The G.O.P.’s Big Cancellation

The party’s cancel mob runs wild on Capitol Hill.

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Mr. Potato Head is under siege.

So are the Muppets, baseball and Coca-Cola.

Even a horse fell victim. “It was like a cancel culture kind of thing,” the trainer of Medina Spirit told Fox News after the Kentucky Derby-winning horse failed a drug test.

In the Biden era, wailing about cancel culture has emerged as a major tenet of Trumpism, a defining principle of a Republican Party far more focused on fighting culture wars than promoting any kind of policy platform.

Yet in recent weeks, it has been Republicans who seem most focused on canceling ideas they don’t like. And on Wednesday morning, the G.O.P. cancel mob came for Liz Cheney.

After a defiant speech on Tuesday evening, she was purged from House Republican leadership for refusing to echo Donald Trump’s lies about the election and holding him responsible for the deadly riot on Jan. 6 at the Capitol.

Her extraordinary address on the House floor came immediately after Republicans finished a series of remarks condemning the cancellation of a long list of characters that included Pepe Le Pew, J.K. Rowling, Miss Piggy, Goya Foods, George Washington, “the My Pillow guy” and kids wearing MAGA hats.

Ms. Cheney made only a sly reference to the irony of the moment.

“I know the topic, Mr. Speaker, is cancel culture,” she said, taking her place at the lectern. “I have some thoughts about that. But tonight, I rise to discuss freedom and our constitutional duty to protect it.”

Republicans were left tying themselves into knots over whether Ms. Cheney had, in fact, been canceled.

“Liz Cheney was canceled today for speaking her mind and disagreeing with the narrative that President Trump has put forth,” Representative Ken Buck of Colorado said on Wednesday after her ouster.

Josh Hawley, the Missouri senator who built his postelection brand by casting himself in his media appearances as a victim of cancellation, disagreed.

“It’ll give her, certainly, a media platform,” he said. “I don’t think it’s being canceled in terms of she’s being silenced.”

Republican cancel culture isn’t limited to Ms. Cheney. At times, the party seems to be trying to cancel the truth entirely.

When Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, was asked about Ms. Cheney’s replacement — Representative Elise Stefanik of New York — and her vote to object to the 2020 election results, he gave a head-spinning answer.

“I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election,” Mr. McCarthy replied after leaving a meeting at the White House with President Biden on Wednesday. “I think that is all over with, sitting here with the president today.”

Six days earlier, Ms. Stefanik had raised doubts about the integrity of the election in interviews with Trump allies that helped cement her status as the front-runner for Ms. Cheney’s post.

In Florida and Texas, Republican officials who once praised the handling of the 2020 election in their states now argue that a widespread lack of faith in the electoral system necessitates broadly restrictive voting laws. That justification is widespread: Lawmakers in at least 33 states have cited low public confidence in election integrity in their public comments as a reason to pass bills that restrict voting.

It’s also slightly dizzying: As election experts told my colleague Maggie Astor for an article this week, it was the “fear of fraud” stoked by Republicans with their false claims of voter malfeasance that eroded public trust in the 2020 results.

And in a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Republicans cast the riot at the Capitol in January as little more than a normal day, rewriting what many of them personally witnessed while huddling for safety on the House floor. Several downplayed the violence of the day, describing the Trump supporters who attacked the complex as “peaceful patriots.”

“Watching the TV footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall, showed people in an orderly fashion in between the stanchions and ropes taking pictures,” Representative Andrew Clyde of Georgia said. “If you didn’t know the footage was from Jan. 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”

Sure, an average tourist stop that involved violently crushing police officers, stealing historic property and urinating in Nancy Pelosi’s office.

There are plenty of reasons to believe that despite this effort to rewrite history, voters will not cancel Republicans at the polls in 2022. The party out of power typically picks up seats in a new president’s first midterm elections. Redistricting favors Republicans. And a number of House Democrats are opting against re-election bids, a sign of anxiety about their political prospects.

But internal strife is never good for a party’s re-election chances. Nor is staking your political brand on the pet issues of a former president whose never-all-that-healthy favorability ratings have slipped further since leaving office. Voters generally don’t respond well to lies that are easily disproved by video footage and their own memories of a national trauma.

The question that worries some Republican strategists as they look toward next year’s midterm elections is not whether the country agrees with their fears of cancellation.

It’s whether voters still believe in consequences.

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By the numbers: 1.7 million

… That’s the number of people who traveled through airports on Sunday, the most since the start of the pandemic.

… Seriously

You’re all invited to my mask burning party. Just let me dig out my lipstick first.

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