Far be it from me to be a member of the Liz Cheney fan club. She’s hard-core conservative, her father was a manipulative war monger as vice president and conned the administration he served into many shady and probably illegal anti-democratic tactics to preserve his power, and I can’t think of a single issue we agree on. But I will give her credit for standing up to the nutsery in her party, clearly at her own peril in terms of advancing her own rise to power and shaping the agenda.
The first time defenders of Donald J. Trump came for Representative Liz Cheney, for the offense of having voted to impeach him, fellow Republicans closed ranks to save her leadership post, with Representative Kevin McCarthy boasting that their “big tent” party had enough room for both the former president and a stalwart critic.
Evidently, not anymore.
Just three months after she beat back a no-confidence vote by lopsided margins, Ms. Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, is facing a far more potent challenge that appears increasingly likely to end in her ouster from leadership. This time, Mr. McCarthy, the minority leader, is encouraging the effort to replace her.
Her transgression, colleagues say: Ms. Cheney’s continued public criticism of Mr. Trump, her denunciation of his lies about a stolen election and her demands that the G.O.P. tell the truth about how his supporters assaulted democracy during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
The turnabout reflects anew the passion with which Republicans have embraced Mr. Trump and the voters who revere him, and how willing many in the party are to perpetuate — or at least tolerate — falsehoods about the 2020 election that he has continued to spread.
What began as a battle over the party’s future after the violent end to the Trump presidency has collapsed into a one-sided pile-on by Team Trump, with critics like Ms. Cheney, the scion of a storied Republican family and the lone woman in her party’s House leadership, ostracized or moving toward the exits.
The latest test for Ms. Cheney could come as soon as next week, when a growing group of Republicans is planning a fresh bid to dethrone her, with Mr. McCarthy’s blessing. Many of her colleagues are now so confident that it will succeed that they are openly discussing who will replace Ms. Cheney.
The tensions escalated on Tuesday, when Mr. McCarthy went on Mr. Trump’s favorite news program, “Fox & Friends,” to question whether Ms. Cheney could effectively carry out her role as the party’s top messenger. (Beforehand, he told a Fox reporter, “I’ve had it with her,” and “I’ve lost confidence,” according to a leaked recording of the exchange published by Axios.)
“I have heard from members concerned about her ability to carry out the job as conference chair, to carry out the message,” Mr. McCarthy said during the portion of the interview that aired. “We all need to be working as one, if we’re able to win the majority.”
With onetime allies closing in, Ms. Cheney, known for her steely temperament, has only dug in harder. Minutes after Mr. McCarthy’s TV hit, she sent her barbed reply through a spokesman, effectively suggesting that the minority leader and Republicans moving against her were complicit in Mr. Trump’s dissembling.
“This is about whether the Republican Party is going to perpetuate lies about the 2020 election and attempt to whitewash what happened on Jan. 6,” said Jeremy Adler, the spokesman. “Liz will not do that. That is the issue.”
One of the few Republican voices willing to rise to Ms. Cheney’s defense was Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who has himself come under attack from his party for his unrepentant criticism of Mr. Trump — even getting booed at the Utah Republican Party convention on Saturday.
Not that there’s not a touch of glee in seeing a political party basically collapse upon itself and begin to eat its own — something the Democrats did well more than once in my lifetime — it’s not a good idea for a country with only two political parties to have one devolve to a pool of blood and bone. In their death throes, the Republicans are basically doing to themselves what the mob did to the Capitol in January 6, and the collateral damage reaches beyond their own infighting. In their panicked state, they are abandoning any attempt to govern or come up with policy that passes the laugh test; all they are is an echo chamber for Trump’s ranting and the certifiable lunacy of his Qanon followers. It would be one thing if they were just a bunch of loons parked across the playground, but they are still within striking distance of a majority in both the House and the Senate.
In a sane world, the Trumpistas would be the ones who were being purged from the party in favor of the Cheney/Romney faction and provide at least a sane counter to the Democrats and provide a foundation for negotiation and compromise as necessary. But, in the words of Billy Joel, you should never argue with a crazy man.