How Did Liz Cheney Become The Sympathetic Gangster In This GOP Gangster Movie?
The Republican Party's slow but steady march to a full-blown, know-nothing cult of personality centered around a scuzzy reality TV host is both compelling and terrifying. Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney has tried to stand athwart this sordid history, "yelling stop," but no one else in her ragamuffin party is "inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it." Her colleagues will soon dump her in favor of an opportunistic, sell-out puppet job. It's a tragedy, if you're inclined to consider bad things happening to Republicans tragic.
Cheney had survived an earlier post-impeachment attempt to remove her from leadership, but the peace didn't last for long. Last month, at a GOP retreat, Cheney saw how deep the brain rot went when the party was presented with polling data that supposedly showed that a president who just lost reelection is actually super awesome and popular.
From the Washington Post:
When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party's latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump's weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump's support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.
Trump's unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.
That's the problem with believing the Big Lie. It's, well, a big lie. Joe Biden did in fact curb stomp the twice-impeached thug. We all saw it. Incumbent presidents are rarely rejected, especially during a national crisis, even when it's one of their own making (see George W. Bush and Iraq). Voters usually treat the presidency like a mediocre show they just sit through because the remote's on the other side of the room, but President Klan Robe was so awful, 81 million Americans got their asses off the couch and changed the channel. Those 81 million Americans exist. They aren't phony ballots with unverified signatures. Many of them are also white, college-educated voters the GOP has hemorrhaged for the past five years. Going full Jim Crow is gross but it's not going to save the GOP. White people like voting and expect to keep doing so.
The internal NRCC poll partially shared with lawmakers in April found that President Biden was perilously popular in core battleground districts, with 54 percent favorability. Vice President Harris was also more popular than Trump, the poll showed. Biden's $1.9 trillion covid stimulus plan and his $2.3 trillion jobs and infrastructure package both polled higher than the former president's favorability, which was at 41 percent, compared to 42 percent in February.
These horrible numbers make sense when you consider that President Lost Cause is probably directly responsible for Democrats flipping the Senate. He refused to accept his personal loss in Georgia and picked fights with Republican politicians and officials during the runoff campaign. He forced the incumbent Republican senators from Georgia to campaign like they're from Alabama and not a purple state. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler got their asses beat and struggling people received a stimulus check. Liz Cheney isn't a RINO or even that noble a person. She just has a brain in her head and doesn't think President Gilligan is the future of the party.
[Cheney] just believes he's disqualified himself by his conduct, more than it's any kind of political analysis," said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). "If you look at a political analysis, there's no way this party is going to stay together without President Trump and his supporters. There is no construct where the party can be successful without him."
Graham doesn't consider MAGA supporters actual Republicans but the one-term loser's personal property. To the extent that's true, President Lost Cause has proven he can't deliver those voters to the polls when he's not on the ballot. The GOP was routed in 2018, and over the past four years, Republicans lost both Senate seats in Georgia and Arizona. There's reason to believe that former Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake could've beaten Kyrsten Sinema or Mark Kelly, but MAGA forced him out and MAGA-fied candidates fell flat on their faces.
MAGA isn't actually popular. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy isn't choosing political expedience over what's morally correct. This isn't a "West Wing" episode, and Cheney isn't the “good" Sorkin Republican who responds to his cynicism with a high-minded speech. She's trying to save the GOP from itself, but even if it wasn't already beyond redemption, on its best day, the GOP just wants to politely let poor people starve.
Anyway, this will all make a great movie, and fortunately, the excellent Lily Rabe already has experience playing Cheney on screen.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."