trump, arguing that it was preventing the GOP from moving forward. “Unfortunately, each day spent re-litigating the past is one day less we have to seize the future,” he wrote.
Of course, the upcoming vote has also met with its share of criticism, with some believing that removing Cheney is nothing more than kowtowing to Trump. James King, a political science professor at the University of Wyoming, told Yahoo News that Cheney could use a dismissal to bolster her upcoming re-election campaign. The professor described her as a politician who “would go to any local Republican function that would have her come speak to talk about where the party goes in the future” and insisted she is “well positioned” to retain her seat in 2022. However, recent poll numbers show that King might be overestimating Cheney’s chances of winning.
Some Republicans, including Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Joni Ernst (R-IA), consider the effort to topple Cheney a part of “cancel culture.”
“I feel it’s OK to go ahead and express what you feel is right to express and, you know, cancel culture is cancel culture no matter how you look at it,” Ernst told reporters. “Unfortunately, I think there are those that are trying to silence others in the party.”
Romney issued a stern warning to the House GOP about what could happen if it removes Cheney as chair. “Expelling Liz Cheney from leadership won’t gain the GOP one additional voter, but it will cost us quite a few,” he tweeted.
Cheney also got support from an unexpected and rather dubious source. Former football player and murder suspect O.J. Simpson also weighed in on the matter. In a video posted on Twitter, he said: “I gotta admit, I was not a fan of Liz Cheney.”
He continued: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m 50-50 on her politics, but I didn’t like her. And then I just realized recently, the reason I didn’t like her had to do with her father, probably my least favorite politician of my adult life, former Vice President Dick Cheney.”
Are the Critics Right?
The people fretting over the potential ouster of Cheney seem to be missing the underlying issue. This is not as much about Cheney v. Trump as a representation of the conflict between the establishment and rank-and-file conservatives.
When Cheney voted to impeach Trump for a second time, she still had support and retained her seat. But her seeming obsession with the former commander in chief has grown even more pronounced. For those in the Republican Party who wish to work with Trump to gain victories in 2022 and 2024, she has worn out her welcome by becoming an obstacle. This vote may send a stark message to establishment figures who wish to drag the party back to its pre-Trump days.
Read more from Jeff Charles.