The Warning Is More Serious Than Most Of Us Are Probably Taking It
"This is not about policy; this is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans," said Liz Cheney on the floor of the House yestreday. "Remaining silent and ignoring The Lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former President’s crusade to undermine our democracy."
When she said "This is not about policy; this is not about partisanship," she was speaking truth. Liz Cheney is an ultra-conservative Republican (and a war-monger). Yesterday, former Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) wrote a Washington Post OpEd, In Today's Republican Party, There Is No Greater Offense Than Honesty that begins with a quote from George Orwell (On Truth), "The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." I doubt many Republicans want that associated with their party. Flake had worse for them. For Flake it's not about policy or partisanship either. You know how he got the Senate nomination when Jon Kyl retired in 2012? The state GOP wanted to most conservative Republican in the congressional delegation. That was Flake, the Club for Growth candidate. The Koch Bros' Americans for Prosperity rated by a 98% conservative score. In 2017, the NY Times ranked him as the #4 most conservative senator in the country.
He's with Liz. Last night he wrote that "From the very beginning of America, our freedom has been predicated on truth. For without a principled fidelity to truth and to shared facts, our democracy will not last.... [Cherney] lose her leadership post within the House Republican Conference, not because she has been untruthful. Rather, she will lose her position because she is refusing to play her assigned role in propagating the 'big lie' that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. Cheney is more dedicated to the long-term health of our constitutional system than she is to assuaging the former president’s shattered ego, and for her integrity she may well pay with her career. No, this is not the plot of a movie set in an asylum. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your contemporary Republican Party, where today there is no greater offense than honesty."
This allergy to self-evident truth didn’t happen all at once, of course. This frog has been boiling for some time now. The Trump period in American life has been a celebration of the unwise and the untrue. From the ugly tolerance of the pernicious falsehood about President Barack Obama’s place of birth to the bizarre and fanatical fable about the size of inauguration crowds, to the introduction of the term “alternative facts” into the American lexicon, the party’s steady embrace of dishonesty as a central premise has brought us to this low and dangerous place.
...When I became an unwitting dissident in my party by speaking in defense of self-evident truths, I assumed that more and more of my colleagues would follow me. I remain astonished that so few did. Congresswoman Cheney, I know how alone you must be feeling. But just know that history keeps the score, not Kevin McCarthy or Elise Stefanik.
In January 2018, three years before the Capitol insurrection, I said the following on the Senate floor:
“Mr. President, let us be clear. The impulses underlying the dissemination of such untruths are not benign. They have the effect of eroding trust in our vital institutions and conditioning the public to no longer trust them. The destructive effect of this kind of behavior on our democracy cannot be overstated.”
Three years later, it’s clear that I didn’t know the half of it. The destructive effect of the president’s behavior-- and the willingness of Republican elected officials to indulge, excuse, defend, justify and, in many cases, just roll with it-- has taken a devastating toll.
It is elementary to have to say this, but we did not become a great nation by believing or espousing nonsense, or by embracing lunacy. And if my party continues down this path, we will not be fit to govern.
Cheney has proved her fitness, and today it seems that adherents to the “big lie” will cast her out. Hold your head high, congresswoman. Those of us who believe in American democracy and who live in objective reality are grateful that you have chosen to take a stand for truth-- self-evident truth-- regardless of the consequences.
Unlike Flake, Thomas Friedman didn't start his column by quoting George Orwell. He went for Don McLean instead, "American Pie," before noting that the Republican Party "is about to make embracing a huge lie about the integrity of our elections-- the core engine of our democracy-- a litmus test for leadership in that party, if not future candidacy at the local, state and national levels. In effect, the Trump G.O.P. has declared that winning the next elections for the House, Senate and presidency is so crucial-- and Trump’s ability to energize its base so irreplaceable-- that it justifies both accepting his Big Lie about the 2020 election and leveraging that lie to impose new voter-suppression laws and changes in the rules of who can certify elections in order to lock in minority rule for Republicans if need be. It is hard to accept that this is happening in today’s America, but it is."
[I]f Trump and friends are not stopped, one day they will get where they are going: They will lock in minority rule in America. And when that happens, both Democrats and principled Republicans will take to the streets, and you can call it whatever you like, but it is going to feel like a new civil war.
I don’t use that term lightly or accidentally. We are all the product of our life experiences, and my first reporting experience was living inside the Lebanese civil war in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
I saw close up what happens when democratically elected politicians think that they can endlessly abuse their institutions, cross redlines, weaken their judiciary and buy reporters and television stations-- so that there is no truth, only versions, of every story. And they think that they can do it endlessly-- cheat just one more time, break one more rule, buy one more vote-- and the system will hold until they can take it over and own it for their own purposes.
Then one day-- and you never see it coming-- the whole system breaks down. Whatever frayed bonds of truth and trust that were holding it together completely unravel.
And then it’s gone. And there is no getting it back.
Back to The Post for a moment. Like Flake, Robin Givhan-- Liz Cheney And The Sad Face Of The Republican Party-- also emphasized that "Cheney isn’t at odds with her Republican colleagues over policy positions, but over her refusal to parrot falsehoods-- or at least speak around them like an obfuscating child. For this, they feel compelled to take her down a peg and remove her from her perch as a leader in a party that cannot seem to clear the low bar of acknowledging the reality of a fair election, and doing so without hedging.
“We Republicans need to stand for genuinely conservative principles, and steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality,” Cheney wrote in a Washington Post essay. “History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be.”
Understand, Cheney is not a saint or a savior. She is a politician from a political family... And yet, no matter how much her colleagues flail and scream, determined to leap into the abyss, Cheney insists on warning them about the calamity awaiting. Not because she’s a martyr, but because even if they survive the fall, there will still be plenty of reasons to grieve.