Cheney’s fall and Stefanik’s rise in a redefined GOP

The abrupt ouster of Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney from the House GOP leadership Wednesday took only minutes, but the expected election Friday of New York Rep. Elise Stefanik to replace her is likely to reverberate through the Republican Party for years.

Stefanik’s election not only will launch the 36-year-old congresswoman as a leading voice of the Republican Party, and at an age when she could have decades of political ambition ahead. Her rise – and Cheney’s fall – is also one more sign of the transformation of the GOP into a party defined not by ideology, but by personality.

Call it the Trumplican Party. 

Stefanik is the prime case study in how a onetime establishment Republican who had been critical of Donald Trump managed to become aligned with him and embraced by him. Only a handful of politicians have successfully negotiated that complicated journey. 

Over the long term, Trump’s redefinition of the GOP may not be sustainable, of course. Cheney and a handful of other prominent Republicans warn that a day of reckoning is ahead over his debunked allegations that the election last November was stolen from him.

In the short term, though, Trump has once again done the unprecedented, this time by continuing to dominate his party after losing the White House. In modern times, partisans at this point are typically debating changes in message and messenger, with the failed candidate an instant persona non grata. 

But Trump has stalemated the 2024 presidential field as he suggests he might run again – it would be a battle to deny him the nomination, if he wants it – and issues edicts and endorsements. They have shaped some contests in solidly red states such as, for instance, Cheney’s home state of Wyoming.