Cheney, the Caucus, and the Crux

As of this writing, there is considerable doubt as to whether U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) should continue in her House Republican leadership position as its conference chairman. One scenario has her losing a caucus vote; another portends she will walk away from this internecine GOP battle and leave the position rather than betray her principles, most notably her opposition to the past and continued role of Donald Trump within the party. In either scenario, Cheney’s expected departure will be hailed by the corporate leftist media as the latest Republican martyrdom in the noble cause of resisting the cult of the “bad orange man.”

Is it? Cheney is not being run out of Congress. That is solely a matter for her Wyoming constituents to decide next year. Nor is Cheney being removed from her committee assignments; and her congressional office budget is not being reduced. Cheney is on the cusp of being replaced as conference chairman. Nothing more, nothing less. It is decidedly not the end of our free republic or of the Republican Party.

The conference chairman of the House Republican caucus is responsible for the development and implementation of the party’s unified messaging. In many ways, it is as if the House GOP is hiring one of its own to act as its PR director. One cannot overestimate how critical this position is for the House GOP conference. Past individuals who have held this position include former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and former Vice President Mike Pence (R-Ind.). 

This position—like all other House leadership positions in both parties—requires the confidence of one’s colleagues that the peer they elect will prioritize and actually put the interests of the caucus above her own. 

As a result, the election to leadership does not elevate a representative above his or her colleagues. Just as a general election subordinates the winner to the sovereign citizenry (i.e., the voters), a leadership election subordinates the winner to the caucus (i.e., the voters in Congress who choose that member to lead), individually and collectively. If someone in the leadership of either party places—or is perceived to be placing—a personal agenda ahead of the good of the conference, that individual has broken the implicit agreement upon which her delegated authority rests.

This does not mean that a U.S. representative in leadership must necessarily silence or censor his own views. Especially in the instance of “conscience votes,” which are not whipped based upon “party loyalty,” one may vote with a minority of one’s caucus or even be a minority of one. Indeed, this is likely the reason Cheney survived an early caucus “no confidence” vote. 

But in politics, it is important to do the right thing in the right way. In this, Cheney seemingly has been found wanting by a majority of her colleagues. This is bitterly ironic, as the House GOP conference chairman must necessarily understand what and how to best message for the caucus. Cheney has chosen, prioritized, and expressed her personal views on subjects in ways both substantive and stylistic, leading her colleagues to believe her leadership does not redound to their benefit individually or to the conference as a whole. 

After surviving her initial “no confidence” vote, rather than find more constructive means to reconcile her views to her voluntarily sought duty to promote the good of the entire caucus or, alternately, resign from her leadership position, Cheney chose to view that previous vote as a license to continue her messaging course. It was a grave miscalculation. Today, more than ever, her colleagues believe Cheney’s stewardship is hurting the conference; and, as a result, she likely will be replaced. 

For their own political interests, both “NeverTrumpers” (who have risibly compared Cheney to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) and “EverTrumpers” (including the former president who injected himself into an internal House GOP election) will claim the former president is the critical issue. But such is not the case vis à vis the House GOP conference—many of whom fall into either camp. (Though whether they publicly admit it or not is another matter.) 

Cheney fell and then played into the corporate leftist media’s perpetual snare of hyping “Republican-on-Republican violence.” Thus, for Cheney and the caucus, this is the crux: It is the role of the U.S. House GOP conference chairman to attack Democrats and aid Republicans, not vice versa.

Again, by continually letting herself be used as a cudgel against her fellow caucus members, Cheney has repeatedly violated the cardinal duty of a conference chairman. 

Bluntly, politicians are venal creatures. If you make it harder for a politician to get what he wants—such as getting reelected—that politician will make it harder for you to get what you want. The issues and individuals involved are irrelevant to this elementary political fact.

Yet, most importantly, 2022 is on the horizon. This is one of the reasons why the press prostitutes itself covering for the Biden Administration, including its use of the “Republican on Republican violence” trope to make the GOP appear to be the problem rather than the solution to this (mis)administration’s chaos. This is why the House Republican conference cannot have a conference chairman who enables the press to continue that.

The GOP must focus the public spotlight like a laser upon the damaging policies of the leftist Biden Administration. It must stop the internal squabbling that only hurts Republicans, because—news flash!—there are a whole lot of lefties standing in line to do it when we’re finished pounding each other. The sooner the GOP stops providing grist for the corporate leftist media’s trope of “Republican-on-Republican violence” and starts offering sound policies and an aspirational vision for Americans, the sooner our free republic—and the free world—will be spared from the perils of this proglodyte (mis)administration. 

About Thaddeus G. McCotter

The Hon. Thaddeus McCotter is the former chairman of the Republican House Policy Committee, current itinerant guitarist, American Greatness contributor, and Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show."

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

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