A strong conservative on policy, Ms. Cheney faces punishment for refusing to embrace, or at least to accept with silence, the falsehood that the Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election. Ms. Cheney is among the few Republican patriots for whom former president Donald Trump’s toxic lies about voter fraud, and the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol they sparked, were a red line. After the former president insisted on Monday that his failure in last year’s election is “THE BIG LIE,” Ms. Cheney shot back: “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”
In a Post op-ed posted Wednesday, Ms. Cheney spelled out the stakes for her party: “The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution,” she wrote. “While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements may seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country.”
Ms. Cheney’s statement is not just based in fact, it is about the only decent response any self-respecting citizen can have to Mr. Trump’s campaign to discredit U.S. democracy. But it transgresses the emerging GOP orthodoxy that all Republicans must cater to Mr. Trump’s petulant refusal to admit he lost. Caught on a hot mic, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) complained Tuesday, “I’ve had it with her. . . . someone just has to bring a motion.” By Wednesday, Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), the No. 2 Republican in the House, had endorsed replacing Ms. Cheney with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).
Ms. Stefanik, who is reportedly working the phones to whip up support, is among those who reinforced Mr. Trump’s lies even after the Jan. 6 violence, voting against Congress’s acceptance of the electoral college vote. She may reap the benefits now, but, at 36, she has perhaps decades of political life to anticipate. Her tactical embrace of Trumpism, including the Big Lie, has permanently stained her.
House Republicans refused to discipline Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for spreading dangerous and sometimes bigoted conspiracy theories, instead giving her plum committee assignments. They have been mostly quiet after revelations that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is under investigation for alleged disgusting sex crimes. Mr. Gaetz still sits on the Judiciary Committee. But Ms. Cheney’s willingness to tell the truth about the integrity of the nation’s democratic system is apparently a scandal worthy of extraordinary punishment.
Ms. Cheney is by no means guaranteed to lose her position. Two-thirds of GOP House members, many of whom secretly agree with her, would have to vote to remove her. They must ask themselves whether they want to pledge their allegiance even more fully to a single man, over truth, principle and the integrity of U.S. democracy.