The night before her fellow Republicans voted to oust her from party leadership, Rep Liz Cheney wore a large pin on her lapel while she made a speech railing against the cult of Donald Trump. Whether her colleagues knew it or not, the lapel pin was loaded with meaning.
Ms Cheney’s mother, Lynne Cheney, gave her daughter the accessory. Shaped like a flag with yellow stars on a blue background, the pin was modeled after George Washington’s battle flag during the American Revolution, the elder Ms Cheney told CNN. The jeweler Ann Hand designed it for her in 2004, after she published her children’s book, When Washington Crossed the Delaware.
A few weeks ago, as storm clouds began to gather in the House, Lynne gave it to her daughter.
That connection to history, as well as to Liz Cheney’s parents – who include former vice president Dick Cheney – speaks volumes about how the congresswoman sees her struggle. In a defiant speech she gave on Tuesday, Ms Cheney presented herself as an embattled patriot, defending a form of conservatism with deep roots in American history and a strong faith in democracy.
“Our duty is clear,” Ms Cheney told her party. “Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent, and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar.”
For months, Ms Cheney has fiercely refuted former president Donald Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and has criticized Republicans in Congress who have repeated them.
“Attacks against our democratic process and the rule of law empower our adversaries and feed Communist propaganda that American democracy is a failure,” she went on in the speech on Tuesday. “We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.” The next day, House Republicans voted to remove Ms Cheney from her position as their No 3 leader. To replace her, the caucus appears to be coalescing behind Elise Stefanik, a New York congresswoman who loudly supported Mr Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.
From the sidelines, Mr Trump cheered on the Republicans’ decision.
“Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being,” the former president wrote in a spiteful statement. “I watched her yesterday and realized how bad she is for the Republican Party.”
As she emerged from the vote to oust her on Wednesday, Ms Cheney made it clear she doesn’t see it that way.
“The nation needs a strong Republican Party,” Ms Cheney told reporters. “The nation needs a party that is based upon fundamental principles of conservatism, and I am committed and dedicated to ensuring that that’s how this party goes forward, and I plan to lead the fight to do that.”