Wednesday’s ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney from the House Republican leadership is more important as a symbolic move for Republicans as they embrace Trumpism than it is for the specific action of replacing a third-ranking lawmaker in the party’s congressional leadership structure.
One thing that places this in historical context is, simply, that there has been a Cheney — Liz or her dad Dick — at or near the top of Republican leadership since the 1970s. Dick Cheney started working in Richard Nixon’s White House as an intern and was appointed White House chief of staff under Gerald Ford.
He rose in Congress to be GOP conference chair — the same job his daughter just lost — and minority whip during the Ronald Reagan administration and then was Secretary of Defense during the George H.W. Bush administration. Out of government during Bill Clinton’s eight years, Dick Cheney was then vice president for eight years under President George W. Bush, when Liz began working in the State Department. She became a member of the GOP leadership one year after being elected to Congress, in 2016, at the end of the Obama administration. The election of Donald Trump was itself a refutation of previous Republican administrations, but the excision of Cheney is a sign that the party has moved on from the beacon-of-freedom ideals that dominated the party for decades, arguably dating back to Dwight Eisenhower. Certainly from Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush, the GOP pushed democracy as gospel with words, even as it fell far short in deeds.