Rep. Liz Cheney had already been formally censured by the Wyoming Republican Party for rejecting the GOP's anti-election conspiracy theories and holding Donald Trump accountable for the Jan. 6 attack, and The Associated Press reported, the congresswoman's state party took the next step over the weekend.
The Wyoming Republican Party will no longer recognize Liz Cheney as a member of the GOP in its second formal rebuke for her criticism of former President Donald Trump. The 31-29 vote Saturday in Buffalo, Wyoming, by the state party central committee followed votes by local GOP officials in about one-third of Wyoming's 23 counties to no longer recognize Cheney as a Republican.
A spokesperson for the former House GOP conference chair told the AP, "She is bound by her oath to the Constitution. Sadly a portion of the Wyoming GOP leadership has abandoned that fundamental principle and instead allowed themselves to be held hostage to the lies of a dangerous and irrational man."
The practical implications of this are limited: Cheney is still a conservative Republican, whether the Wyoming GOP recognizes her as one or not. The congresswoman remains a member of the House Republican Conference; she continues to identify herself as a Republican lawmaker; and she will run for re-election next year as a Republican incumbent. The state party's designation doesn't affect any of this.
But it does shed some light on what the GOP cares about most at this point in our political history. The Casper Star Tribune noted this week that, as a statistical matter, Cheney's voting record reflects a "staunchly conservative" lawmaker.
During Trump's term, Cheney voted with him on policy 93% of the time. That's a higher percentage than Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and a number of other lawmakers who are seen as staunch Trump allies. Cheney has also received solid grades from prominent conservative groups, including the Susan B. Anthony List and the National Rifle Association.
This has continued during the first year of President Joe Biden's term, during which Cheney has voted against the bipartisan infrastructure package. And the American Rescue Plan. And voting rights. And background checks on gun purchases. And reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.
Yes, Cheney has expressed support for democracy and honoring the results of American elections. And yes, she's recognized the seriousness of the Jan. 6 attack. But these positions do not a moderate make.
So why would the Wyoming Republican Party formally reject the congresswoman's affiliation with the party? Because in the contemporary GOP, how members of Congress vote on legislation and policy measures just isn't that important.
This came into sharp relief in the spring, when House Republicans weighed whether to replace Cheney as House GOP Conference chair with Rep. Elise Stefanik. It wasn't long before some noticed that the New York Republican had voted against the Trump White House's position on everything from taxes to health care to immigration, while Cheney had sided with the former Republican president on each of these issues.
As we discussed at the time, with records like these, one might've assumed that relentlessly partisan, far-right Republicans would've seen Cheney as an ally and Stefanik as an unreliable RINO in need of a primary rival.
But the opposite proved true — because relentlessly partisan, far-right Republicans don't much care about policy. (Insert obligatory reference to my book here.) Trump and his allies — including, evidently, leaders of the Wyoming Republican Party — care about loyalty to him personally and a willingness to commit to his twisted vision and conspiracy theories. Stefanik's voting record is more moderate, but she's also comfortable with the Big Lie and dodges questions about the legitimacy of Biden's victory.
It's why Stefanik is a member of her party's leadership team, and why Cheney is persona non grata with her own state party.