When it comes to political savvy, it’s difficult to top Steve Scalise. So much so that his allegiance to Donald Trump over honesty is likely to win in the short term as he calls for the removal of Liz Cheney of Wyoming from the House leadership, where he is the No. 2 Republican.
But that’s the short term. The Republican Party is very likely to be hurt in the long run, far beyond Trump’s feud with Cheney that today is consuming its House caucus.
“She may be ousted because she is daring to tell the truth to GOP voters — and at personal political risk,” commented The Wall Street Journal.
Isn’t that the definition of political courage that America needs, but apparently the GOP does not want, in its leaders?
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Tuesday that rank-and-file Republicans were concerned about Cheney’s “ability to carry out her job” as a result of her public comments about Trump.
We translate: Our gutless backbenchers don’t want to be tainted with political courage. They fear Trump’s wrath too much.
With a shrewd political mind, Scalise is carrying out the will of the membership. But shrewdness is not wisdom: Louisiana’s representative in the national leadership of Congress is associating himself with followership, craven and unworthy.
We agree with the Journal: “Purging Liz Cheney for honesty would diminish the party.”
But it also misdirects the party’s spotlight, which should be shining on its opposition to President Joe Biden and his agenda. This is one of the problems of following Trump, the narcissist who is using his time to sharpen knives to settle scores in his own party.
He’s already turned on his own vice president, Mike Pence, because the latter would not violate the Constitution in a crazy last-minute bid to retain power after losing the 2020 election. Trump is issuing fatwas against Republicans all over, a mad mullah of Mar-a-Lago raging against his exile. This is good for the party, Steve?
This model of personal — not to say obsessive — leadership infects and disorders the political system, just as Trump’s inciting a crowd to riot in Washington on Jan. 6, as Cheney says, poisoned the wells of democracy.
We do not wish to belabor the controversies and the achievements of Trump’s years in the White House. We supported the Trump White House on many issues but disagreed at other times on job-losing tariffs and other specific policies.
Responsible disagreement is fundamental to democracy. Donald Trump did not invent the internet nor Twitter, nor did he cast the first stone in today’s barrage of hateful comments across political divides. But the virulence of Trump’s comments, particularly from the Oval Office, should have warned his partisans that this politician must be handled with care.
Instead, Scalise is setting an example that doesn’t do the party in Congress, or in the nation, any good for the longer future.
Again, Scalise is a shrewd operator. He worked hard in 2020 races across the country, helping his caucus win more House seats even as Trump was losing at the top of the ticket by 7 million votes. Maybe morally blind followership is the ticket for the GOP caucus in the 2022 House elections.
Instead of falling in line with Scalise’s short-termism, the gallant Liz Cheney is taking a stand for something better — that a great country must be led by a great party, not one in hock to Trump.