ERICKSON: Republicans distracted

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks to reporters after House Republicans voted to oust her from her leadership post as chair of the House Republican Conference because of her repeated criticism of former President Donald Trump for his false claims of election fraud and his role in instigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The House Republican Conference stood up for Rep. Liz Cheney just a few short months ago, and suddenly the relationship has gone south. It has gone south at about the same time census numbers have come out giving the GOP a real advantage to taking back the House of Representatives. It also comes as House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has made several trips to Florida to engage with and sweet-talk former President Donald Trump. Now, suddenly, McCarthy has been caught on a hot mic at Fox News bashing Cheney.

My educated hypothesis is that a great deal of the sudden antagonism toward Cheney has to do with placating Trump in the run-up to the 2022 election cycle. My guess is that it has less to do with Cheney in charge of the House GOP Conference — something the GOP was perfectly fine to defend, even after her impeachment vote. McCarthy is too savvy to talk with a hot mic. He most likely knew it would get circulated.

By any measure not related to Trump, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney is a conservative. Her father was the man conservatives went to in the early 2000s to help scuttle scores of liberal initiatives coming out of squishy “big-government conservative” Bush White House employees. Her mother fought the precursor to the woke left for years on the cultural front. Liz Cheney has been pretty strong on defense, a reliable Republican team player and a conservative voter on both fiscal and social issues. She is just having none of the “stolen election” nonsense and has been forcefully, aggressively pushing back on it.

Cheney also helms the part of the House Republican Conference in charge of a unifying message. The GOP has a unified message against the Biden agenda. While the media is fixated on the internal GOP squabbling, if you’re paying attention, you’d find the GOP is united, from Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. Liz Cheney to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Sen. Rand Paul, on a host of issues from being anti-woke to opposing the Biden infrastructure plan.

Cheney has little she needs to do on the united messaging front other than stamp out the crazy, of which there is a lot in the GOP. Republicans just lost the Senate in part because the crazies convinced the base the Georgia runoff would be stolen no matter what and the two candidates did nothing but attack their opponents with claims of socialism while never saying what they would actually do.

It is impossible, however, for Cheney to function if she has lost the confidence of her colleagues who are more interested in allegiance to one man than fidelity to ideas or even truth. This is less about Cheney pushing back against the stolen election lies and more about Republican leaders fearful Trump might undermine their advances next year unless they dispatch Cheney.

To that end, every day the media is focused on the GOP squabbling about Cheney, the GOP and the nation are distracted from a focus on the wokes, the left and the Biden agenda that has otherwise united the GOP. I’m not sure why this needs to get to a vote unless Cheney thinks she has a majority of the conference. But even if she does, a large and vocal minority that includes the House GOP Leader is out to get her.

Cheney seems to be in an untenable position, and I see no reason she should hang on and force a vote to maintain a position that focuses on unity when she’s the focus of disunity — or rather, she has united her conference against her. It has not helped that she has been critical of several of her colleagues and supported at least one primary challenge to an incumbent Republican.

Sometimes, the greater good requires stepping back to avoid distractions. If Cheney does step back or loses, we all should note she lost in part because she wouldn’t bend a knee to a lie and the GOP leadership in the House still feels like it needs Trump to help them win.