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In the good ol’ Soviet days, a fall from political grace manifested itself in party propaganda. Western diplomats and spies would scour every snippet of material that made its way to them for hints about who was up, who was down, and—most crucially—who was out. It’s from that last element of Kremlinology that they could often glean the most vital information, even in a closed and byzantine system. For instance, diplomats in Washington could usually assume the omission of someone from a class photo at the Kremlin meant that official’s pet policies would also soon disappear.
It’s not just the Soviets who are masters of disappearing someone. Wyoming is an example of this. On orders of former President Donald Trump, Wyoming voters have voted out a top Republican member from the Republican establishment. Rep. Liz Cheney narrowly lost her bid to renomination with 37 points. This was after trying to hold Trump accountable in connection with the Jan. 6, attack at the Capitol. Trump made Cheney’s defeat his number one priority and his disdain for Cheney and her family clear. The Republican National Committee didn’t even mention Cheney in their statement Tuesday evening on Harriet Hageman’s victory in the deep-red state.
Before Jan. 6, Cheney was in a position of privilege within the Republican Party. Cheney was born to a former vice president and conservative powerplayer mother. In the George H.W., she was a staff member at both the U.S. Agency for International Development (State Department) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Bush and George W. Bush. She won election to her father’s former House seat in 2016, and from there moved quickly into the ranks of leadership. Simply put, her resume was flawless.
People who watched her rise noticed her decisions. She worked as a contributor to Fox News before running for office, so that audience knew her as a tough-talking conservative who didn’t sand off her views’ edges. With her poise and confidence, she was an icon on the conservative circuit. Cheney was the first to take up the No. 3 spot in the House’s Republican leadership opened up, it was Cheney’s to have—and she took it, dutifully joining Kevin McCarthy and his team at the weekly press conference. Cheney’s American-looking Kremlinologists believed she was consolidating her position and gaining power.
However, that all changed with Jan. 6. Cheney was not able to be objective about the things she saw. Cheney voted with nine other GOP members to impeach Trump a second-time. The panel that investigated the attack on Capitol became her top Republican, and she also served as vice-chair. She was adored by liberals, who had long considered Cheney’s clan the most evil people in America.
Even worse, her House colleagues saw little use in her and kicked her. Both the Wyoming Republican Party (RNC) and the Wyoming Republican Party censured them. And then Tuesday’s results completed the process. This was an act of disappearance that would have been a proud moment for the Cold War Soviets.
Even in defeat, Cheney is still insisting she can fight the machine that operates in fealty to—or fear of—Trump. She filed paperwork at the Federal Election Commission Wednesday to create a political organization with the sole purpose of keeping Trump away from the White House. She’s hinting at a possible run for the presidency, although there are plenty of reasons to tamp down expectations for that effort, even if her goal is to simply act as a spoiler to keep Trump below 270 electoral votes. And she still hasn’t finished her work with the Jan. 6 panel, which has forced Americans to consider just how unprecedented the events of that day were, and the threat that still looms.
Still, it’s worth treating the current roster of Republicans like a politburo postcard. Of the 10 Republicans who voted for Trump’s second impeachment, eight will not be returning next year. Trump has an almost perfect record and worked hard against nine of them. Nearly everyone who didn’t stand with Comrade Donald were removed from the list and wiped from the photo.
Cheney displays courage by fighting for the frame. However, it will be difficult to change an organization without the support of powerful insiders. A machine like the Republican Party is often on automatic-pilot and will continue that way for quite some time, even if there’s a strong incentive to make a change. Cheney’s ability to jam the gear sufficiently with enough force to make it move is open for question. Or if she can keep the machine grinding away at her until the end.
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