The Importance of Liz Cheney’s Victory

With the Republican Party no longer holding any of the levers of power of the federal government and therefore without a natural leader, the Party is in an identity crisis. Most Republicans favor former President Trump remaining in complete control of the Party. For these Republicans, there is no room in the party for traditional conservatives who criticize former President Trump or for Rockefeller (liberal) Republicans like myself; total loyalty to Trump and his ideology is demanded. From this perspective, then, it is not surprising that certain GOP county organizations in Nebraska have censured Senator Ben Sasse for speaking out against President Trump. Nor is it surprising that the Arizona GOP censured Cindy McCain, the widow of former Senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, for endorsing Joe Biden. But on Feb. 3, this trend of deep and expected loyalty to former President Trump was bucked. House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney overwhelmingly won a caucus recall vote after she, along with just nine other House Republicans, voted to impeach President Trump on Jan.13. Aside from the obvious setback for Trump loyalists in the GOP, this article will describe three key consequences of House Republicans keeping Rep. Cheney in her leadership position. 

One major consequence of Cheney’s survival is that members of the House GOP implicitly affirmed their devotion to the concept of separation of powers, which is enshrined in the Constitution. Separation of powers holds that the will of Congress ought to be independent of the will of the President, such that Congress can hold the President accountable if necessary. Unfortunately, due to growing partisanship, separation of powers has been threatened in recent decades; representatives are increasingly willing to avoid holding the President accountable if the President is a member of the same political party. Thus, when Republican Rep. Cheney voted to impeach the Republican President, she faced calls for punishment from both Trump loyalists in Congress (Rep. Matt Gaetz in particular) and executive branch officials, such as then-Assistant to the President Peter Navarro. However, despite the attacks from another branch of government and from some members of Congress, the majority of the GOP House Caucus overwhelmingly respected Cheney’s personal decision. The majority of the GOP asserted that members of Congress have the right to exercise independent judgment, regardless of political affiliation and regardless of who is in the White House. As Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy dutifully explained, Cheney has the right to vote in ways that she thinks will benefit her constituency and the nation, rather than simply voting to benefit the narrower interests of former President Trump. 

A second important consequence of Cheney’s political survival is that cancel culture suffered a needed defeat. Cancel culture, which refers to a relatively recent phenomenon in which those who hold minority viewpoints are ostracized by the majority, has been becoming more commonly practiced by ideologues on both sides of the political aisle. While Trump supporters love to rail against cancel culture when someone on the extreme left attempts to cancel someone on the right (see, for example, Trump supporters angered when leftists tried to cancel the company Goya after Goya’s CEO made positive remarks about former President Trump), Trump supporters commonly practice cancel culture against Republicans who are not in lockstep with the former president. It is therefore prudent to analyze the attempt by Trump supporters to remove Cheney from her leadership position through the lens of an attempted cancellation. Fortunately, House Republicans stood up to this example of cancel culture, and patriotic Americans can only hope that the rejection of cancel culture, in this case, is only the beginning of cancel culture’s demise. Cancel culture by definition violates the principle of free speech and is therefore contrary to the First Amendment of the Constitution. 

Finally, a third consequence is that Cheney’s political survival bodes well for those working to advance bipartisan legislation that would spur progress in American society. Despite being in House GOP leadership, Cheney has tried to find common ground with Democrats on issues ranging from COVID-19 relief packages to national security legislation. In this way, Cheney stands in stark contrast to the many House Republicans who see Democrats as little more than dangerous domestic adversaries to the nation. If America is serious about unifying, and if America is serious about tackling the enormous number of problems in this country without leaving any American behind, then America is lucky that Liz Cheney is still in Republican leadership.