True, of course. But there sure are a lot of righties on Twitter today who are straining to pretend otherwise.
.@Liz_Cheney: “I won this primary with 73% of the vote. I could easily have done the same again. The path was clear. But it would’ve required that I go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election…That was a path I could not and would not take.” pic.twitter.com/yHmslw8DV0
— The Republican Accountability Project (@AccountableGOP) August 17, 2022
Last night I gave my theory that the Trump-era GOP can be divided into three camps in a 30/50/20 distribution. Thirty percent are MAGA fanatics, 20 percent are Trump skeptics, and 50 percent are normie Republicans who have their issues with Trump but not quite enough to stop reliably supporting whatever slop the GOP puts on the ballot. The goal of the 30 percent is to empower Trump by all available means. The goal of the 50 percent is to rationalize and make excuses for the 30 percent so that they can justify their tribal impulse to continue voting Republican.
Naturally, then, the 50 percent is keen to spin the outcome in Cheney’s primary as being about something other than what it was obviously about. She wasn’t “listening to her constituents,” she was out of touch, she was a carpetbagger, yadda yadda. What choice did Republican voters have but to turn her out of office and replace her with someone like Harriet Hageman who’s more attuned to local issues? It wasn’t about Trump and the January 6 committee. Not really.
Which is an interesting theory, considering that Hageman herself published a closing-argument column just last week titled, “Cheney Falsely Claims To Be Defending Constitution While Guiding Lawless J6 Committee.”
There are other problems with the 50 percent’s reasoning, one of which was identified by my pal Karl. “The theory that Cheney’s problem was that she was so focused on criticizing Trump ignores almost all of the GOPers who voted for impeachment who were less vocal and lost their primaries because of their vote,” he wrote, correctly. Tom Rice, Peter Meijer, and Jaime Herrera Beutler each tried to pivot away from their votes to impeach during their campaigns, never repudiating what they did but shifting their focus to local issues and red-meat conservative concerns instead — precisely the sort of thing Hageman allegedly did so well in Wyoming. They all lost anyway. Meijer explained why in an interview with the Times.
He said his constituents asked him about his impeachment vote 10 times as much as about anything else.
“Policy is not policy toward improving government,” Mr. Meijer explained. “It’s policy as a signifier of whether you’re part of the in group or the out group.”
Refusing to repeat the lie that the 2020 election was stolen, he said, put Mr. Meijer squarely in the “out group.”
“I can’t tell you the number of times somebody said, ‘You don’t have to believe the election is stolen, the important thing isn’t believing it, it’s saying it,’” Mr. Meijer recalled in an interview. “That is what a Republican is supposed to do right now.”
His constituents didn’t care about “local issues,” they cared that he had defied Trump publicly and refused to recant his belief that the election wasn’t stolen. He had been disloyal, so he had to pay. As Karl (again) put it, “The notion that Hageman wins if she talks about water rights and says Biden legitimately won in 2020 is laughable, which tells you how much this was about anything except 2020.” Only an apologist for what the GOP has become would deny it.
Consider the case of Marjorie Taylor Greene. How often do you hear her chattering about local issues that are important to her district in Georgia? Greene also happens to be a carpetbagger, by the way, who decamped from the suburbs of Atlanta to a rural Georgia enclave because she couldn’t get elected closer to home in a purpler district. And Greene is the only member of the House with no committee assignments, rendering her uniquely useless to her constituents relative to other members of Congress. She wasn’t upset about being stripped of those assignments, though; to the contrary, she celebrated the fact that it would give her more time to perform her most important public service, sh*tposting about Democrats.
If ever there were a congresswoman whom we’d expect to be sent packing because she’s not serving the bread-and-butter interests of her voters, it’s MTG. But she won her primary in a landslide this year despite having had several more serious-minded candidates as alternatives. Why? Because she’s a crank, especially about Trump and the 2020 election. And the redder your district is, the more likely being a crank is to get you elected.
Liz Cheney happens to represent the reddest state in the union and she’s the most outspoken critic of cranks on the American right. She was being censured by her party in Wyoming for voting for impeachment long before she joined the January 6 committee too, as Phil Klein reminds us today. That initial act of disloyalty likely would have made her unelectable even if she had kept her head down over the past 18 months, just as it did to Rice, Meijer, and Beutler. But the fact that she made “anti-crankism” her personal political brand produced the epic landslide margin that we saw.
That’s what last night’s primary was about, not “local issues” or Cheney being “out of touch” with her constituents. Except insofar as resisting Trump cultism necessarily means you’re out of touch with the modern GOP.
The truth is that these voters decided that they would rather support a liar than face the truth.
That’s all. It’s not complicated.
Trump told a lie that they like. That’s all.
And you agree with the lie.
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) August 17, 2022
“She may have been fighting for principles,” said Trump’s spokesman to the Times. “But they are not the principles of the Republican Party.” That’s correct. Cheney wouldn’t swear loyalty to the leader by endorsing his election lies so she had to go. That’s the “principle” of the Republican Party she violated. She insisted on telling the truth.
I am begging the 50 percent of normie Republicans who continue to try to rationalize the cultism of this party to accept responsibility for what they’re endorsing. If you simply must vote for your local election-denier as a matter of tribal allegiance, at least eschew lame excuses for it. Own it: Better the autocrat than the Democrat. Better the servile Hageman, who’ll eagerly help Trump overturn an election on false pretenses if she can, than someone like Cheney who insists on making trouble for the party. Blaming Cheney’s loss on being “out of touch” is like blaming Democratic groups who ran ads on behalf of MAGA candidates in GOP primaries for the fact that some of those candidates went on to win. In both cases, GOP voters were served up plates of sh*t and willingly chose to gorge themselves. No one forced them to do so. Josh Barro:
What the “Team Normal” Republicans would like is the arrangement they had before 2015 — they would like Trump to help stir up their own voters and generate “energy,” but they don’t want to have to defend his unpopular actions and characteristics to swing voters who have a negative view of him and they also don’t want to have intraparty fights with the candidates he supports. What they’d like to do is move not against him but past him…
That your party is led by an inept, impulsive, criminally inclined man, who is viewed negatively by most voters, who cares very little about whether your party wins elections or achieves policy goals, and who keeps causing the party to nominate his unappealing weirdo personal friends in otherwise-winnable Senate races, is your problem — one largely of your own making.
There were no Democratic-funded ads for Hageman in Wyoming. On the contrary, Democrats there declined to nominate someone for the House this year in order to encourage voters from their own party to cross over and vote for Cheney in the Republican primary. A few Democratic congressmen even cut ads for her. They did everything they could to help her win — and she got landslided anyway because 30 percent of the party is a cult now and another 50 percent are tireless enablers of them in the name of holding the coalition together. Just own it.