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OPINION

Liz Cheney tells the truth and shames the devil — but not the GOP

Republican activists apply cancel culture to Donald Trump’s critics.

Protesters hold anti-US Representative Liz Cheney signs during a Jan. 28 rally outside the Wyoming state Capitol in Cheyenne. Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida spoke to hundreds, bashing Cheney after she voted to impeach Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, and called for a group effort in finding the right nominee to replace her when she is up for reelection in 2022.
Protesters hold anti-US Representative Liz Cheney signs during a Jan. 28 rally outside the Wyoming state Capitol in Cheyenne. Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida spoke to hundreds, bashing Cheney after she voted to impeach Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, and called for a group effort in finding the right nominee to replace her when she is up for reelection in 2022.Michael Cummo/Associated Press

It’s a telling state of affairs when you come to admire someone for merely stating an obvious truth, but such is the case with Liz Cheney. Unless, that is, one is a Trump-supporting or a Trump-enabling Republican — and so despises the high-profile Republican House member from Wyoming for that same reason.

On Monday, Cheney tweeted what by this point should be apparent to anyone still capable of generating brain waves indicative of rational thought: “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”

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Which anyone did Cheney have in mind? Well, earlier in the day, a certain former president had issued a statement saying that “the Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!” That apparently was intended as an official proclamation of appellative policy for the Trump cult; look for raving grass-roots Republicans and ranting Fox News hosts to quickly adopt his refrain.

Cheney’s insistence on speaking the truth has proved so vexing to House Republicans that her days in GOP leadership ranks may be numbered. The Wyoming Republican Party has already censured her for voting for Trump’s second impeachment. Similarly, Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have all been censured by their state parties for voting to remove Trump from office.

In April, Nevada Republicans censured GOP Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske for her refusal to credit their almost entirely evidence-free claims of voter fraud there. In Arizona, Republican Governor Doug Ducey was ostensibly rebuked for his use of emergency powers during the COVID pandemic, but if Trump hadn’t been vexed at his failure to support the Big Lie, it’s hard to believe he would have been censured.

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Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who twice voted to convict Trump on impeachment articles, has also been a target of the angry Trump-hive hornets, though a motion to censure him came up short on Saturday at the state GOP’s convention. Booed and heckled as he spoke, Romney was polite but unapologetic, noting that he was no fan of Trump’s character. As the jeering continued, Romney asked: “Aren’t you embarrassed?”

Alas, a cult is seldom embarrassed by the misconduct of its leader — nor even able to recognize his deficiencies. Contemplate the sentiments of Debra Ell, a Michigan Trump supporter active in the effort to oust Jason Cabel Roe as executive director of that state’s GOP because he had the temerity to declare, accurately, that the election wasn’t stolen.

“I speak for many people in that Trump has never actually been wrong, and so we’ve learned to trust when he says something, that he’s not just going to spew something out there that’s wrong and not verified,” she told The Washington Post.

Seldom in the history of the English language has a sentence run so completely off reality’s rails after five short words. And yet, Ell doubtless does speak for many Trump supporters — and how sad that is.

So regular has populist cancel-Trump-critics culture become that it is almost normalized. But in the spirit of the sentiment encapsulated in the injunction not to miss the forest for the trees, step back and consider:

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Six months after a presidential election that wasn’t particularly close by either Electoral College or popular-vote standards, compare what a denizen of the rational world might have expected to happen with what actually occurred. As no evidence of widespread or outcome-altering fraud was discovered, as various audits and recounts showed little amiss, as members of Trump’s own team vouched for the integrity of the results, as scores of lawsuits alleging irregularities fell flat, one might have expected even the hard-core Trumpsters to return to their senses.

Instead, the grass-roots right seems to have lost its collective grip on reality. Rather than consigning Trump to the eternal disgrace he deserves for instigating an angry mob to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, they are increasingly turning on Republican officials who have the integrity to reject his claims of election fraud.

It’s dismaying that so many Republican voters still let themselves be taken in by this colossal charlatan — and that so many GOP elected officials are too craven to follow the examples of Cheney, Romney, and company and tell their constituents the truth about Trump.


Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at scot.lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.