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Is Republican messaging increasingly grounded in a lie?

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Rep. Liz Cheney was ousted from her Republican leadership post.

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming.

J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

In a meeting early Wednesday morning, House Republicans voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership position. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote, “If we are to succeed in stopping the radical Democrat agenda from destroying our country, these internal conflicts need to be resolved so as to not detract from the efforts of our collective team. Having heard from so many of you in recent days, it’s clear that we need to make a change.”

What “internal conflicts” has Rep. Cheney created? By every measure regularly acknowledged as valid by GOP leaders, she has been an ideologically consistent representative of conservative thought and policy, earning a session score of 98% from the conservative Heritage Action Group, as well as high rankings from Freedom Works and the Club for Growth.

Where she has deviated from the members of her party leadership is not on policy or ideas but simply this: she has steadfastly maintained that the 2020 presidential election was legitimate and that former President Trump played a role in the Capitol insurrection.

Cheney said, “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

When discussing the November 2020 election and its disturbing aftermath, Cheney is telling the truth and expecting her colleagues to show the same integrity. She has consistently stood up for the integrity of our democratic elections and the rule of law. 

Republican representatives understandably want party unity and a consistent message. However, that unity of message appears to consist not of any policy agenda to improve the lives of Americans as they face a global pandemic and economic upheaval, but instead largely of support for the past president and a deceit that undermines our democracy. 

According to NBC News, “Within the past six weeks, Trump has released more than 20 statements falsely claiming that the election was characterized by ‘massive fraud,’ that it was ‘rigged’ or ‘stolen’ and that he ‘won by a landslide,’ among other assertions.” Trump continues to draw support from the GOP base and appears to have aspirations of returning to office. In spite of leading his party to significant losses at the ballot box, GOP leaders have allowed the current party message to center on a previous president and his personal inability to process his losses. 

Cheney’s fall from grace puts this shift into high relief. Her removal sends a message that the GOP is no longer prioritizing any coherent messaging that conflicts with Trump and his grievances. So to achieve the message of party unity, they are prioritizing an alignment with former President Trump and his “Big Lie” at the expense of other conservative values, such as the rule of law and preservation of our institutions.

Certainly, Republican party leadership has the right to focus on its agenda. But a lie, no matter how persuasive, is not a substitute for legitimate policy;  sweeping the violent acts of the recent past under the rug is not moving the country forward. At this point, more than half of Republican voters believe in disproven voter fraud claims — claims with no bearing in fact. If Republicans want to move forward with their legislative priorities, they should first agree on the truth of the legitimately certified election and declare their sincere allegiance to our lasting systems of government.

In the words of Rep. Cheney, “Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.” 

Peaceful government cannot be built on grievances and lies. It must grow from transparency, the encouragement of broad debate and sincere good faith efforts to legislate for the common good. Our elected representatives should understand that better than anyone. Liz Cheney appears to, and for that she has been removed from GOP leadership.

Megan Rawlins Woods is the engage manager and Jennifer Walker Thomas is the director of strategy and nonpartisanship for Mormon Women for Ethical Government.