The only uncertainty today about the bid by Donald Trump supporter Elise Stefanik to take the No 3 slot in the US Republican Party leadership may lie in doubts among hardline colleagues about the genuineness of her late conversion to the Trump cause. The House caucus will on Wednesday vote to remove Liz Cheney, the Wyoming Republican and daughter of former vice-president Dick Cheney, from her post as deputy leader for the crime of continuing to deny the Big Lie that the presidential election was stolen.
The GOP is fighting the future by constantly re-engaging with the mythical past
That her replacement can only realistically come from the ranks of Trump supporters is testimony to the extraordinary vice-like grip he still has on the party. Cheney isn’t the only Republican being purged, only the most powerful, high-profile figure. Trump has leaned on Minority leader Kevin McCarthy for months to get rid of her as scores of state and local party officials lose their posts, and those members and senators who voted for impeachment face censure resolutions and primary challengers.
The only question is whether Stefanik, a 36-year-old New York representative, can be trusted to be sufficiently loyal. This is the woman who last week appeared on Steve Bannon's podcast to say again she was "fully" supportive of Republican efforts to overturn the election results in Arizona, where Joe Biden beat Trump, one of 147 Republican politicians who voted against the certification of Biden's win, even after a violent mob stormed the Capitol. But not loyal enough?
Up and down the country, Republican legislatures appear to be solely preoccupied with changing electoral laws to make voting more difficult for minority voters. Trump’s continued hold on the party is ultimately not ideological – Cheney was as right-wing as any of them – but an essential guarantee for Trump that should he run again, no-one will oppose him. The Trump mantra of “a stolen election” has been turned into a party obsession with voting procedures. The GOP is fighting the future by constantly re-engaging with the mythical past. It is almost inevitable that “stop the steal” will be its ongoing rallying cry.