In Donald Trump’s Purgatory – WSJ

Rep. Liz Cheney speaks to reporters after House Republicans voted to dismiss her as chairwoman of the conference on May 12 in Washington, DC.


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Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The House Republicans ousted Liz Cheney from their leadership on Wednesday, but the GOP

Donald Trump

Problem continues. You can’t win without his voters, but you will also fight to win if the former president dominates the party and insists on fighting the 2020 elections again for the next four years.

Ms. Cheney was purged of voting so overwhelmingly that no one asked for a recorded balance sheet. Her offense was challenging – too loud for GOP consolation – to Mr. Trump’s allegation that the 2020 election was stolen and that the attempt to overthrow the January 6 election was constitutional and justified.

Many Republicans privately agree with Liz Cheney on both counts, but they don’t want to get into a public battle with Mr. Trump. They want the House leaders to focus on defying the Biden agenda and they think Ms. Cheney’s insistence on publicly refuting Mr. Trump’s lies was a distraction. She can now say what she wants as a backbencher.

But the GOP problem is less that Ms. Cheney won’t let Mr. Trump go than that Mr. Trump won’t let go in 2020. He can’t accept that he lost, so he’s busy rewriting history to convince everyone he was betrayed. He makes this claim a litmus test for GOP leaders or for candidates who want his approval.

This may appeal to the Trump base, but it won’t appeal to the swing voters the GOP needs to take back the House and Senate. Mr Trump’s claim that he was betrayed in November is the main reason the GOP lost two seats in the Georgia Senate in the January 5 runoff. Trump voters stayed home after Mr Trump told them their votes didn’t count. The area code and voter turnout couldn’t be clearer about this. Joe Biden’s agenda would have stalled now if Mr. Trump had put the party first after his defeat.

Mitch McConnell, now Chairman of the Senate Minority, has followed a strategy of silence towards Mr Trump since his conviction of the former president after Jan. 6. His focus is rightly on regaining the Senate in 2022. But will Mr. Trump keep silent about that, Mr. McConnell? We suspect Mr. Trump wouldn’t mind if Republicans lost more Senate seats in 2022, which he would then blame Mr McConnell for trying to oust him as Senate GOP leader.

Incidentally, no one is more enthusiastic about all of this than the Democrats and the press corps who want Mr. Trump at the center of GOP politics. The last thing they want is a debate about Mr. Biden’s spending shortfall, higher taxes, divisive identity and racial policies, and the promotion of Iran. CNN is robbed without a slide.

Ms. Cheney appears intent on continuing her debate with Mr. Trump. Because of me. Someone in the GOP has to tell the GOP voters the truth about 2020. But when it becomes the favorite rock of the Lincoln Project and the Washington Post, it quickly loses whatever influence it has on the GOP. She is most credible as an advocate of traditional GOP conservatism against Trumpist isolationism and big government. This is her best chance at keeping her seat in the Wyoming house, too.

Perhaps the shock of the Biden-Nancy Pelosi agenda will unite the GOP enough to hold the handful of house seats it must win in 2022. But this task is more difficult as Mr. Trump is plotting revenge and, as always, is mostly focused on himself. This is Republican purgatory from Trump’s ex-presidency.

(03/01/21) While the media focused almost entirely on Donald Trump’s speech at the 2021 CPAC, there were strong voices from other potential Republican Party leaders including Kristi Noem, Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis, Tom Cotton and Rick Scott. Images: Getty / Zuma / AP / Reuters Composite: Mark Kelly

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Published in the print edition on May 13, 2021.

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