PERRY DIAZ: Republican party in turmoil

Elizabeth “Liz” Lynne Cheney was born on July 28, 1966 in Madison, Wisconsin, the elder of two daughters of former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Second Lady Lynne Cheney.  She is an attorney and politician serving the House of Representatives as the congresswoman from Wyoming’s at-large congressional district since 2017.

Cheney like her father is neoconservative, known for her focus on national security, her support for the U.S. military, a pro-business stance, foreign policy views, and for being fiscally and socially conservative. Cheney supported Trump’s position in 92.9% of House votes.

On November 14, 2018, Cheney’s party mates elected her chair of the House Republican Conference, the third-ranking Republican in the chamber, behind Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise. She was the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress.

Cheney is considered one of the leaders of the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party and she was critical of the foreign policy of the Donald Trump administration.  She supported the second impeachment of Trump for his role in the 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol.

Because of her vote and Trump’s stolen election narrative – known as the “Big Lie” – pro-Trump Freedom Caucus members of the House tried to remove her from party leadership in February 2021.  They failed to remove her at that time.  They tried again on May 12, 2021, when she was removed from the position by voice vote of the House Republican Conference.

Fiery last stand

On the eve of her removal, Cheney took a fiery last stand on the House floor, warning that Trump had created a threat that the country had never seen before: he had “provoked a violent attack” on the U.S. Capitol “in an effort to steal the election.” She said she wouldn’t sit quietly by as Republicans abandoned the rule of law. 

“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” Cheney said. “I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”  

To the very end, she remained defiant, underscoring her determination to fight the powerful Republican cliché that kowtows to Trump.  Yes, she embraced her downfall rather than fight it, offering herself as the sacrificial lamb to save the Republican Party or what’s left in its destructive path.

Speaking during the closed-door meeting with House Republicans, Cheney said: “If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person, you have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy.”  She added: “We cannot let the former president drag us backward and make us complicit in his efforts to unravel our democracy. Down that path lies our destruction, and potentially the destruction of our country.”

After the meeting, Cheney told the reporters that she did not feel betrayed by her ouster.  “I am going to keep on fighting to prevent Mr. Trump from ever making his way back to the White House,” she said.  

“We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the constitution … I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”  It’s her opening salvo in her declaration of war against Trump and his minions.  Cheney’s campaign for the 2024 election has just begun.

National figure

Cheney’s removal makes her a national figure with a huge platform from which to voice her opinion with the authority of someone who chose country over party, which reminds me of the late President of the Philippines Manuel L. Quezon, from 1935 to 1944, who once said, “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.”  It was true then, it’s true now.

By severing her ties to Trump, Cheney is now the only openly anti-Trump Republican in Congress.  She has done something that nobody would dare do in the open for fear of antagonizing Trump, who many believe they could lose in the primary because of Trump’s strong support from his base of voters. But is that the truth or it’s just a myth?

But how can Trump claim his primacy when he lost the 2020 election by eight million votes to Joe Biden?  Do you think that he can improve his numbers in 2024 when he runs for president against Biden or Kamala Harris if Biden wouldn’t run for reelection in 2024?  Or can he beat Cheney in a Republican primary who by the looks of it is tailor-made to lead the Republican Party or a third party in the 2024 election?

However, she described the grip Trump had on the Republican Party as “dangerous” and “a cult of personality.”  She said it was a “betrayal” to see him try to burn down the party and American democracy in an attempt to regain power. “It’s a real betrayal.  He’s going to unravel the democracy to come back into power,” Cheney said.

Anti-Trump coalition

Meanwhile, on May 13, a coalition of 150 prominent Republican and independent leaders released “A Call for American Renewal,” a principle-based vision for American leadership, as an alternative to the current direction of the Republican Party amid growing extremism in the country.  It calls for strengthening the rule of law and increasing government ethics.  The manifesto was released one day after the ousting of Cheney as chair of the House Republican Conference, and was largely seen as a reaction against the influence of Trumpism within the Republican Party.

While the GOP leadership marginalizes Cheney and other members for simple acts of truth-telling and conscience, founding signatories are mobilizing disaffected voters “to impact competitive elections around the country and shape the future of the nation.”  This “common-sense coalition” seeks to catalyze the reform of the Republican Party and its recommitment to truth, founding ideals, and decency or, if unsuccessful, lay the foundation for an alternative – possibly a third party.

Among the signers are four former governors, including Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford; 27 former members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Barbara Comstock, Charlie Dent and Paul Mitchell; and one former Senator David Durenberger. Other prominent names include attorney George Conway, husband of senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway; former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci; former Department of Homeland Security official Elizabeth Neumann; and former DHS general counsel John Mitnick.

In my column, “Quo vadis, Republican Party?” (April 9, 2021), I wrote: Leaderless and rudderless, the Republican Party seems like it is about to implode.  A lot of Republicans are disillusioned.  Many have changed their party affiliations.  They believe that the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln has lost its vision and moral compass. The party needs an extreme makeover to survive and remain a viable political party.  Quo vadis, Republican Party?” 

In the short time since then, the world of Republicanism has turned upside down.  A political civil war broke out on May 12, pitting a lone Republican congresswoman – Liz Cheney – and her supporters against the powerful clique of Republican leaders led by Senate Minority Floor Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who are promoting former president Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen.  The following day, the manifesto called “A Call to American Renewal” was released. 

Now, the shooting starts!  As they say: In politics, there is never a dull moment.