After weeks of rumors, it’s finally happened: Trump loyalist Rep. Elise Stefanik has replaced Rep. Liz Cheney as the head of the House GOP Conference Chair, one of the most powerful leadership roles in the party. Stefanik, a Congresswoman from upstate New York, won 134 to 46 in a secret ballot following party fallout with Cheney after her repeated condemnation of former President Trump.
Stefanik gave a short speech following her victory, thanking former President Trump for his support and calling him a “critical part of our Republican team.”
It didn’t take long for her to pivot to condemning the Democratic party: “The American people are suffering under the far-left radical socialist policies of President Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In just over 100 days, we have an economic crisis, we have a border crisis and we have a national security crisis.”
Some of Stefanik’s right-wing colleagues do not believe she is conservative enough for the role, like Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, who challenged what he called Stefanik’s so-called “coronation.” But Stefanik was the front runner from the jump: She softens the optics of ousting one of the only women in a Republican leadership role, she was a favorite of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and despite her so-called moderate voting record—for example, supporting the Paris Climate Agreement, supporting Democratic efforts to end Trump’s emergency border wall funding—she was one of the most vocal supporters of President Trump during his first impeachment trial.
Besides, this is a woman who supported the Equality Act—an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act that would expand its protections to sexual orientation and gender identity—in 2019, and then rescinded her support in 2021, citing concern over its “impact on single-gendered organizations and sports.” That sure sounds like another way of saying “I don’t want transgender children in school sports.” Her repugnant politics fit right in with Republican leadership.
So did Cheney’s, but Cheney made the fatal flaw of believing her conservative bona fides could ever make up for her criticism of Trump. It’s clear that the Republican Party of 2021 and beyond operates on one primary rule: Lambast Trump at your own risk.