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I am no fan of Liz Cheney – she is a hardcore conservative. Conservative voters should love her. Unfortunately, she’s also a fan, recently, of…truth. And conservative voters appear to have become, in the main, a cult. A cult of personality. Of Trump.

And now, because she refused to commit to the Big Lie, in service of…reality, she has been ousted.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming was removed from her leadership position in the Republican caucus of the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning in the outcome of an internal battle seen as a bellwether of the future direction of the party.

Immediately after the meeting where she was stripped of her position, Cheney said she was “absolutely committed” to not embracing Donald Trump’s “big lie” about the election.

“We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the constitution,” Cheney said. “The nation needs it: the nation needs a Republican party that is based upon fundamental principles of conservatism, and I am committed and dedicated to ensuring that that’s how this party goes forward, and I plan to lead the fight to do that.”

Cheney’s ouster was widely expected after she found herself at odds with other members of Republican leadership over her refusal to stop blaming Trump for inciting the mob attack on the US Capitol on 6 January.

Before the closed vote on Wednesday, Cheney addressed the caucus, standing by her position.

“If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person – you have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy,” Cheney said. At moments she was booed by some of her colleagues.

Cheney was ousted by voice vote.

She also previously addressed the vote on Tuesday evening in a fiery speech to the House of Representatives. “Today we face a threat America has never seen before,” she said. “A former president who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol, in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him.”

On Tuesday night Cheney had doubled down on condemning Trump and his allies for risking the peaceful transition of power with their baseless accusations that the election was rife with fraud.

It’s all about the midterms and the Trumplican Republican Party don’t think they can win without Trump:

The ousting of Cheney snuffs out all doubt. Republicans don’t think they can win next year’s midterm elections without Trump. McCarthy believes that the “Make America great again movement” is his ticket to the speaker’s chair.

He might be right. With redistricting likely to cut into Democrats’ narrow majority, and with historical trends favouring the party that does not hold the White House, Republicans do indeed stand a strong chance of taking back the House, even if the economy is surging under Biden.

Tara Setmayer, a political analyst and former Republican communications director on Capitol Hill, says: “All of the political winds are at the backs of Republicans to take the House again so they’re catering to the most rabid supporters. These are the folks who pay attention in midterms. It’s a numbers game and they are so close to taking power back in the House.”

Which is where things get very dangerous. If Trump is the new church where all must worship, the big lie is the new religion that all must incant, whether with evangelical fervour or at least by showing their face in the pews every Sunday. Cheney’s likely replacement, Elise Stefanik, is actually more moderate (a lifetime rating of just 43.64 by the American Conservative Union, compared to Cheney’s 78.03), but her refusal to denounce the big lie is apparently all that matters.

So Republican state legislatures will continue to use the false claims of fraud to justify new voting restrictions that disproportionately affect people of colour. And come the next presidential election, there is reason to doubt whether a Republican-controlled House would certify the win of a Democratic president. The near miss of 2020 could become a full-blown crisis in 2024.

Eugene Robinson, a Washington Post columnist, warns: “The greatest threat to our nation’s future is not Covid-19 or the rise of China or even the existential challenge of climate change. It is the Republican party’s attempt to seize and hold power by offering voters the seductive choice of rejecting inconvenient facts and basic logic.”

It is easy to assume that Trump was a one-off anomaly and that Biden represents the democratic norm running on autopilot. But what if Biden is the one-off, merely delaying a slide into autocracy? Cheney’s demise is a reminder that though Biden won his “battle for the soul of America”, the war never ends. Complacency is the enemy; vigilance is all.

Will this be a good move for the midterms or not?

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...