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Words or actions?
In the wake of Liz Cheney’s ouster from congressional leadership, a group of high-profile former Republican officials said now is the time to free their party from Trump’s influence. Together, there is one thing they can do to make this happen. But will they?
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More purge politics
With Congress returning to Washington this week, the political world will be consumed by the power struggle in the Republican House caucus, where Liz Cheney is poised to be ousted from the number three leadership spot. As political dramas go, this one has zero suspense. The challenge to Cheney’s leadership has been brewing for months and everyone in Washington expects it to end with Cheney being replaced by upstate New York congresswoman and Trump opponent-turned-acolyte Elise Stefanik. What makes this gripping political theater is the fact that it is happening to a legacy figure in the conservative movement and what it says about the present and future state of the Republican Party.
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In the coming weeks you will see a lot of stories about how the White House is open to bipartisan compromise with Republicans on the massive infrastructure legislation working its way through Congress and how West Virginia’s Joe Manchin is confident he can work in good faith across the aisle. But several events this week point to why these efforts rest somewhere between bad theater and wishful thinking. If we connect the dots across what’s happening this week in Arizona, on the Hill and in Florida, we see Republicans telegraphing that they are animated not by policy objectives or ideology but by nurturing and defending a shared identity built around a worldview unsupported by external reality. No longer a conventional political party, Republicans are turning into a faith group united by the false belief that massive fraud by voters of color illegitimately removed Donald Trump from power, a wrong that has to be righted at any cost.
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There was an incident over the weekend in which Mitt Romney was booed at a state convention of Utah Republicans for having twice voted to convict Donald Trump at his impeachment trials (and – reality check – impeachment may seem like ancient history, but the most recent trial ended less than three months ago). If you’re looking for a measure of the health of the post-Trump Republican Party, you can stop here.
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Biden’s ordinary extraordinary speech
Joe Biden’s speech to a socially distanced joint session of Congress Wednesday night lacked some of the pomp and grandeur we normally associate with such events, but Biden made the largely empty room work to his advantage. Speaking softly enough to make viewers want to lean in to their screens, modulating his voice for emphasis, Biden delivered his remarks in the casual cadence of a friend or neighbor in what felt like a 21st century Fireside Chat.
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It’s been quiet . . . but . . .
The Biden administration launched with a flurry of activity, culminating in passage of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package. For several weeks we had wave upon wave of executive orders and cabinet nominations, and while Biden intentionally toned things way down he remained a presence in the news. Then things seemed to get quiet.
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