The thing to remember about Republicanism these days is that it’s about loyalty to Trumpism — and Trumpism was never about conservatism.
There’s not a lot of room to be openly critical of Trump in today’s Republican Party. The majority of Republicans (56%) told the Pew Research Center in March that the party should not be accepting of people who openly criticize Trump. This stood in contrast to the 68% of Democrats who said their party should, in fact, be open to those who openly criticize President Joe Biden.
Voting to impeach Trump is an even more unforgivable sin in the minds of many Republicans. The same poll found that 64% of Republicans indicated that the party shouldn’t be accepting of Republicans who voted to impeach or convict Trump.
We already saw what voting to convict Trump in his first impeachment trial did to Utah Sen. Mitt Romney in his home state. While the state party did not vote to censure him, Romney does seem to be in trouble with Republicans at large in a state that has tended to have one of the most anti-Trump Republican bases. His approval rating in the 2020 CES among Utah Republicans stood at a mere 30% with a disapproval rating of 61%.
If Romney’s numbers are that bad in a place with plenty of Trump-resistant Republicans, just imagine how Republicans in a place like Wyoming.
Nationally, Cheney sported a mere 7% favorable rating with Republicans in a February Quinnipiac University poll. Though most were undecided, Republicans were split (25% to 22%) on who they wanted to have more of a role in the party going forward: Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene or Cheney.
Greene, of course, has pushed a lot of conspiracy theories in the past, and defends Trump with great loyalty. The fact that Republicans were split on whether to back her or Cheney tells you almost everything you need to know.
Cheney is perhaps hoping that her conservative record (and she’s right near the middle of the House Republican caucus) can save her.
Conservatism didn’t save former South Carolina Rep. Mark Stanford. He had one of the most conservative House records among the Republican caucus. Sanford, though, was openly willing to be critical of Trump. The result was that he lost a primary for the first time in his political career back in 2018.
Indeed, we have had a load of fairly moderate Republicans win primaries during the time of Trump. Republican voters are willing to tolerate that. The vast majority of Republicans (71%) nationally said that Republicans should be accepting of elected officials who have disagreements with their party on major issues.
That’s why it doesn’t matter that Stefanik voted against her caucus (19% of the time) far more than the average House Republican (8%) in the last Congress. (Cheney voted with it more often than the average member.)
The traditional left-right ideology matters less than the ideology of adherence to Trump, who himself was one of the most moderate Republican nominees in recent history in 2016.
Stefanik has made sure of that. Although she has disagreed with Trump on policy from time to time, Stefanik in recent years has not been outwardly critical of him.
In fact, Stefanik decided to endorse lawsuits overturning the 2020 results, voted to reject Biden’s electoral votes and has endorsed numerous conspiracy theories about voter fraud in the 2020 election.
This week, Stefanik doubled down on the Trump base by going on to programs such as Steve Bannon’s podcast and backing a controversial Arizona audit of the 2020 election, even though there has no been no evidence of widespread fraud.
Now, it is true that Stefanik has been critical of Trump in the past. Maybe, that will come back to haunt her.
A look at history shows, though, that many of Trump’s most ardent defenders are people who were once critical of him.
His last press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, called a Trump comment “racist” back in 2015.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who refused to endorse Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention, literally had dinner with Trump this week.
The thing about Trump is that it’s more about the present moment than the past.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy helped Cheney keep her leadership post earlier this year, immediately following thfe impeachment vote.
Cheney, though, kept telling the truth about the 2020 election (i.e. that there was no fraud and the results were legitimate). She wouldn’t go quietly into the night.
The result: Cheney is fighting for her political life.