For continuing to call out the "Big Lie" that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming may soon lose her position as chair of the House Republican Conference, the No. 3 position in the party's leadership.
It's the latest proof that much of the party remains in the thrall of the former president, a bizarre state of affairs that also explains insidious efforts by Republican state legislators to make it harder to vote.
Three months ago House Republicans voted privately to retain Cheney in her leadership position, despite criticism of her vote to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. But now she is facing a challenge from Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who has been endorsed by House Minority Leader Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
Cheney also seems to have lost the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who after rightly saying that Trump bore responsibility for the Jan. 6 riots has reverted to the role of Trump toady. He was recorded Tuesday saying "I've lost confidence" in Cheney.
For some of her fellow Republicans, Cheney's sin seems to be that she doesn't genuflect at the altar of the great god Trump.
For other Republicans, Cheney's offense isn't that she voted to impeach Trump but that she insists on continuing to speak the truth about the former president. According to a report in the New York Times, some Republicans fear that Cheney's refusal to stop criticizing Trump or condemning the events of Jan. 6 "could weaken the party's message going into the 2022 midterm elections, when they hope to portray Democrats as big-government socialists so villainous they should be voted out of the majority."
But Cheney, a stalwart conservative, is on record criticizing President Joe Biden's spending plans. The only message her truth-telling weakens is that Trump won the election.
Democrats, who narrowly control both houses of Congress, need to move quickly to minimize the damage from the Republicans' embrace of Trump's Big Lie and the related notion that election law must be changed to dispel concerns about "election integrity" that are rooted in that lie.
Republicans are free to punish truth-tellers in their party for refusing to bow down to Trump. But they must not be allowed to undermine the right of Americans of all parties (and none) to exercise the most important obligation of a citizen in a democracy.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES