The Anti-Anti-Trump Theory of Liz Cheney's Loss
Playing make-believe in order to avoid hard choices.
1. A Is A
I don’t have much to add to Charlie’s excellent write-up of Liz Cheney’s defeat last night. But I do want to talk a little bit about a class of conservatives/Republicans who are intent on playing make-believe.
I’m only going to give you these two examples. You’ll have to trust me that there are more like this out there.
Just as an objective matter, this worldview is wrong. The voters of Wyoming rejected Liz Cheney purely because of her refusal to accept Trump’s lie about the 2020 election. That’s it. You can dress this up however you want and say that they see Cheney’s refusal to accept Trump’s lie as a betrayal of them rather than a betrayal of Trump. But that line doesn’t even rise to the level of semantic difference.
What’s more important here is the meta question:
Why would anyone feel the need to pretend that Wyoming Republicans didn’t reject Cheney because of Trump?
The answer is that for some percentage of Republicans/conservatives, they are intent on pretending that the Republican party / conservatism is something other than it is.
They insist that, (1) Whatever the party and its members are doing or saying right now, there is some True Conservatism or Real Republican Party also operating—either beneath the surface or off to the side. The unstated corollary is that (2) Eventually the unpleasant aspects of the current conservatism / Republicanism will prove transient and the world will return to the prior order.
I would argue, for various reasons, that (2) is highly unlikely. But let’s put that to the side and focus instead on (1).
Because here the evidence is overwhelming: The Republican party and “conservatism” are what they are.
What they are today is quite different from what they were in 2012 and 2008 and 2004 and 2000. Times change. People change. Institutions change.
There is something desperate and pathetic about insisting that True Conservatism or the Real Republican Party are actually the ghost of what was, some time ago. Sure, maybe those were better incarnations of the Republican party and/or conservatism. But they were not definitionally determinative. What is real is what is real right now.
So why are some people compelled to play make believe? Why can’t they accept the current reality for what it is?