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The GOP reckoning with Liz Cheney

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) heads to the House

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) heads to the House floor to vote at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. Credit: Getty Images/Tasos Katopodis

They can’t trust her.

Everyone else can keep the story straight. But not her. She’s gonna blab. And so they hate her.

Shame is the worst of it. When everyone sticks together, it gnaws a little less deeply. But when even one refuses to go along, the bubble of modest protection is pierced, and that thumping, telltale guilt is felt acutely. Cast her from the circle lest we see ourselves!

Republicans in Congress aren’t mentioning shame as they maneuver to dump Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership post. But make no mistake about it, that’s all this is about. Collective guilt and the shame that comes from it.

To Republicans, publicly, it’s Cheney’s insistence on looking backward instead of forward, as if Americans are going to forget what happened on Jan. 6. Do they really think they can move forward without reckoning after a majority of House Republicans voted to nullify a national election (hours after the Capitol was sacked)?

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Cheney’s latest bout of looking backward hardly happened in a vacuum. On Monday, the former president issued a statement attempting to appropriate the "Big Lie" colloquialism that many are using to describe his attempt to nullify the 2020 presidential election and retain power. "The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!", Donald Trump proclaimed.

Cheney had the temerity to respond. "The 2020 presidential election was not stolen," she wrote in a tweet. "Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system."

It was her political death warrant from a party that no longer cares about the truth. Not even impeccable conservative credentials can save her.

Meanwhile, those who can keep their mouths shut are being rewarded. New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who was among the 139 House Republicans who voted to throw out legally certified election results from other states, will almost certainly get Cheney’s leadership post after receiving backing from the former president on Wednesday. She can be trusted to toe the Lie, as can New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, who also voted to halt the Jan. 6 election certification. He’s now the Republican front-runner for governor of New York.

To genuine conservatives, it’s excruciating to watch this process play out. Righteous right-of-center opposition is desperately needed in Washington as President Joe Biden and the Democrats seek to expand the size and scope of government to almost unimaginable levels. But this doesn’t seem to be the GOP’s concern anymore. It’s all about loyalty, as the credibility of the party collapses.

Many hold the misconception that Republican leaders actually believe the Big Lie. They don’t, at least not the ones I speak with, who continue to back the Trump narrative. But to say so is to give into the "libs" and to the hated news media, and that’s too cardinal a sin to commit within the party.

So they bank on moving forward without contrition for what happened following the 2020 election, and with Democrats overreaching so greatly, the Republicans might just be rewarded for it in the 2022 midterms.

But beneath it all, that telltale heart will continue to beat, just not for Liz Cheney.

William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.