Republicans should be the party of "Honest Abe," not the "Big Lie."
But their claim to the "Party of Lincoln" label is increasingly tenuous as fealty to former President Donald Trump's falsehoods about the 2020 election became the GOP's organizing political principle — or lack thereof.
The latest episode in this mendacity movement was the ouster on Wednesday morning of Rep. Liz Cheney as Republican conference chair, the third highest-ranking post in House leadership. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy encouraged the purge.
Cheney's conservative credentials weren't the issue. She backed Trump on policy more than her likely replacement, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York. Rather it's Cheney's authentic conservatism — the kind that seeks to preserve virtues that define a culture and a country.
"The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution," Cheney wrote last week in a Washington Post commentary.
That includes the four Minnesota Republican representatives — Jim Hagedorn of the First District, Tom Emmer in the Sixth, Michelle Fischbach in the Seventh and Pete Stauber in the Eighth — who were to vote on Cheney's fate. Since the decision was reached on a voice vote behind closed doors, what the Minnesotans did isn't yet known. But all four already have been complicit, to varying degrees, in the "Big Lie."
Hagedorn, Emmer and Stauber were among 126 Republicans backing a bogus lawsuit last December filed by the Texas attorney general that sought to invalidate 62 electoral votes for then-President-elect Joe Biden (Fischbach was not yet in office).
And just hours after a MAGA mob violently invaded the U.S. Capitol — the citadel, and symbol, of America's democracy — Hagedorn and Fischbach embraced the mob's message by voting to object to the certification of the Electoral College results.
McCarthy, however, did accurately blame Trump for his role — at least initially.
"The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters," McCarthy said on the House floor on Jan. 13.
Those comments came amid news of a heated phone call during the incursion in which McCarthy reportedly shouted at Trump, "Who the [expletive] do you think you're talking to?"
Trump apparently knew who he was talking to: A craven politician who would soon slink off to Mar-a-Lago in a show of obedience to a man who inspired a mob that threatened to kill members of Congress and former Vice President Mike Pence.
Cheney, conversely, has been a resolute representative of the truth and of Wyoming, where voters will face a 2022 decision on her future.
"The electoral college has spoken," Cheney wrote in the Post piece. "More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president's arguments, and have refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; this is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud."
Later, Cheney added, "While embracing or ignoring Trump's statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising or political purposes, that approach will do long-term damage to our party and our country.
"Trump has never expressed remorse or regret for the attack of Jan. 6 and now suggests that our elections, and our legal and constitutional system, cannot be trusted to do the will of the people. This is immensely harmful, especially as we now compete on the world stage against Communist China and its claims that democracy is a failed system."
Republicans should have aspired to a legacy like Lincoln's and should have chosen honesty over Trump. As Cheney wrote in her commentary, "History is watching."
Minnesota voters have been watching, too, and many might consider a cowardly vote on Cheney by this state's four GOP representatives as disqualifying them from consideration in future elections.