Well that was interesting. In a secret vote, despite congressmen like Matt Gaetz claiming they had the votes to oust Liz Cheney from leadership, she crushed it. Cheney will remain Chair of the House Republican Conference in a 145-61-1 vote. Cheney, I am told, was the present vote. The anti-Cheney folks were claiming they had more than 100 members ready to oust her. President Donald Trump himself was personally calling Republicans in the House urging them to oust Cheney.
There is an easy lesson here. In public, the House GOP engages in performance art for Trump and Trump voters. In private, they’re still more the Bush-Cheney Party than the Trump Party.
The problem for the GOP is they can’t govern behind closed doors. One thing they have going for them though is that the Trump wing of the party spends so much time performing for cameras that they don’t seem to be able to count votes.
It is worth paying attention to some history.
Dick Cheney served as the first White House Deputy Chief of Staff, a position created for him by President Gerald Ford. He went on to serve as the seventh White House Chief of Staff. From that position, he ran for the United States House of Representatives and served Wyoming from 1979 to 1989. He ended his tenure in the House as Chairman of the House Republican Conference. He left the Congress to serve as Secretary of Defense before departing Washington and then returned as Vice President of the United States.
Fast forward thirty years from his tenure as Chair of the House Republican Conference and his daughter, the current Congresswoman from Wyoming, took on that position in 2019.
The Cheney family knows politics and policy. The Cheneys know how to count votes.
The Trump wing of the GOP needs to understand this lesson. They are great at getting on camera and behind microphones. They are great at blowing stuff up. But staying power comes from vote counting. With President Trump in the White House, policy could be advanced at the executive level. Right now, we know there are 61 votes that are firmly Team Trump. Some others are pretty willing to lean their way on a lot of policy issues, if not political issues.
The Trump wing of the party needs to move beyond performance art at this time because there are clearly still enough Republicans willing to collaborate with the Democrats to let bad policy advance. There are also a lot of Republicans alienated from the Trump wing of the party and they seem to have greater political acumen even as many of them share common policy goals and perspectives.
It is the behind the scenes machinations and leadership fights that give rise to the fighting. The GOP was right to stand with Marjorie Taylor Greene who should not be removed from committees for legal acts and statements done prior to her election. They should have also never had this fight with Liz Cheney, particularly with a guy like Matt Gaetz doing the clown show procession.
Gaetz, in case you missed it, went on Fox News to declare he’d serve as President Trump’s impeachment lawyer. In utterly beclowning himself, he said, “I only regret that I have but one political career to give to my president.” He actually said that. The man is a performance artist and/or has daddy issues (behold the healing power of “and”). Whatever he is, he is not competent to lead or count votes.
This is a fight the President did not need, nor did his legion of 61 in the House of Representatives. What they did was expose that behind the scenes the President and their claim to power is weaker than they project on television. President Trump himself personally intervened to no avail. It suggests Trump is a fad and Cheney is forever.
On February 11, 2006, Vice President Cheney on a hunting trip accidentally shot Harry Whittington. On February 3, 2021, his daughter and his successor as House Conference Chair let the Trump wing of the party shoot itself in the foot. This was an unforced error.