McCarthy (Calif.) simply held a voice vote, and the loudmouths prevailed — as they invariably do in this Trump-occupied Republican Party. Cheney loyalists requested a formal, recorded vote — but they were ruled out of order.
“Liz Cheney was canceled today for speaking her mind and disagreeing with the narrative that President Trump has put forth,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said as he left. Cheney was, in short, canceled by her fellow Republicans for telling the truth.
Among the many things Republicans have lost as they cravenly embrace Trump’s “big lie” is a sense of irony. Before canceling Cheney on Wednesday morning, the very last thing Republicans did on the House floor Tuesday night was spend an hour railing against “cancel culture.”
They complained about Pepe Le Pew being canceled, J.K. Rowling being canceled, Miss Piggy being canceled and Dr. Seuss being canceled. They groused about baseball’s All-Star Game and Goya Foods. They lamented the cancellation of everything from George Washington to kids in MAGA hats.
“Cancel culture,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) proclaimed, “is a synonym for fascism.”
They then turned around and canceled Cheney.
The real cancel culture in America today resides in the party of Trump. It has canceled Mitt Romney and George W. Bush, John McCain and Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski and Pat Toomey, Georgia’s election officials and anybody else in the Republican ranks who calls out Trump’s lies and the resulting violence. Now, it has canceled a stalwart conservative and daughter of a former vice president.
The Republican irony blindness doesn’t stop there. McCarthy, in his Orwellian letter to colleagues promoting Cheney’s ouster, wrote: “We are a big tent party.” He claimed sending Cheney into exile was a way for “internal conflicts . . . to be resolved.”
In the GOP caucus meeting, Cheney told her colleagues that “we cannot both embrace the ‘big lie’ and embrace the Constitution.” She told them to “go forward based on truth” and return to the “fundamental principles of conservatism.” She offered a prayer. Then McCarthy and the loudmouths summarily shouted her out of leadership.
“It basically all happened by the time we realized what was going on,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a Cheney backer. Many were prepared to speak in her defense, but Cheney knew the fix was in. She told McCarthy to do “whatever you want to do,” Kinzinger recounted.
Cheney, defiant, went right to the cameras and pledged to “do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.” She said that “we cannot be dragged backward by the very dangerous lies.”
But that’s exactly what’s happening. Virtually no one in the House Republican caucus privately says the election was stolen from Trump. Yet almost all refuse to say so publicly — and McCarthy, in a sorry abdication of leadership, is among them.
“To our base voters who believe the election was stolen, honestly I don’t blame them, because their leaders have told them the exact same thing,” Kinzinger said after the Cheney expulsion. “As leaders, your job isn’t just to make it comfortable for the rank-and-file members, your job is to tell people the truth.”
Cheney told the truth — and paid dearly. “Remaining silent, and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar,” she told the House Tuesday night. “I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.” On the nearly empty House floor, her powerful words were met with silence.
On Wednesday morning, all eyes were on Cheney (two dozen photographers focused their lenses on the women’s room door when she went inside). Her colleagues were uncharacteristically quiet as they arrived for the banishment.
“I’m not going to comment,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.).
“I don’t know anything,” Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) demurred.
They were only slightly less diffident after the deed was done. A reporter asked Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) when Cheney became “a problem” for the party. Massie retorted: “When did you stop beating your wife?”
McCarthy slunk away silently after Cheney’s defenestration — a perfect coda to his pathetic leadership display. Reporters asked Colorado’s Buck about what many regard as McCarthy’s “blowing around in the wind” leadership style.
Buck smiled. “So you want me to walk the plank with Liz right now?” he asked.
In this Republican Party, the truth will get you canceled.