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In the good old Soviet days, political decline manifested itself in party propaganda. Western diplomats and spies would rub off every scrap of material that reached them for hints about who’s up, who’s down and – most importantly – who’s out. It is from the last element of Kremlinology that they can often extract the most important information, even in a closed and Byzantine system. For example, diplomats in Washington usually could I guess omitting someone from a Kremlin class photo meant that the official’s pet policy would soon disappear as well.
It’s not just the Soviets who are masters at making someone disappear. Just look at Wyoming where the voters are this week struck a former senior member of the Republican Party who left office at the behest of former President Donald Trump. Rep. Liz Chaney lost her bid for re-nomination by a stunning 37 points after daring to hold Trump accountable for his role in the Jan. 6 incident. attack of the Capitol. Trump has made defeating Cheney his top priority, making him his own contempt for her and her famous family clearly. The Republican National Committee didn’t even mention Cheney in its statement Tuesday night about Harriet Hageman’s victory in the deep-red state.
Before January 6, Cheney enjoyed a privileged place in the Republican Party. She was the daughter of a former vice president and the mother of a conservative power. She had stay at the State Department and the US Agency for International Development during the George HW Bush and George W. Bush administrations, worked for a time at the World Bank and was a player it created in conservative groups around town. She won the election for her father’s former home in 2016 and from there quickly moved up the leadership ranks. Her resume was, simply put, gold.
Those who watched her rise noticed her choice. She was working as a Fox News contributor before running for office, so audiences knew her as a tough-talking conservative who didn’t smooth the edges of her views. She was a regular on the conservative circuit, attracting attention with her confidence and poise. When the No. 3 seat in the House Republican leadership opened up, Cheney had to have it — and she took it, dutifully joining Kevin McCarthy and his team at the weekly news conference. For Kremlinologists with an American look, Cheney was consolidating his position and amassing power.
But this changed after January 6. Chaney didn’t do much good to be cautious about what she had seen. She joined nine of her Republican colleagues in voting yes impeachment Trump for the second time. She then joined the group investigating the siege of the Capitol, getting up its first Republican and Vice President. Her performance made her a dear of liberals who not so long ago a thought the cheney clan are some of the worst people in america.
Her fellow housemates had even less use for her and shoed her. The Republican Party of Wyoming and the Republican National Committee both censored her. And then Tuesday’s results completed the process. It was a disappearance that would have made the Cold War Soviets proud.
Even in defeat, Cheney still insists he can fight the machine that runs in loyalty or fear of Trump. On Wednesday, she filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to create a political group with the express purpose of preventing Trump from returning to the White House. She is prompting in a possible run for president, even though there is a lot on reasons to compact expectations for that effort, even if its purpose is simply to act as a spoiler to keep Trump below 270 electoral votes. And she hasn’t finished it yet work with the Jan. 6 panel that has forced Americans do consider just how unprecedented the events of that day were and a threat this is still emerging.
Still, it’s worth treating the current Republican slate like a Politburo card. Of the 10 Republicans who voted for Trump’s second impeachment, eight won’t be back next year. Trump has worked aggressively against nine of them and has a nearly perfect record. Almost everyone who did not stand with Comrade Donald was cut from the list, erased from the picture.
Cheney is showing courage by fighting to stay in the frame, but he will likely find it nearly impossible to switch parties without powerful allies from within to sponsor the effort. After all, a machine as unwieldy as the current GOP often runs on autopilot and will maintain that course for a long time unless there is a powerful incentive to change. The open question is whether Cheney can clamp down on the gear with enough force to at least make it wobble, or whether the machine will continue to grind it further and further from real power.
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