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Liz Cheney & Friends are Not Leaving the Republican Party

by J.P. Prag 3 months ago in politics
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But maybe they could be convinced if Joe Manchin & friends left the Democratic Party with them

Liz Cheney (R-WY) spoke to a small crowd at the American Legion in Buffalo, Wyoming on October 26, 2013 during what would become a failed attempt to gain the Republican nomination for the United States Senate. She would later win a seat in the House of Representatives in 2016, a seat she has successfully defended through her current term in the Congress that sat in 2021. Photo by MILONICA, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

» KEY POINTS

  • Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) had once again gained the ire of her Party by accepting a position from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to investigate the attack on the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.
  • She was not the only one in the Republican Party who had been censured and humiliated as the conference moved further away from their values; nor was this a uniquely Republican problem as there were those in the Democratic Party like Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) who buck unilateral, partisan action.
  • In the end, these politicians shared more in common with each other than their contemporaries— not in policy, but in the approach to government, conversation, compromise, and duty to the country above self and Party.

I’m not threatening anybody... What I’m saying is, it was shocking to me that if a person is a Republican, they get... their committee assignments from the Republican conference. For [somebody] to accept committee assignments from [Democratic] Speaker Pelosi... {Shrugs}

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) stated this on July 1, 2021 in relation to Representative Liz Cheney accepting a position on the January 6th Select Committee to investigate the insurrection at the United States Capitol Building on that named day in 2021.

After Republican Senators ensured that no 9/11-style bipartisan commission would be created to explore the attack on the United States Capitol Building that occurred on January 6, 2021, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) used her position to put forward an investigation run solely by her chamber. On June 30, 2021, that vote finally came to fruition with the House voting 222–190 to create the January 6th Select Committee. All of the votes for the Committee came from Democrats (none voted against it), as well as just 2 Republicans: Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). It should be noted that 19 Republicans did not vote at all, giving an implicit agreement without it getting on the record. Four positions at the time were vacant, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

One person that definitely voted against the Committee was Pelosi’s corresponding California Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who was also House Minority Leader. By the next day, reports were leaking out that McCarthy had a meeting with his fellow House Republicans and threatened that anyone who took a position on the Committee from Pelosi was in danger of losing all of their dearly held spots. Yet despite that warning, one woman would not be deterred and gladly accepted her position as the only Republican—as of early July 2021—appointed to the Committee by Pelosi:

I’m honored to be on this committee. We have an obligation to have a thorough, sober investigation of what happened leading up to January 6th and the attack on the Capitol that day.

Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) on July 1, 2021 addressing reporters after the announcement of the January 6th Select Committee (Clarified for pauses and transitions).

This was not the first time that Cheney had gained the ire of her Party. At the second impeachment for President Donald Trump for his alleged role in the attacks, Cheney voted with nine other House Republicans in favor of impeachment. After this, she survived votes for removal from leadership and committee positions, censure from her own Party in her State, and other intimidations. As she not only remained unapologetic but downright hostile to the idea of supporting Donald Trump in any way, the former President’s supporters eventually got to enough of the remaining House Republicans and they voted to remove her from her position of power on May 12, 2021. Despite the constant recriminations and humiliations, Cheney would not back down.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to discuss infrastructure on April 12, 2021, an effort that eventually failed and required creating a different working group. Even after that new group came to an agreeable solution, all members immediately faced push-back from their own parties. These people legitimately wanted to work together, but their own parties were making it impossible. Photo and base-description by THE WHITE HOUSE, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Once word got out that Cheney had accepted a position from Pelosi, McCarthy was quick to speak to the press:

As you know how Congress works: you get elected by your district, and you get your committees from your conference... I don’t know in history where someone would go get their committee assignments from the Speaker and expect to have them from the conference as well. {Shrugs}

McCarthy has made it clear through his many shrugs—he does not believe Republicans and Democrats should work together. Republicans manage themselves, Democrats manage themselves, and at no point shall the two meet. Of course, the only reason why Congress works this way is because of those like McCarthy who do not see their fellow Congresspeople as co-workers and patriots but as competitors and anti-Americans. And let us be clear, among those in power across the entire political spectrum are people like McCarthy; this is hardly a Republican-only position. However, Cheney is not one of those people. As she stated during that same press briefing:

I think it’s clear to all the people on the [January 6th Select] Committee that our oath to the Constitution, our duty, our dedication to rule of law, and the peaceful transfer of power, has to come above any, any concern about partisanship or about politics. And I think that’s, that’s hugely important.

Despite hearing McCarthy’s position and comments from other people like him, when asked by a reporter if she believed she would be removed from her committee assignments, Cheney quickly responded:

I have not been [removed from my committee assignments]. But again, my oath, my duty, all of our oaths and our duty is to the Constitution and that will always be above politics.

By early July 2021, liberals of all stripes and other non-conservatives were salivating at this apparent falling out between top Republicans. Imagine that after being repudiated so many times that Cheney would switch teams and join the Democratic Party! She could have further tip the scales in the Democrat’s favor and be a major talking point against Republicans in the then forthcoming 2022 mid-term elections (an election in which her own position would be up for grabs). Perhaps she would be like a crack in an iceberg that eventually gives way to a swath of disenfranchised Republicans looking for a new home? After all, there have been a handful of others in history who have switched sides. Why not her? And why not a deluge to come after her?

» QUEEN OF THE CONSERVATIVES

Those who believed Liz Cheney was about to join the Democratic Party had not paid attention to what her actual views were. Cheney’s stances are conservative through-and-through with little room for interpretation. On her own campaign website and the official House page she proudly touts positions and legislation that include:

  • Protections for coal, oil, and natural gas producers;
  • Creating exceptions for farms from environmental laws and policies;
  • Repealing the Affordable Care Act in its totality;
  • Hawkish action in Afghanistan, Russia, China, and other places;
  • Furthering a financial stance that began with the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act;
  • Allowing conceal and carry for any and all arms, including those crossing State lines; and
  • Extreme prejudice against undocumented immigrants, even refugees.

These are not the positions of someone who intends to be part of the Democratic Party of the 2020s! All right, if she could not fit in with the Democratic Party, where does she belong? While her viewpoints are conservative, that is not what the Republican Party of the 2020s is either. That conference has become populist and Trumpist, not anywhere in line with Cheney’s ideas of how politics should work. After all, the Republican Party is the one moving further away from the right side of the spectrum to somewhere else entirely. As shown above, Cheney is as traditionally conservative as someone can be, yet her own party despises her instead of rallying to her cause. All she portends to want is to put the country before her own party, but at the same time use her politics to inform her final decisions and actions. Unfortunately for her, her biggest sin is just not falling in line enough.

Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY, right) posted a praiseworthy message on Twitter about President Donald Trump with this photo on September 29, 2018. Despite later protests, she voted in line with Trump’s positions nearly 93% of the time while both were in office. OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO AND BASE-DESCRIPTION BY JOYCE N. BOGHOSIA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

And Cheney was not the only one who found herself at odds with her own party. For instance, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) had also voted against many of her colleagues and joined Democrats in various actions, including to convict President Trump during his second impeachment trial. Like Cheney, she has been censured, threatened, cajoled, and experienced many worse actions. Those who have been treated like this have moved on in the past, including recent history.

On July 8, 2019, then Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) submitted his resignation from the Republican Conference to none other than Mr. McCarthy and Ms. Cheney. At first he was an Independent but later went on to join the Libertarian Party. Days before his official resignation, he posted an op-ed in the Washington Post stating in part:

These are consequences of a mind-set among the political class that loyalty to party is more important than serving the American people or protecting our governing institutions. The parties value winning for its own sake, and at whatever cost. Instead of acting as an independent branch of government and serving as a check on the executive branch, congressional leaders of both parties expect the House and Senate to act in obedience or opposition to the president and their colleagues on a partisan basis.

At that point in time, anti-oligopolists thought this was the dam-breaking moment—that others would follow, the Republican party would schism between classical conservatives and Trump loyalists, and that there would be no way they could hold things together. Yet, hold-it-together is exactly what happened! No one followed Amash and he opted not to run for Congress or any other position, instead fading off as if he never existed.

In the end, it should be no surprise. Despite Congresspeople like Murkowski being vocal about their views in contrast to the Republican and/or Trump mainstream, that does not stop them from keeping the party together no matter what. For instance, during the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Murkowski made it abundantly clear that she would not vote for him. But when Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) could not attend the vote because he wanted to be at his daughter’s wedding, things changed. Instead of voting “nay” and causing either a split vote or a potential loss (more on this later), she instead voted “present” so as to offset the missing Daines. Despite all the convictions she claimed, at the end of the day Murkowski still did the Republican Party’s bidding.

And that is where those hoping to see the Republican Party fall apart or split in two are completely missing the bigger picture. In reality, the one thing that is keeping the Republicans together and the main thing they have in common is that they do not want the Democratic Party and its most liberal wing to have absolute control. If the Republican Party split in half or even 90/10, Democrats would win every single competitive race (so long as they stayed united, too). Sure, there would be a fair amount of both types of Republicans in Congress and almost all other positions of government around the country, but they would lose any semblance of power or direction at the Federal level.

That is why Cheney, Murkowski, and all of the people like them will not leave the Republican Party. Even should they lose their primaries or main elections, they will only attempt to come back as Republicans again. Even if the Republican Party continues to drift further from their conservative values, they believe they will have a better chance to change the Party’s direction than to try to make a go of it alone.

» THE OTHER JOE

However, they are not exactly alone; Democrats have their own rogues to contend with. In the early days of President Biden’s first term, that has been embodied by none other than Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). Manchin has almost single-handedly—though sometimes with the help of others like Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)—kept the Democrats from pushing through all of their desires without a single Republican vote being needed.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV, left) was the only non-Republican Senator to vote for the confirmation of Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh (right). Photo on July 30, 2018 by the OFFICE OF SENATOR JOE MANCHIN, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

This was hardly the first time that Manchin had bucked his own party. For instance, he was the only non-Republican Senator to vote for the confirmation of the aforementioned Kavanaugh. As discussed above, without his actions and those of Murkowski, Kavanaugh would not be on the Supreme Court today. While Democrats on a national level may be shocked and frustrated by a person like this, those who come from single-party dominated States are not. For context, although Rhode Island’s General Assembly (the legislature) is 88% Democrat, bills still have the same difficulties moving forward as those in Congress. Lacking a strong Republican Party, instead Democrats encompass a wide range of beliefs that seem quite at odds with the national Party—including having members that are against legalizing marijuana, are anti-choice on abortion, and have a tax policy that is extremely pro-business. A non-liberal Democrat is actually quite common in these situations.

Yet Manchin’s actions had Republicans salivating for a switch just the same as Democrats felt they could potentially count on Cheney’s defection. To deflate everyone, Manchin appeared on Fox News on July 1, 2021 and had this to say:

If switching a party, or whether you have a ‘D’ by your name or an ‘R’ by your name changes who you are as a person, then you’re in the wrong profession.... [H]aving the D or R by my name or changing and going from one to another, I’ve never considered that.

Further, Manchin went on to say about those who had switched parties:

[I]t’s all about you and not about the oath you take to the office, the oath to the Constitution, to protect and defend. That shouldn’t be a party affiliation; that should be all of us....

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV, right) smiles onstage with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK, left), and former Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH, center) at the Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions event on September 27, 2019. These three have more in common with each other than most anyone else in their parties. Photo and base-description by the UNITED STATES SENATE—OFFICE OF LISA MURKOWSKI, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Do those words sound familiar? They are almost the exact same ones that Cheney used in describing her position. You see, Manchin, Cheney, and people like them in both major parties have more in common with each other than the extremes of their own caucuses. Truth be told, they do not have to share policies in order to work together. Contrary, they actually revel in their differences and believe in the importance of debate to find common or unexplored ground. They do not want to be locked away behind walled gardens of their own sycophants, but instead want the challenge of finding a solution by working from common facts.

If we return to Amash’s op-ed in the Washington Post, he said in part:

Most Americans are not rigidly partisan and do not feel well represented by either of the two major parties. In fact, the parties have become more partisan in part because they are catering to fewer people, as Americans are rejecting party affiliation in record numbers...

No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system—and to work toward it.

This is the real possibility. People like Cheney and Manchin respect each other and want to work together in the best interest of America, not in the best interest of themselves. We do not have to agree with either one’s policy positions and they do not have to agree with each other to make it happen. Said Manchin in the same Fox News interview:

I believe in the democratic principles that I grew up with and how I was raised, and I believe to respect every one of my Republican friends because they have a commitment and I respect that.

This is the real opening. Cheney and friends do not fathom leaving the Republican Party because they do not want to destroy any future for their conservative views. Manchin and his friends do not want to leave the Democratic Party for similar reasons related to liberalism and because they see switching teams as self-serving instead of country-serving. But what if they left together?

What if instead of hoping the Republican or Democratic Party broke apart so the other could dominate, we had both break apart to create a viable Third party? What if instead of just trying to get the occasional defector to switch sides or go out as a lone wolf, a new potentiality was set up? Imagine a Party that is neither Liberal nor Conservative, but is American-focused. The priority of this Party would be to the truth, not what is going to get them the most votes from a shrinking pool of turned-off citizens. As stated by the people mentioned in this article and many more, their duties would be upholding the Constitution, debating and passing laws through vigorous discussion, and being a check against uncontrolled executive action.

And if Republicans and Democrats left their conferences together, at the same time, their “damage” would be equal. How many might go? It is not most, and it is certainly not even half of each party. Perhaps, at best, it would be a quarter of each. Still, once they left, the largest Third Party in United States history would suddenly exist, and that would only attract more politicians and voters. After all, both the Democratic and Republican Parties came into existence because the incumbent, dominant Parties of their days fell apart under their own weight, impudence, and extremism.

Now is the time for that to happen again. Even President Joe Biden fits more in the category of this potential Party than the current and future Democratic one. There are a significant number of malcontents who only want this one strange thing:

To work together for a better America, no matter their other differences.

The above piece is an excerpt from Always Divided, Never United: And Other Stories During a Time of Pandemics and Politics by J.P. Prag, available at booksellers worldwide.

Have the troubles of our age ripped us apart more than any point in history? Or has it forever been this way?

Learn more about author J.P. Prag at www.jpprag.com.

An earlier version of this article appeared on Medium.

politics

About the author

J.P. Prag

J.P. Prag is the author of "Always Divided, Never United", "New & Improved: The United States of America", and "In Defense Of... Exonerating Professional Wrestling's Most Hated". Learn more at www.jpprag.com.

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