House Republicans have decided to keep Liz Cheney on as the third-highest-ranking leader in their caucus of deplorables. No surprise there. Cheney is a corporation-coddling and warmongering neoconservative, a hate-amplifying liar whose only sin in the eyes of her colleagues is that she got one thing wrong.
That “one thing” was her vote to impeach Donald Trump, which the Wyoming Republican coupled with a statement declaring that “the President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame” of the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
House Democrats delighted in the clarity of Cheney’s denunciation of the Republican strongman, especially her accurate assertion that “none of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” What could be more appetizing than a top Republican calling out her party’s disgraced former president? And it just got better. Trump was reportedly so furious that he was calling Capitol Hill allies and urging them to ditch Cheney as chair of the House Republican Conference. Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz labeled the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney “a beltway bureaucrat turned fake cowgirl.”
Trump and Gaetz failed last week in their attempt to oust Cheney, as the GOP caucus backed her 145 to 60 on the same day that they gave a standing ovation to Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon-channeling conspiracy theorist who has put a sharper edge on the racism and xenophobia that Trump uses to rally his base. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said this willingness to back both Cheney and Greene proved that the party is “a big tent.”
Not that big.
It doesn’t take much canvas to contain the ideological spectrum that runs from Cheney’s right-wing claptrap to Greene’s hate speech.
As Trump’s Senate trial begins this week, Democrats will undoubtedly recycle Cheney’s indictments of the seditionist in chief as the guilty man that he is. But they ought not make the congresswoman from Wyoming out to be some kind of hero. Nor should they imagine that she is now—or ever might be—a principled alternative to the extremists who have made the Republican Party a fever swamp of hate, fearmongering, and conspiracy theories.
It wasn’t Marjorie Taylor Greene who called Democrats “the party of anti-Semitism, the party of infanticide, the party of socialism.” That was Liz Cheney, who spouted that line during a March 2019 appearance on Meet the Press. In that same appearance, she claimed that the Democrats have “passed legislation that’s violated the First Amendment, the Second Amendment.”
It wasn’t Marjorie Taylor Greene who announced that socialists had “a chokehold on the Democratic platform, on Joe Biden’s policies going forward.” It was Liz Cheney in an assessment of the Democratic National Convention that she posted on her congressional website.
It wasn’t Marjorie Taylor Greene who alleged that, because he worked with global leaders to organize the UN’s 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for nonproliferation, former secretary of state John Kerry’s was “the architect” of a scheme that “gave the Iranians a pathway towards a nuclear weapon.” That was Liz Cheney in an August 2020 Fox News appearance, in which she claimed that Kerry “traveled around the world acting as the head of the Chamber of Commerce for the mullahs in Iran.”
It wasn’t Marjorie Taylor Greene who claimed that Vice President Kamala Harris “sounds like Karl Marx.” It was Liz Cheney, who just two days before the 2020 presidential election denounced the Democrat for explaining that equitable treatment is about “giving people the resources and the support they need” so that everyone can compete on an equal footing.
It wasn’t Marjorie Taylor Greene who suggested that Harris supported infanticide. It was Liz Cheney, who announced on national television after Biden had selected the California senator as his running mate that Harris supported “abortion up until the ninth month and beyond.” And it was Cheney who then proceeded to dismiss Harris’s qualifications—as a former elected prosecutor, state attorney general, and US senator—by claiming that “Joe Biden clearly decided that he was going to make a choice based on somebody’s gender, based on their race and based on his need to placate the very-far socialist left of his party.”
It wasn’t Marjorie Taylor Greene who deliberately mischaracterized statements by the first two Muslim women to serve in the US House of Representatives so frequently that James Zogby, the founder of the Arab-American Institute, characterized the attacks as evincing an “obsession.” It was Liz Cheney, whose targeting of Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) went to such extremes that Zogby wrote that Cheney’s vitriol “smacks either of a deep-seated anti-Arab/Muslim bigotry or crass politics designed to prey on the bigotry of your ‘base.’ In either case it’s disgraceful. Your party’s been playing this game for a decade. Shame.”
To be clear, Marjorie Taylor Greene is a dangerously extreme member of Congress who was appropriately sanctioned Thursday by a bipartisan majority of the chamber that voted to remove the Georgian from the House Education and Budget committees. As Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said, “This was an important step for the country. It makes a clear statement that you can’t say 9-11 didn’t take place. You can’t say you believe in QAnon theories. You can’t threaten violence against elected officials and still hope to serve in the United States Congress. There should be a very, very high bar for removing people from committees, but this wasn’t a hard call.”
What’s notable is that when the vote on stripping Greene of her committee assignments came, Cheney voted in solidarity with Greene.
Whatever credit Liz Cheney is given for standing up to Trump does not begin to erase the fact that her most consistent stance is on the side of the cruelty, the lies, and the extremism that infects today’s Republican Party. That’s the real reason House Republicans voted to retain Cheney as a leader of their caucus.