The most common argument was that Cheney’s underlying views were not the problem, but that she consistently took the bait when asked by the media to respond to questions about Trump, and sometimes went after him when unprompted. The criticism of Cheney was that this divided the caucus and made it more difficult to move on and focus on opposing President Biden.
But this description does not apply to Roy. Unlike Cheney, Roy did not vote to impeach Trump. When Cheney said in February that Trump should not have a future within the Republican Party, Roy stood before the Capitol steps to tell reporters that she had “forfeited her right to be chair of the Republican conference,” saying it was divisive. Roy was not incessantly talking about January 6 and was never going to run to the Washington Post to offer an op-ed expressing fears about the future of the Republican Party and the threat to democracy.
Now, I did say at the outset that there was a “special” Trump-loyalty test. This loyalty has nothing to do with loyalty to his actual policy positions. Roy voted with Trump nearly 90 percent of the time, whereas Stefanik did so only about 78 percent of the time.
The special loyalty test has to do with Trump’s reaction to the 2020 election, and that alone. And on that Trump score, Stefanik clearly comes out ahead. When push came to shove, Roy rejected attempts to overturn the 2020 election. He refused to join fellow Texas Republicans in filing an amicus brief supporting the state’s lawsuit challenging the election results of other states, on principled federalism grounds. He did not vote to challenge the Electoral College results, and he declared in January that Trump “deserves universal condemnation for what was clearly impeachable conduct — pressuring the vice president to violate his oath to the Constitution to count the electors.”
In contrast, Stefanik played ball then, and continues to play ball. She also, like Trump, has no intention of moving past 2020. In an interview with my former colleague David Drucker on Monday, she said, “I believe that the discussions of the 2020 election are integral to make sure that we can rebuild the American people’s trust in our elections, moving forward, and put forth those policy solutions to improve election security and election integrity. And I stand with the president’s focus on election integrity. As usual, he’s very in touch with the voters around the country.”
Trump wanted somebody he believed would advance that cause better, so he endorsed Stefanik and issued a warning about Roy ahead of the vote: “Can’t imagine Republican House Members would go with Chip Roy—he has not done a great job, and will probably be successfully primaried in his own district. I support Elise, by far, over Chip!”
If any of the alternate explanations given for Cheney’s ouster were true, then Roy would appear to be the ultimate compromise candidate. He is a staunch conservative who opposes endless war in Afghanistan, who doesn’t want to relitigate the 2020 election, who didn’t make a big issue of the Russian-bounty story, who isn’t going to serve as a tool of the media to bludgeon Republicans, and yet who opposed efforts to overturn the results of the election.
They went for the neoconservative warmonger with a liberal voting record in a 134-to-46 vote. We all know why.