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The Silence of the Sheep

How the Republican party knifed Liz Cheney while hiding from her.
May 12, 2021
Featured Image
House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) defends U.S. President Donald Trump during the weekly Republican leadership press conference December 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Also pictured are (L-R) Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA). (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Liz Cheney’s tenure as an official member of House Leadership ended not with a bang, but a whimper. Cheney came to the Hill looking for a fight and her opponents simply scattered.

Last night as she strode into the House chamber to deliver a speech, setting the parameters about the meaning of her ouster, all but one of her fellow Republicans—who insist that former President Trump remain leader of the GOP—scurried out of the chamber. They couldn’t even bear to hear the words she would speak.

If they’d stayed, they wouldn’t have had much of an answer. They would have to explain their willingness to participate in the 2020 election lies that led to the January 6 insurrection, a plain fact many of them freely admitted weeks ago.

As Cheney said:

This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. 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 the time came to hold the vote on Wednesday morning, there were no speeches from the members looking to remove her. Only Cheney spoke. And she faced her fate wearing a replica pin of the George Washington battle flag given to her by her mother. The symbolism was clear.

As she brandished that flag, in the end, Cheney’s Republican colleagues couldn’t muster the courage to hold a roll call vote to get rid of her. No one was willing to put their names on the record against her.

There wasn’t even a secret ballot. Because while a secret ballot would protect individual Republicans from accountability, it still would have recorded an actual tally—the number of Republicans who voted to out her. Instead, Cheney’s leadership was terminated in the most cowardly manner possible: a voice vote.

This way there is no paper trail. No speeches recorded in the record. No video, even, of Republicans in the chamber reacting to Cheney’s Tuesday night speech. Republicans can say that both everyone and no one was against her. It’s as if the entire episode never happened.

The silence of Cheney’s opposition says it all. They can run for now, but they can’t hide from this fight forever. They asked for it.

Amanda Carpenter

Bulwark political columnist Amanda Carpenter is a CNN contributor, author, and former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz and speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint.