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U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) speaks to the press at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on May 12, 2021. House Republicans voted Wednesday to oust anti-Trump conservative Cheney from her leadership role confirming that the party out of power in Washington is casting its lot with the former US President. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) speaks to the press at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on May 12, 2021. House Republicans voted Wednesday to oust anti-Trump conservative Cheney from her leadership role confirming that the party out of power in Washington is casting its lot with the former US President. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Liz Cheney: And Thus, the Revolution Devours Its Children

At some point, the GOP will use bullets rather than ballots.

Mike Lofgren

On the occasion of her defenestration from the Republican leadership, the mainstream media have discovered a strange new respect for now-former House GOP Conference chair Liz Cheney. Politics makes strange bedfellows, and, indeed, Liz’s track record has been unlikely to gain much sympathy in the reality-based community.

Even her rare supporters in the GOP establishment have sometimes confected unusual rationales to defend her.  Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) circulated a memo to his colleagues the day before Liz’s de-platforming, stating that her presumptive replacement, Elise Stephanik, is far less conservative than Cheney. He claimed that Stephanik has in the past voted to “advance the Democrats’ agenda.” And in truth, Cheney was more loyal to Trump’s legislative schemes than Stephanik was.

"We should probably spare ourselves the crocodile tears for Liz Cheney, however much we might laud her standing up to a mob of yahoo savages at what appears to be the twilight of her career."

It is important to remind ourselves of what we are saying when we defend someone like Cheney, who stood up against the Big Lie about a stolen presidential election. For she herself was instrumental in incubating the Mother of All Big Lies.

Some may regard Maureen Dowd as a relic from the era of the Macarena, Seinfeld, and the Netscape browser, but she has now performed a useful service by reminding us of Cheney’s past activities. She tells us that in the early 2000s, Cheney, in lockstep with her father, then the vice president of the United States, aggressively promoted the lie that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and conspired with Osama bin Laden to attack the World Trade Center.

That cute little father-daughter stunt was a significant link in a process that cost up to $2 trillion, and whose net result was tens of thousands of dead, most of them probably innocent noncombatants, and a Middle East that will likely remain unstable for at least another generation. And her lie continued even up to the present. Dowd writes:

Last month, when President Biden announced plans to pull out [of Afghanistan], Liz Cheney — who wrote a book with her father that accused Barack Obama of abandoning Iraq and making America weaker — slapped back: ‘We know that this kind of pullback is reckless. It’s dangerous.’

Cheney actually is slandering two administrations that were left with cleaning up her and her father’s mess. In fact, the 31 December 2011 date for withdrawal from Iraq wasn’t Obama’s idea; he merely carried it out on schedule. That date was set by the Bush administration (of which Liz’s dad was the key driver on Iraq policy) in the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement signed with Iraq. Cheney’s statement was a lie within a lie.

Republicans have obvious reasons to forget this inconvenient fact about the Iraq withdrawal. But Democrats, out of some obscure rationale given all the heat they took over the rise of ISIS, also forgot it, and the major media are almost invariably too lazy to Google the evidence.

And what was the springboard of Liz Cheney’s illustrious political career? During the Bush administration, she was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department. That put her in the thick of Iraq policy formulation, although one has to wonder if she truly out-competed the other aspirants for the position on merit alone. Nepotism, like the revolving door, is not exactly unknown in Washington.

So we should probably spare ourselves the crocodile tears for Liz Cheney, however much we might laud her standing up to a mob of yahoo savages at what appears to be the twilight of her career. But there is another, more ominous conclusion to her denouement than most political pundits have so far been willing to make.

Cheney’s de-platforming is in principle no different than the purging ofGregor Strasser, Ernst Röhm, Nikolai Bukharin, or Lin Biao. This is what totalitarian political movements, as well as fanatical religious cults, routinely do. Past service to the movement is irrelevant for the organization’s purposes. Once you slip up, you must be made an example of. An apostate is more dangerous than a mere heathen.

In 2011, a period that now seems as remote as the Pleistocene Epoch, I warned that the Republican Party was becoming an authoritarian cult. A few years later, once Donald Trump became the party’s infallible leader, I surmised that things appeared, if anything, even worse: a revolution of nihilism that gloried in destruction for its own sake. In view of so many Republicans’ callous indifference to, or even active sabotage of, measures to prevent the spread of a pandemic that has so far taken 584,000 lives in the United States, it is no exaggeration to call the GOP a death cult.

Contrary to what observers might have thought in the shock of the events of 6 January 2021, the Republican Party has become even more extreme than when Trump was president. So what do we have to look forward to the next time the party gains national power under someone like, say, Josh Hawley, who has praised (and never repudiated his support for) the mentality behind Oklahoma City bombing of 1995?

At first, the measures a future Republican Party in power will take will be administrative: the outrageous attempts we see in Republican-controlled states to deny citizens the right to vote will look like Denmark in comparison to the mass disenfranchisement that will take place under country-wide GOP hegemony.

"Contrary to what observers might have thought in the shock of the events of 6 January 2021, the Republican Party has become even more extreme than when Trump was president."

The media and prominent individuals who criticize Republicans will initially be subject to harassing defamation suits to bankrupt them, followed by press laws to formally prescribe criticism of them under the rubric of national security or some similar euphemism. We can see a dry run in the state legislatures now. Universities and other independent centers of thought will come under the control of ideologues, and the purges of faculty will begin, just as they have now begun in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary.

Vladimir Lenin, a thinker much admired by former Trump consigliere Steve Bannon, once described the inexorable process of politics this way: “Who says ‘A’ must say ‘B’”—that is, people must follow through the logical consequences of their stated ideology and actions.

Once the coercive but formally nonviolent actions have run their course, the ineluctable path that the GOP has staked out far could well lead, per Lenin’s epigram, to systematic political terrorism, both of the stochastic kind, carried out by independent actors (though incited by political rhetoric), as well as measures formally sanctioned by the party.

We have already seen a violent insurrection at the national Capitol and an attempted coup in a state, both of them egged on by a sitting Republican president, as well as a plot to kidnap the governor of that state. Who is to say that next time, after learning the lessons of a failed putsch, they won’t succeed?

They would probably have plenty of help. We saw the prominent presence of military veterans and off-duty police at the Capitol insurrection, and now there are many retired general and flag officers who claim to believe that the current elected government of the United States is illegitimate.

Under the circumstances, it is far from wild speculation to suppose that, if the Republican Party continues its spiral into extremism, a future Liz Cheney might end up like the victims of Stalin’s purges. After all, only a few short months ago, a mob in the Capitol was baying: “Hang Mike Pence!”


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Mike Lofgren

Mike Lofgren

Mike Lofgren is a former congressional staff member who served on both the House and Senate budget committees. His books include: "The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government" (2016) and "The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted(2013).

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