BY RICHARD C. GROSS
Donald Trump and his lemming-like political followers won another round in their interminable bid to keep him along with his intractable Republican Party in power regardless of what it means for truth, justice and the American way of democracy.
They may be following him over a cliff, hopefully.
House Republicans led by their leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, followed through on their threats and ousted three-term Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming from the party’s №3 position as conference chair for repeatedly condemning Trump for his Big Lie about a “rigged” election that was “stolen” from him.
They did it on a voice vote, assuredly to hide who voted for kicking her out, possibly to avoid those who voted for her from getting on vindictive Trump’s hit list. McCarthy reportedly said they voted that way instead of recording the vote for the sake of unity. Uh-huh. The next step may be for Trump to have Cheney primaried.
“We must go forward based on truth,” she told reporters after the vote. “We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution.”
“It just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to the ‘Dear Leader’ or you get kicked out of the party,” Maryland’s moderate Republican Gov. Larry Hogan told “Meet the Press” Sunday. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
It does to those who voted against Cheney.
The vote marked an astonishing display of obedience, not only to the leader of a major political party and head of a disastrous presidency, but to ironclad fealty to an outright lie promulgated and repeated incessantly by Trump that he defeated Joe Biden.
I’m no fan of the policies of Cheney, a conservative’s conservative, but she deserves praise for a courageous stance against overwhelming odds. The ouster from her party’s leadership role for telling the truth is the epitome of shame. It’s like spanking a child for doing no wrong.
Talk about “American carnage,” a phrase Trump used in his inaugural address to describe the state of his country. He is the embodiment of carnage.
Cheney has been outwardly lambasting the former president ever since he encouraged hundreds of his followers to storm the Capitol Jan. 6 to prevent the House from approving the electoral vote that gave the presidency to Biden.
More than 60 federal and state judges and Trump’s own Justice Department rejected his claims about the election’s outcome. But the narcissist can’t accept defeat and is pulling a segment of the country with him. It’s astounding.
“Today we face a threat America has never seen before,” Cheney said in a blistering speech on the House floor Tuesday on the eve of her ouster. “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.”
A mere 19 percent of Republicans believe that Biden won the election, according to the latest poll by CNN and SSRS, a marketing research firm. Only 21 percent of Republicans believe the president can bring the country together compared with 88 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of Independents.
“Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president,” Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said in her speech. “They have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.”
Aye, and that’s the rub: whether our democracy will survive.
Survive not only the incredible obfuscation by an unmitigated liar who aches to be a dictator but the voter suppression laws and statutes that would give more control over elections by partisan state legislators that are being passed and proposed by GOP-led states.
“Attacks against our democratic process and the rule of law empower our adversaries and feed Communist propaganda that American democracy is a failure,” Cheney told the House, many of whose members showed real class by walking out. “We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.”
She is trying to save the Republican Party from itself, but it doesn’t seem as if that will work. Many Republicans appear cemented to Trump, the way dogs are to their owners.
“For more than five years, the Republican Party and its leading media propagandists embraced and championed Mr. Trump’s mendacities, conspiracy theories and sociopathic tendencies,” wrote Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served three GOP administrations, in an opinion essay for The New York Times Wednesday.
“As a result, their brains became rewired, at least metaphorically speaking; the constant accommodation Republicans made to Mr. Trump caused significant cognitive distortions.
“As a result,” he wrote, “they have detached themselves from reality. . . . There is no post-Trump fight for the ‘soul’ of the Republican Party. At least for now, that battle has been decided.”
It’s said hope springs eternal.
More than 100 Republicans, some of whom are former elected officials, are threatening to create a third party if the Republican Party doesn’t change, the Times reported Wednesday.
The attempt is being organized by Miles Taylor, an official of the Department of Homeland Security in the Trump administration, the Times said.
A preamble to a letter expected to be released Thursday said, “When in our democratic republic, forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise, it is the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice.”
“This is a first step,” Taylor said.
May there be more steps to come.
Richard C. Gross, a correspondent, bureau chief and foreign editor for United Press International, retired as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.