The Republican Party voted Representative Liz Cheney from her position in leadership on Wednesday, May 12th, the change coming after Cheney supported the impeachment of President Donald Trump for inspiring his supporters to attack Congress and continued to speak out against the lie that the 2020 Presidential Election was stolen.
Voicing his support for the ouster, Senator Lindsay Graham told Fox News host Sean Hannity, “I’ve always liked Liz Cheney but she’s made the determination that the Republican Party cannot grow with Donald Trump. I’ve determined we can’t grow without him.”
Honestly, it can barely get more cynical than that. Graham has disgraced himself in recent years, first decrying Trump as unfit and warning the party would be destroyed should it embrace him before becoming golfing buddies with him and tirelessly supporting his every destructive whim, then, for a brief moment, following the attempted coup of January 6th, swearing off the relationship before running back in record time.
What we are seeing with the GOP currently is rooted in this cynicism. Having shed their espoused principles in favor of the unabashed pursuit of power, Republicans are engaged in a scorched earth campaign to maintain what power and influence remains and have calculated that their means of doing so is to fully embrace inhuman hypercapitalism and white supremacist paranoia, creating a fascistic and violent movement that will dismantle democracy and shared society itself in order to hold onto power.
But the disturbing truth is that none of this is unexpected or inexplicable. Though many will shake their heads and struggle to explain these bizarre and troubling events, this is far from an aberration. This is the natural evolution of the Republican Party and American politics.
Dispatches From A Collapsing State is an independent project and the home for Jared Yates Sexton’s political, historical, and cultural writings. Jared depends on your support to keep this project going, free from ads and editorial oversight, all in order to provide an unfiltered and uncensored record of this ongoing crisis. If you haven’t already, please consider becoming a subscriber. Doing so will unlock exclusive content, including a regular Dispatches Mailbag where Jared answers your questions, and makes it possible for the development of future projects and features.
I was traveling this weekend for one of the first times since the beginning of the pandemic, and found myself in a hotel room. While getting ready for a TV shoot I clicked on the TV and, faced with little in the way of options, tuned into MSNBC’s Morning Joe with former GOP Congressman Joe Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski.
Morning Joe has been a program that I’ve only watched when the moment requires, usually if I’m traveling or heading to the airport to catch a flight. Other news shows in the morning are pretty useless or exhaustingly “peppy,” and at the very least Morning Joe occasionally simulates the kind of inane chatter that takes place between the pundit and journalist class in Washington, D.C. In other words, it is a glimpse into a relatively vapid and not-at-all innocuous ecosystem.
It doesn’t take long for the show to infuriate me. The surface-level conversations that typically populate cable news rarely touch on any of the actual happenings or causes of the world’s most pressing issues, instead summarizing what has happened, framing it as an ongoing and seemingly un-understandable phenomena, and then moving onto the next segment. What is missing in all of this is context, history, and actual understanding, a reckoning with America’s true and real history that, upon examination, sheds much-needed light on the problems of the day.
On Tuesdays, the talk was the GOP’s cannibalization of itself and the attack on Liz Cheney, a discussion that saw Joe and Mika and their guests shake their heads and wonder after what had happened to “conservatism,” ponder how any of this had to do with “fiscal responsibility or small businesses,” and was highlighted by Scarborough performing one of his patented, blustery addresses of the camera, all of it intended as a “snap out of it” moment for the Republican Party and any members maintaining a shred of conscience.
These things make for fantastic social media memes. Clips of Scarborough’s addresses regularly circulate for hours, his position as a “tell-it-like-it-is conservative” earns him a great deal of attention, alongside fellow Never Trumpers like the crumbling Lincoln Project, who raised millions upon millions of dollars that were funneled into the founders’ pockets.
But none of it is real. Scarborough, as a former representative and torch-wielder for “conservatism,” and Brezinski, daughter of former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, broadcast every morning an altered and weaponized reality that promises anxious viewers that this crisis is something new, a completely strange and novel phenomenon that has nothing to do with the past or their actions or the pursuits of their predecessors. In attacking Donald Trump and criticizing the Republican Party, they, and the journalists, pundits, and D.C. insiders they traffic with, are defending a history that never existed, a fairy-tale story of an America that is essentially good and just and concerned with human dignity, liberty, freedom, and equality.
And, to be honest, they are defending their own roles in promoting a cynical, power and wealth based approach to governing and diplomacy and the immense fortunes and power they have earned via their participation. Only through this distorted, funhouse mirror reality is the evolution of the Republican Party even remotely inconceivable. Only through their denial is it anything approaching confusing or surprising.
The fairy-tale of American history is a story told with a purpose. Its telling is meant to sanitize the brutal history of white supremacy, colonization, slavery, and genocide by clothing it in bizarre concepts like Manifest Destiny and supernatural providence. In modern times, it has taken wars predicated in resource accumulation and the undermining of self-determination of people of color and fashioned them into crusades. With our economic system, the intentional redistribution of wealth from the poor to the obscenely wealthy has been dressed in rugged individualism, weaponized religious faith, and been given an unquestionable sheen maintained by those who profit from it the most.
Republicans for decades have not operated based on their espoused principles of fiscal and social conservatism, nor their “pro-life” slogans. The animating influence on the Right has been an attack on desegregation and racial hierarchies, all of it in pursuit of the eradication of democratic institutions, the continued dominance of wealth extraction by the white, patriarchal minority, and the defense of power and profit at all costs. These other topics, platforms, and principles are simply cudgels to carve out alliances and hold a share of electoral politics while using white rage and paranoia as a means of pushing redistributive wealth.
Donald Trump was not the disease, but a symptom. His grift was based in the continued lie of American conservatism, a veneer that hides a much larger grift behind all the star-spangled and mythological notions that constitute the fading illusion of American exceptionalism that the Right, and certainly some Democrats, have depended on for generations.
Liz Cheney has been ostracized not for any principled stand - she is a Cheney, after all - but because she has refused to adhere to the only orthodoxy the Republican Party has left. The Big Lie that now encompasses the Right’s entire appeal, the lie that the 2020 Election has been stolen and that liberal traitors, in league with Jewish “puppetmasters” and easily-duped people of color, is responsible for the continued plundering of American wealth and influence. This lie, coupled and combined with the ongoing propaganda that has festered within the Republican Party for decades, has simply evolved.
Cheney’s refusal to embrace the newest version of a constantly updating mythology did her in. This does not make her a hero. Cheney, and Republicans like her, including Scarborough, the Lincoln Project, Mitt Romney, and other Never Trumpers, swam within the wretched cesspool of conspiracy theories, weaponized slogans, and meaningless ideology for years. They should be lauded for jumping off the train as it rolled into the station, but never forget that they willingly and happily rode that train for miles and miles.