Liz Cheney and the GOP

A quick lesson about American parties.

As I write this, the House GOP caucus is poised to oust Liz Cheney from House leadership (see the NYT: House Republicans prepare to oust a defiant Liz Cheney).

There is more to say about than I have time at the moment, but let me note what isn’t happening here. Specifically, she is not being kicked out of the party. She is not being removed from the party caucus. She is not being stripped of the use of the party label.

This is in contrast to say, the way PM Boris Johnson addressed Conservative Party members in the House of Commons who did not vote as he wanted a few years ago. Johnson stripped those MPs of their membership in the party–that is, he took away their usage of the Conservative label.

Liz Cheney will cease to be a Republican in one of two ways. She could quit the party of her own volition (this would, I would note, potentially lead to her loss of committee assignments and is therefore unlikely). Or, she could lose the primary in 2022. This last outcome is quite possible. But this is just another illustration of the role and significance of primary elections as the gatekeepers of party nominations, and hence “membership” in the parties (at a minimum, access to the party’s label and the various privileges that come with that, such as access to the general election ballot).

I should further note that much of the behavior by McCarthy and House Republicans as it pertain to Cheney is that they are all worried about competing in, and winning, their own primaries next year given that substantial numbers of GOP primary voters are pro-Trump and buy into the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. McCarthy, in particular, is worried about how to build a GOP majority via the 2022 elections so that he can be Speaker.

American parties are uniquely driven by the power of relatively small numbers of voters in nominating primaries. This current scenario regarding Cheney well illustrates this.

Beyond all of that, I would note that all that is happening to Cheney is that she is being removed from leadership, and is therefore losing influence in the House GOP caucus (although, clearly, her public pronouncements about the Big Lie have already done that). Again: she remains in the party for the rest of her term unless she chooses otherwise.

This is not a civil war in the GOP. This is a signal of the party’s direction. It isn’t even a purge, as, again, she remains in the party. The fact the Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, Larry Hogan, Adam Kinzinger, and a handful of others are willing to stand up against the Big Lie doesn’t mean that there is a major fight taking place in the Republican Party. They represent a small, isolated wing that will only be able to stay in the party, should they choose to do so, because they will be able to command enough localized support to win primary elections. And their incentive to form a new party is low because even if they could win office as independents or under a new label, they would be isolated from influence because they would then be true pariahs to their old co-partisans and would very likely be unwilling to caucus with the Democrats.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2022, Congress, Democracy, Political Parties, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. drj says:

    I fear that you may be far too optimistic regarding the main reason that GOP politicians subscribe to the lie that the election was stolen.

    Looking at the recent spate of voter suppression laws and ongoing gerrymandering, I would say that it is not so much fear of their primary voters that informs their actions as a sincere belief that preserving their idea of what the US should be is more important than democracy as such.

    If democracy means that a black guy or a woman can boss them around, then democracy should go. I suspect it’s as simple as that.

    38
  2. CSK says:

    This vote today was a voice vote.

    Back in February, Cheney survived the same challenge quite nicely: 145-61.

    The February vote was a secret ballot.

    15
  3. HelloWorld! says:

    I feel very confused about the world. I really hated Dick Cheney and channeled all that to Liz. I am now questioning if maybe I get caught up in media hype about how evil politicians are?? I totally respect her and am happy we have her in Congress. Principles matter.

    3
  4. @drj: Please don’t read this post as suggesting an all-encompassing, mono-casaul analysis of GOP behavior.

    3
  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I think you are over-simplifying this. Is it a civil-war? No – not with only a handful of combatants on the side of truth. But has the Republican party gone full-in on eliminating democracy? Yup. There is absolutely zero reason to believe the Republican party will ever accept the results of another election that they lose. That’s the true significance of this extremely cowardly voice-vote.

    11
  6. @CSK:

    There was a secret ballot this time too and Cheney lost this time.

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/trump-foe-cheney-ousted-gop-leadership

    6
  7. @CSK: She has continued to be quite vocal since that Feb vote. I think she would lose a secret ballot at this stage.

    @HelloWorld!: There is plenty one might want to criticize Cheney for. But she deserves praise for being a clear supporter of truth and democracy in this moment.

    Politics makes strange bedfellows and all that.

    7
  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    And…oh BTW, Steven…one of the primary characteristics of a cult is that:

    Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

    6
  9. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I think you are over-simplifying this.

    All I can say is to quote back the first line of the post, “There is more to say about than I have time at the moment…”

    And, TBH, I don’t think I am over-simplifying anything, I think I am trying to help folks understand some of the basic dynamics that are going on here. But, as I noted to drj, I am by no means trying to write a comprehensive explanation of All Things GOP in ~1000 words.

    3
  10. @Daryl and his brother Darryl: As I stated recently, those who wish to use the “cult” frame are free to do so. I continue to think it is a misdiagnosis and an application of a colloquial term to the situation. I am happy to continue to analyze the situation as I see it, but don’t feel the need to disabuse the cult cult from their views 😉

    3
  11. drj says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I understood your post as being part of a larger argument that systemic factors (such as, in this case, the relative weakness of American political parties) have a major impact on political outcomes.

    The GOP’s evident abandonment of democratic principles, however, appears to be more of a deliberate choice than an unintended consequence of the idiosyncrasies of the US’ constitutional framework.

    6
  12. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Ah, okay. I had been looking all over for that information and wasn’t able to find it. What I had understood from what I read was that there was a voice vote.

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    So depressing, when you know that a fair number of the chickens who voted against her secretly agree with her.

  13. JohnMcC says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The Cheney vote was a voice vote. No ballots. No vote count.

    2
  14. CSK says:

    @JohnMcC:
    Do you know what the tally was? I can’t find it.

  15. @drj:

    I understood your post as being part of a larger argument that systemic factors (such as, in this case, the relative weakness of American political parties) have a major impact on political outcomes.

    Correct.

    The GOP’s evident abandonment of democratic principles, however, appears to be more of a deliberate choice than an unintended consequence of the idiosyncrasies of the US’ constitutional framework.

    I think that the choices in question are heavily driven/exacerbated by the structural conditions of American politics.

    Simple example: if American parties weren’t such a weak entity, the GOP never would have nominated Donald Trump in the first place.

    There is clearly a white nationalist, authoritarian strain of American politics (this is nothing new, BTW), but a combination of conditions (such as demographic change, cultural change, the election of a Black president, the Great Recession, etc.) have certainly made it more active and significant. But its ability to take a major role in GOP politics was very much a result of structural circumstances.

    Beyond party institutions, Trump would never have been elected president were it not for the Electoral College.

    The GOP would not have as much influence as it has were it not for the Senate (and a myriad of other factors).

    The GOP’s current trajectory is about choices made within the current framework because they want power. If the party was in a position to find a pathway to power that was based on promoting democracy, they would be doing that. Power-seeking is the main issue and how the structures incentivize the choices to get to power.

    4
  16. @CSK:

    So depressing, when you know that a fair number of the chickens who voted against her secretly agree with her.

    Indeed.

    2
  17. @Steven L. Taylor: To be honest, I think my view and analysis of all this the opposite of over-simplifying. Indeed, I would suggest that things like asserting “it’s a cult” or that this is all a reaction to the election of the Black guy, etc. to be the over-simplifications.

    3
  18. @drj:

    a sincere belief that preserving their idea of what the US should be is more important than democracy as such.

    BTW: I do agree with this and it is very disturbing.

    3
  19. KM says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I continue to think it is a misdiagnosis and an application of a colloquial term to the situation.

    Except it’s not. I wonder if you are subconsciously associating cult in the religious or kooky connotation of the word and that’s why you’re resistant to the framing; cult as concept is fairly well defined in several fields of study and applied to any group that meets the criteria. What defines a cult is its worldview based on beliefs and how they go about applied those beliefs to reality and themselves. You view it as a pejorative and dismissive way to analyze behavior but in reality it is a way to describe a clear pattern of actions and thoughts from a group.

    Political cults are a thing but people like to use the word movement instead because they don’t want the negative cult framing when trying to appear objective. Fascism is a cult and Umberto Eco used the term repeatedly in his commentary on the subject. That’s because there really is no better term to describe the fundamental thought processes that drive it. It’s true that there is a condescending aspect to it – that their beliefs are inherently flawed and should be ignored. However, it doesn’t change the fact that they do meet the diagnostic criteria for the term and semantics won’t change that are functionally cultish in nature. MAGA goes beyond politics and is socio-cultural at its roots; politics is the means to the end and the Big Lie only exists in service of keeping up their worldview facade.

    Liz Cheney – a long-term loyalist with a history of adhering to the dogma – was sacrificed and denounced in a very public manner to keep the Leader’s reality-defying vision intact and the rubes from rebelling as she dared to say he was lying in this one instance. In any other context, we’d be using the word since it would the proper way to frame the underlying mechanics.

    12
  20. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Jonathan Chait had a good column yesterday on Cheney and how Dems should approach her. Basically her support for the rule of law and free-fair elections is not the same thing as her position on any number of policy issues and too many Dems/Libs can’t tell the difference.

    3
  21. drj says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If the [GOP] was in a position that was based on promoting democracy, they would be doing that.

    But they are! And yet they don’t.

    If it’s simply power that they are after, they could broaden their electoral appeal. (Like one does in democracies – and two-party systems in particular) If, for instance, PR became a state, I could easily see them go red but for the GOP’s racism.

    The GOP is precisely in such a bind because they want power AND racism (and misogyny, and gay bashing, etc., etc.)

    If they were only after power, they wouldn’t have to give up on democracy.

    This is also why I don’t believe it’s simplistic to keep referring back to the black guy in the White House.

    8
  22. @KM: I am not stopping people from using the term.

    It’s all cool.

    But where is my intellectual integrity if I think something is incorrect and I just bow to the pressure of the comment section?

    MAGA goes beyond politics and is socio-cultural at its roots

    I would argue that the political encompasses the socio-cultural.

    Look, part of why I don’t like the cult frame is that it is not even used consistently in these discussions. Some people want to use the term to encompass all GOP voters (which is where my main pushback has always been). Some want to use it about GOP politicians. Some want to use it very narrowly. This lack of precision, by itself, is a reason I don’t like the term.

    But beyond all of that, it isn’t a term that has meaning to me, as a political scientist, in these discussions and I don’t really understand why people want to force it on me.

    I have seen not definition or argument that tells me when a group is just a group and when a group is a cult in this context. (And, yes, I understand the term far easier in the religious context, but even then the term can be political, e.g., the fact that many protestants assert that Mormonism is a cult).

    People can use the language that they wish, and they can accept or reject my views as they wish. While I certainly prefer that people agree with me, I am quite aware that many (most, ultimately) will not.

    Would I find it gratifying if I could make my view more convincing? Sure! But there are only so many hours in the day.

    I continue to maintain that the main problem is that the structure of American politics makes it too easy for one of the major parties to be captured by an extreme faction.

    6
  23. @drj:

    This is also why I don’t believe it’s simplistic to keep referring back to the black guy in the White House.

    That is your prerogative. All I can do is continue to make my arguments and you all can do with them as you please.

    2
  24. KM says:

    @Sleeping Dog :
    She’s Lawful Evil most of the time – Lawful Neutral on her best days. She consistently values authority, laws and institutions over the principles they are theoretically founded on. Her support for democracy comes from the fact that without it, we wouldn’t have the institutions we have if we lived under any other system. You can’t have a house without foundations but the house proper is what she’s interested in saving, not the essential concrete holding it up. She aware it can only take so much damage before the house falls but isn’t above let some cracks form while working on the new patio.

    If we approach her Lawful side, we’d may some results but she’s not going Lawful Good no matter how much liberals want her too. She’s protecting the mansion from her coworkers that would burn it down but she won’t let you turn it into a homeless shelter either.

    8
  25. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I think that the choices in question are heavily driven/exacerbated by the structural conditions of American politics.

    Simple example: if American parties weren’t such a weak entity, the GOP never would have nominated Donald Trump in the first place.

    I think there is much to learn from the asymmetry of how these structural conditions have played out recently in American politics. Because, wouldn’t it be the case that if the Democratic Party were as weak an entity as the GOP, the Dems would never have nominated Joe Biden?

    That “American parties are uniquely driven by the power of relatively small numbers of voters in nominating primaries” isn’t a new condition. It has manifested in district level and sometimes state level politics for decades. But now, power is in the hands of the immoderate faction of the GOP at the national level. This seems unprecedented to me, so I’m curious about what led to this new condition.

    2
  26. @drj:

    The GOP is precisely in such a bind

    What bind?

    They have a really good chance to win back the House and the Senate next November.

    They came within something like ~45K vote across three states of winning the presidency last year despite otherwise losing millions of votes.

    They have won the WH thrice in ~30 years having won the popular vote all of once.

    What bind are they in? (The bind the country is in is another matter altogether).

    10
  27. Beth says:

    To me, what’s interesting is what comes next. That Cheney’s goose was cooked has been evident for a while now. There was no way that Kevin McCarthy was going to allow another secret ballot that let the cowards save Cheney again. That would only prolong things. I think his plan was to feed Cheney to the wolves and elevate Elise Stefanik to number 3 and put it all behind him. I mean it’s sound planning (for another wise insane Party). He gets rid of a problem and elevates a bootlicker, but a controllable bootlicker and assuages the lunatics.

    Then Chip Roy comes around and riles up the lunatics with claims that Stefanik isn’t a sufficient bootlicker and not radically conservative enough. Essentially keeping McCarthy in a bind. So, does he have a secret vote and elevate Stefanik or does he cave and feed the lunatics some red meat. Me, personally, I think it would be wonderful if he caved and elevated someone like Taylor-Greene or Boebert.

    I’m not a nihilist, but the Republicans are going to walk down the path to fascism either way, they might as well be uncomfortable while they do it.

    2
  28. Joe says:

    “Each day spent re-litigating the past is one less day we have to seize the future,” McCarthy wrote in a letter to his colleagues ahead of the vote.

    . . . taking the words right out of Congresswoman Cheney’s mouth.

    1
  29. drj says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What bind?

    Abolishing democracy is not without its inherent risks. The consequences could range from getting a cushy job in the new administration to lasting social opprobrium or getting gunned down in the street if things get bad enough.

    Much better not to risk it, if at all possible. Especially if one likes to go out and be part of the fashionable DC scene now and then.

    3
  30. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK: I think Doug is taking a voice vote behind closed doors as the same as a secret ballot. But I don’t think they are equivalent. A secret ballot means that no one knows how you voted, while a voice vote behind closed doors means that leadership knows, all your colleagues knows, and as soon as someone leaks, the public will know too.

    6
  31. @Scott F.:

    Because, wouldn’t it be the case that if the Democratic Party were as weak an entity as the GOP, the Dems would never have nominated Joe Biden?

    The odds are far higher that a different Dem process would have produced a Biden-like candidate than what happened with Trump and the GOP, IMHO.

    Indeed, there is evidence in the 2020 process that shows an attempt to coordinate around Biden by the Dems because they wanted that type of candidate.

    1
  32. @Scott F.:

    That “American parties are uniquely driven by the power of relatively small numbers of voters in nominating primaries” isn’t a new condition. It has manifested in district level and sometimes state level politics for decades. But now, power is in the hands of the immoderate faction of the GOP at the national level. This seems unprecedented to me, so I’m curious about what led to this new condition.

    This is true. Part of it is the post-1994 party realignment I have written about several times (and the resorting and polarization that resulted) along with the growing knowledge of key GOP constituencies that they are losing power and therefore need to capitalize on their structural advantages.

    1
  33. Michael Reynolds says:

    This is a cult of personality. That is the best, most appropriate term.

    All loyalty goes from bottom to top; no loyalty flows in any other direction. All truth flows from top to bottom; there is no countervailing flow. All authority is in the hands of one man.

    To be a member in good standing in the Republican ‘Party’ has only a single requirement: absolute loyalty to Trump. There is no other policy. Republicans are required to reject any earlier belief that conflicts with the will of Trump. And should Trump suddenly change sides on any issue, the entire party and all its members will be required to instantly change as well. We have always been at was with Eastasia.

    Trump cultists are required to show their loyalty by exposing themselves to a fatal disease and encourage others to do likewise. Kool-Aid, anyone?

    Comparing the degrees of absolute submission to the will of one man required in the Republican Party today, the Nazi Party of the 30’s and 40’s was faction-riven and decentralized.

    There is no comparable iteration of a political party in US history. The GOP is not a political party, it is a cult of personality dressed in the flayed skin of the Republican Party.

    11
  34. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Agree.

  35. @drj:

    not without its inherent risks.

    No choice is without risk.

    Human beings tend to make short-term choices, and this is especially true of politicians serving 2-year terms (another structural component to this whole discussion that is driving behavior).

    2
  36. Sleeping Dog says:

    @KM:

    True, but our democracy will be safer when we can go back to arguing with the Cheney’s, Bill Kristol’s and George Conway’s of the country over policy and what the proper role of government is. That Cheney and others are awful on a whole range of issues is immaterial when we are confronted with an R party that has turned toward authoritarianism if not fascism.

    If the Rs win, then none of things we want, social welfare programs, closing the wealth gap, improving conditions for the poor and particularly ensuring that Black, Brown and Asian people can be safe in their communities and build good lives for their families will occur and in fact it will be worse. The people mentioned above and others like them will never be our allies on the things we want, but they are our allies in preserving democracy. The enemy of our enemy…

    Anyone who doesn’t believe that battle of voting rights is only another front in the liberal-conservative fight over policy, doesn’t get it. This is a fight for survival of the form of government we’ve had for 232 years. We’re at Ben Franklin’s, “A republic if you can keep it” moment.

    7
  37. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What bind are they in?

    The Republicans aren’t in any kind of political bind per se, certainly in the short term.

    But, Reality is rather relentless in asserting itself over time and the direction the GOP has chosen rests entirely on perpetuating a demonstrably bogus set of “alternative facts.” FOIA requests are coming in droves and I’d be willing to wager there’s evidence of Trump’s true contempt for his most ardent followers. Trumpism is a house of cards and the GOP is building their party’s future on that foundation. I think that is bound to be a bind sooner or later.

    3
  38. a country lawyer says:

    @MarkedMan: Under the rules any voter can object to the ruling of the chair on the voice vote and demand a count. The fact that no one, including Liz Cheney, made that demand shows that the party is comfortable with keeping the votes anonymous.

    3
  39. Moosebreath says:

    I am not following this line in your post:

    “Liz Cheney will cease to be a Republican in one of two ways. She could quit the party of her own volition (this would, I would note, potentially lead to her loss of committee assignments and is therefore unlikely). Or, she could lose the primary in 2022.”

    If Liz Cheney loses her primary, she will (at the end of her term in January 2023) cease to be a Republican member of Congress. But she still could be a Republican if she chose, as not all Republicans are members of Congress (indeed far more are not than are). What am I missing here?

    1
  40. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: From TPM today:

    The big story today had to do with how the vote was held. These are usually recorded votes and secret ballots. That was the case last month when Cheney retained her position by a decisive margin. Today it was a voice vote. After the vote, as Tierney Sneed notes here, a request for a recorded vote was denied.

    5
  41. MakredMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Exactly. I think Steven gives way too much weight to “Not all Republicans” type of analysis. Since most registered Republicans don’t exhibit these extreme views and fanatical loyalty but are actually fairly indifferent to politics in general and are just “social Republicans”, Steven says “we can’t call them a cult”. But by this criteria even the Nazis under Hitler were not a cult. So he is effectively saying, “Under no circumstances is it acceptable to designate a political party as a cult.”

    2
  42. MarkedMan says:

    @a country lawyer: There was a demand for a recorded vote and it was denied.

    Look, in the first vote McCarthy wanted Cheney to stay in and so he made it a recorded, secret ballot and therefore the vote tally is known and public but no one knows how any individual actually voted. In this vote McCarthy wanted Cheney out so he made the vote a voice vote so all present could single out those people who stood up to him, and he also wanted to avoid having to give a total if there were more “No” votes than he liked.

    There is just no way that the second vote can be considered a secret ballot.

    3
  43. Gustopher says:

    I expect she will be stripped of committee assignments in the near future. Then she an Marjorie Taylor Greene can form the “Wrong Number of Lies” caucus.

    1
  44. Grewgills says:

    Michael Reynolds,
    I think the truth is somewhere between yours and Dr Taylor’s positions.
    There is certainly a cult of personality behind Trump and that cult has enough power in the GOP nominating process that anyone who wants to be elected as a republican in most of the country has to appeal to that cult. I think most of the GOP politicians are craven and want certain parts of the GOP/Trump agenda enough that they will publicly go along to get what they want. This makes them cowards and makes them at least as ethically and morally lacking as members of the cult, but I don’t know that it makes them members. There are also a lot of GOP general election voters (I would guess a plurality) that are just not all that engaged and/or vote on single or a small selection of issues. I don’t think they would qualify as cult members even when they actually vote for a cult member. I don’t think that being allied to a cult for political and/or financial gain is the same as being a member of a cult.

    5
  45. KM says:

    So….. how pissed is Liz right now? Considering her family and past record, how likely is it she’s gonna shiv somebody for this? This woman *has* to know where some bodies are buried and some snot-nosed little bastard in need of a whooping has been rubbing this in pretty egregiously (looking at you Cawthorn and Gaetz). In this post-Trump era of destroying your enemies publically for fun and profit, what’s the over-under on some dirty little secrets or evidence coming out anonymously?

    4
  46. Sleeping Dog says:

    @a country lawyer:

    Earlier Axios had a report on the result of a focus group on swing voters in swing states. The results show that dumping Cheney is unpopular with that segment. My guess is that this was a voice vote with no request for a count in order to give R’s plausible deniability. Depending on what next year brings and their district they can claim support for her or TFG.

    She wants to hurt TFG not the caucus, yet.

    1
  47. @Scott F.:

    The Republicans aren’t in any kind of political bind per se, certainly in the short term.

    An essential part of my point is that we are dealing here with short-term thinking and planning. At best until 2024.

    That at some point that ground moves (say, Texas goes blue) things are different, but 2022 favors the GOP. So no bind at the moment.

    Reality is rather relentless in asserting itself over time

    Those of us who value reality would like this to be true, and perhaps it is.

    But if the GOP can compete for power and have a good shot at winning, reality has less bite.

    7
  48. @Moosebreath:

    But she still could be a Republican if she chose, as not all Republicans are members of Congress

    Well, yes, she can call herself a Republican, but a person without office who calls themself a Republican is just another citizen.

    2
  49. JohnMcC says:

    @KM: @Sleeping Dog: One aspect of this business that I have not seen reported or speculated about is that the Cheney family is pretty close to royalty in the Republican world. Along with the Bushes and Romneys and a few others. This is kind of an R-party thing. Goes back to the Cabots and the Lodges and Tafts. Then along comes this NYC con man with longstanding connections to various Democrats and he steals their party and laughs in their faces.

    I think there are two questions that the future will answer: Are the anti-Trump forces strong enough to make a real inroad into TFG’s strength? And what will the R-brand be worth in ’22 and onward.

    So Liz (and, one imagines, Poppa Dick) are no doubt really REALLY pissed. And how willing are they to work against specific R officeholder and candidates?

    2
  50. @MakredMan:

    I think Steven gives way too much weight to “Not all Republicans” type of analysis. Since most registered Republicans don’t exhibit these extreme views and fanatical loyalty but are actually fairly indifferent to politics in general and are just “social Republicans”, Steven says “we can’t call them a cult”.

    And I think that a lot of folks want to be overly simplistic about mass behavior and to ignore how partisan ID influences all of us, but one’s mileage can vary.

    But by this criteria even the Nazis under Hitler were not a cult.

    Well, one, the Nazis were never the a perennial party that captured half the vote in a system, over the course of decades wherein deeply part of identity. The comparison is not apt at all.

    And whether it is history or political science, it is not common for the Nazis to be classified as a cult.

    2
  51. @Grewgills: As I have said for years now, I am less inclined to balk at describing MAGA-hatted rally goers as cultists. But even then I find it to be a colloquial application of the term.

    I tried for a while to find a middle ground on this topic, but that pursuit was not fruitful. 😉

    1
  52. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    It may well be a colloquial application of the term “cult member” to describe a MAGA-hat-wearing, rally-going devotee of Trump–which is the way I use it–but what else would you suggest? It’s easy, it’s convenient, and it really does describe the attitude and behavior of these people. They do think Trump is their savior. I haven’t witnessed anything like this in my lifetime.

    2
  53. CSK says:

    @CSK:
    Even the people who saw Sarah Palin as St. Joan of Wasilla were a little calmer about it.

  54. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: What’s wrong with Trumpy, Trumpist and Trumpeter?

    Not sure why the name is so important though: Would a rotting carcass by any other name not have such a fetid stench?

  55. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Good point. The world view (which is exemplified by the note in the article I read that she voted with TFG ~92% of the time) is more important over all than this one stand. She hasn’t suddenly become one of the good guys (if you will–and I’m not saying anyone is claiming this position, either).

  56. @CSK:

    They do think Trump is their savior.

    I know they say that he was sent by God (but that is what Evagenicals think is true of all leaders, but they really like to emphasize it about the ones they like).

    I also remember how conservatives used to talk about Obama supporters, especially with stuff like this: Jamie Foxx takes heat for calling Obama “our Lord and savior”.

    Limbaugh used to accuse Dems of treating Obama like a messiah.

    I have little doubt on some right-leaning message board in 2009 there were Reps complaining about what a cult the Democrat Party is.

    2
  57. CSK says:

    @Gustopher:
    Nothing, although “trumpeters” are swans, and quite beautiful. I often use the word “Trumpkins.”

    Dean Taylor objects to the word “cult,” except to designate, colloquially, the hardcore MAGA-heads. I was responding to that.

  58. Grewgills says:

    CSK, did you ever watch the movie “Jesus Camp”?

  59. @Grewgills: Also a good example to throw into the historical mix. I never saw the whole thing, but have seen excerpts.

  60. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Yes, I know Obama had adoring fans, and I found it silly, but Obama wasn’t lumbering around the country holding giant rallies for 60,000 of his rabid followers to worship him. As for Jamie Foxx–well, I can’t blame a Black person for being a little over-the-top in expressing enthusiasm for the first Black president. It was a historic moment.

    @Grewgills:
    I never have. I probably should. As I’ve mentioned, I was raised in a non-religious household–not even lip service was paid to any faith–so I have no personal experience with the power of religion over people’s lives, especially not fundamentalism. I do know my father couldn’t stand Billy Graham.

  61. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Beth: The people complaining about Stefanik do have a point, though. Why move someone who only votes with the party 77% of the time (same article as for my last post, IIRC) to such a high position?

    Casualties! Casualties!! Rah, rah, rah!!!

    2
  62. @CSK:

    and I found it silly

    If you found it silly, how do you think hardcore Republicans found it (and characterized it?).

    I can’t blame a Black person for being a little over-the-top in expressing enthusiasm for the first Black president. It was a historic moment.

    You might not blame him, but how do you think right-wing media felt about it?

    1
  63. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: While I’m here, here’s the link:
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/cheneys-warning-on-trump-a-voice-vote-stefaniks-bid-4-takeaways-from-gop-conference-meeting/ar-BB1gEEz4?ocid=uxbndlbing

    And the money quote (for my point): “According to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, Cheney voted with Trump 92.9% of the time, while Stefanik did only 77.7%.”

  64. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Also this:
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/cupp-graham-said-the-most-honestly-naked-thing-i-ve-heard-about-state-of-gop/vi-BB1gEgNq?ocid=msedgntp

    I’m with SE Cupp on this. Graham is saying half the party will leave; can I count on this? Promise?—

  65. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    Well, I found it silly because I find worship of any politician silly. Some are good; some are bad. That’s all. I don’t want to have a beer with any of them. It’s like religion–not in my personal experience.

  66. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    But she claims to believe the election was stolen from Trump. That’s all that counts.

  67. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Sleeping Dog: “If the Rs win, then none of things we want, social welfare programs, closing the wealth gap, improving conditions for the poor and particularly ensuring that Black, Brown and Asian people can be safe in their communities and build good lives for their families will occur and in fact it will be worse.”

    Certainly true. Unfortunately, I don’t see that arguing these points with Bill Kristol, George Conway, and Liz Cheney changes the terrain much–if at all. I’d be happy to be wrong, but I can’t see fruitful discussions either way. The Republican leadership is still what it is.

  68. @CSK: Just add to my trip down memory lane: And So It Begins…Obama Excitement=Cult.

  69. al Ameda says:

    My take here is that the GOP is now all in on the 2022 mid-terms.

    If they take back at least one chamber – the House or the Senate – then they will consider all of this a success, and everyone can buckle up for 2024.

    The real threat to the Democratic Party is now (are now) Senators Manchin and Sinema. If they can’t see the writing on the wall, that McConnell has no intention of giving Democrats and Biden a single vote then, in no time we’re going to be back to 2010-2016 with Mitch gaming the system to further bolster minority rule.

    4
  70. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I freely admit that my opinion of the Trumpkins may be colored by the absolute repulsiveness (physical and mental) of their adored one. I mean, dear God, the man is so loathsome in every respect.

    That in fact may be at the core of it. I do not fathom how so many people can find someone so utterly repellent in every way an object of worship.

    2
  71. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: I don’t follow SE Cupp at all. I only share her opinion that half of Republicans leaving the party entirely would be a good thing for the country. Based on what you said about her, my guess is that we might differ on which half we want to see go, though. (The again, thinking more, why do I care as long as the party is only half as big?)

  72. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Not only will I shed no tears from Cheney, I’m not really sure she’s an ally in the sense of defending democracy. Does she support HR 1? Doubt it. Will her rhetoric on non-former guy related issues continue to be ridiculously over the top and cast Democrats as America-hating commies who must be stopped? You bet your bottom fund-raising dollar it will.

    The truth of the matter is we are here because people like Cheney spent decades convincing people that Democrats hated America and were trying to destroy and/or steal the country. All the rhetoric about radical socialism and “true” Americans and whatnot that she and so many others (cough, the Bulwark crew, cough) engaged in is why we have ended up here. Now she’s shocked! Shocked, I say, to discover that people believed them? Actually, I doubt she even sees the connection. January 6th happened because of the lies she and others have been spreading for decades, and until she understands that, she is no friend of the Constitution or democracy.

    8
  73. drj says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    What is your point? That because some right-wing hacks accused Obama supporters of being part of a cult and, furthermore, some actor said something stupid, every assertion of cult-like behavior is suspect?

    I think it is fair (even if not necessarily correct) to question the “cult” framework, but not on the basis that all such accusations must be politically motivated.

    We all witnessed the post-election rallies, as well as the loyalty tests and continuous demands to embrace obvious lies. These things happened.

    Based on that, it is certainly not prima facie ridiculous (as it would be in Obama’s case) to assume that some sort of cult of personality was being created

    4
  74. Jay L Gischer says:

    There are several aspects of the Trump/Trumpists thing that don’t conform with a cult, even while there are other aspects that do.

    The most salient aspect is that the cult existed before Trump was on the scene. It was the Tea Party and the Alt-Right, and yeah, they were around (remember Gamergate?) before Trump. 4chan has been out there a long time. And so has the Daily Stormer.

    But another aspect is that Trump doesn’t, in fact, give them orders. For him, he needs to preserve “plausible deniability”, I’m sure. It was a clean call and a clean speech. This is quite different from how an actual cult leader behaves.

    What is relevant is that he exploits and expands on “disorganized attachment”, which is often the result of narcissistic parenting. Which he is, and was probably also subject to. So to all those people out there who have disorganized attachments, he seems like home, it’s so familiar…

    1
  75. Mimai says:

    My humble suggestion for a compromise:

    The Michael Reynolds wing uses the term “cult.”

    The Steven Taylor wing use the term “kult.”

    And both wings agree to a truce on this topic for the good of the commentariat.

    3
  76. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Steven, I really couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what a bunch of Republicans said about Obama. There may be symmetry here, but there is no equality. What Republicans say is not based on anything meaningful and does not even reflect a “belief” in the way I mean that word.

    2
  77. Chip Daniels says:

    Fascism always relies on a cultish, insular view of the world. It is predicated on believing absurdities which change daily, refusing to believe your own eyes, and seeing all outside as the implacable enemy.

    4
  78. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “a person without office who calls themself a Republican is just another citizen.”

    So the major political parties only have membership in the tens of thousands. That’s … novel.

    It also does not seem to fit with your often-stated view that party alignment is the primary predictor of voting patterns.

  79. @Moosebreath: I think you are missing the context of the post, which is about office-holding and party affiliation. (And use of label in official contexts).

  80. @Chip Daniels: I have not problem with “cultish” as a description of what we are seeing by some supporters, FWIW.

    1
  81. Moosebreath says:

    @Grewgills:

    I think your analysis is about right. If I had to assign percentages to the groups, I’d say about 30% of Republican identifiers are cult-like, about 10% are truly disgusted with the cult-like group, another chunk (maybe 20-30%) are members for what they perceive the party stands for which they strongly support (whether it be lower taxes on the wealthy, or pro-life judges, or whatever) and they hold their nose on the rest, and the rest fit into the cowardly group which figures that they can’t win without the cult-like group, so they give lip service to them.

  82. @drj:

    What is your point?

    My point is that the notion that one set of political adherents calling another set a “cult” is not exactly a new phenomenon in American politics. The word has a clearly negative connotation.

    Further, it is extremely easy to see one’s side as the calm, rational, and never weird side and super easy to see that other side as a bunch of weirdos, especially if one focuses on the weirdest of the other sides’ group.

    None of this is to excuse GOP behavior or to engage in crass bother-siderism. I have been abundantly clear that I do not see the two sides as equivalent. (But I can honestly say that I can understand, from a detached POV how some Reps saw adoration of Obama the way a lot of you are seeing adoration of Trump–but I also know pointing that out is just going to stir a whole lot of denial. And, I would note, I am not saying it is identical–although I am not even sure how one would measure such things).

    I still think that just calling the other side a cult is a misdiagnosis and actually underplays the dangerous nature of how the party got where it is and what havoc it might yet unleash.

    And, again, whether anyone likes it or not, it isn’t the language of precise political analysis.

    But, as I have noted of late, you all can use it all you like. You aren’t going to convince me it is the right term, but likewise, I am clearly not persuasive of my position. I have indulged in the conversation not because I really trying to convince anyone at this point (but would certainly be more than happy if I did so, which is an occupational hazard).

    1
  83. I guess the real question at this point is what exactly is it that everyone wants to convince me of?

  84. @Moosebreath: I don’t think that is far off from things I have said in the past, BTW. (and I do prefer your usage of “cult-like” in this context).

  85. @Mimai: Meh.

    1
  86. In the spirit of comity, I would note that I am not objecting to the usage of terms like “cultish” and “cult-like” as ways of describing, say, MAGA rallies. I don’t necessarily mind “cult of personality” as a description of some fannish reactions to Trump by some followers.

    (I do think that a lot of people are ignoring the way in which similar kinds of behavior have existed for other politicians, including FDR, JFK, Reagan, Obama, and even Dubya–just to name a few, even if the behavior is not identical).

    But, I don’t think describing any of this as an actual cult makes sense, and I 100% reject the notion that some put forward the entirety of the GOP is a literal cult.

    1
  87. Mimai says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Haha! Perfect response…. to me….. and vis-a-vis this topic.

    1
  88. @Moosebreath: @Steven L. Taylor: Put another way, she would simply be a Republican voter. I think in Wyoming she would have to affiliate with the party to vote in the primary, so there’s that.

    @Mimai: 🙂

  89. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “Put another way, she would simply be a Republican voter.”

    I agree with that. But that’s very different than saying she would “cease to be a Republican”, as the post said.

    Or in other words, what I said originally @here.

  90. @Moosebreath: I meant, and I thought the context was clear, that she would cease to have usage of the label as a candidate or elected official.

    That people can vote as they wish really isn’t what the post is about.

  91. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It definitely was not clear to me, which is why I asked what I did in my first post.

    I don’t intend this as a criticism, but this is something which seems to come up with me fairly frequently in your writing. I am not sure if it comes from you being used to primarily writing for others in your field, but it seems you often seem to have different meaning in mind than your audience here takes your words to mean.

  92. @Moosebreath: It is a fair observation. I try to keep in mind how a general audience will understand what I am writing–indeed, I try very much to write for a general audience, but still fail to reach the clarity I would like to have despite having done this for years.