In the latest example of the growing divisions in the US ruling class, House Republicans voted yesterday to remove Liz Cheney from leadership as her caucus’s Conference chair. An unambiguously staunch conservative, Cheney fully agrees with the pro-business, pro-war, socially conservative values that have long dominated the Republican Party. But on the question that now matters most—for or against Donald Trump—she has broken with her party, and is now paying the price.
Following Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 general election and the subsequent assault on the Capitol on January 6, a layer of Republicans considered capitalizing on the fall-out to move against him. In addition to Cheney, politicians such as Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy took the opportunity to come out more openly against Trump than they had over the previous four years. McConnell, for instance, penned an opinion piece  stating that Trump bore “moral responsibility” for the storming of the Capitol. But they faced quick and severe retaliation from their voter base and—with the exception of Cheney—quickly  re-pledged  their loyalty to the former president.
As we explained at the time , this represented a significant development in the ongoing civil war in the Republican Party—itself an expression of the global crisis of capitalism that is causing international political polarization and divisions in the ruling class. Trump has tapped into the widespread, legitimate anger that has emerged after decades of declining living standards, and he now controls the base of the Republican Party.
Cheney’s “principled stand”
Cheney, until yesterday the third-ranking Republican leader in the House, chose to lean into her break with Trump, taking the accusations against her head-on. Since the election, she consistently defended the fact that Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president, which has rapidly eroded support for her among both her colleagues and her voter base. That approach culminated with a campaign by her peers in recent weeks to remove her from leadership.
Speaking to House Republicans on Tuesday night, she said that she “will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.” Then, yesterday, she gave a “defiant” parting speech, warning  of “possibly the destruction of our country.” The handful of her colleagues who bothered to show up for the session responded with boos and a swift vote to oust her from leadership.
Cheney later told reporters that she is ready to “lead the fight” against Trump’s influence, stating, “I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”
Undoubtedly, Cheney imagines that she will go down in history as a principled defender of “democracy and freedom,” unafraid to uphold the Constitution despite the immense political pressure put on her. In fact, if they are remembered at all, she and her ilk of pre-Trump Republicans will be remembered for their vicious attacks on the world working class and their impotence as they faded from popularity in the Trump era.
The so-called center cannot hold
House Republicans will elect a replacement for Cheney later this week. Most likely, pro-Trump Representative Elise Stefanik of New York will be her successor, a telling indication of where the party is going. Stefanik’s rise provides a striking case study of the growth of Trumpism—not to mention the crude calculus inherent to bourgeois politics.
In 2016, as Donald Trump’s ascent in the Republican Party was just beginning, the young Republican hopeful, a Harvard graduate, was too embarrassed to even say his name, timidly endorsing—as she put it —“[her] party’s nominee.” Just five years later, she is one of Trump’s most ardent supporters, growing in popularity after she zealously embraced the effort to disavow the election. Like her fellow Harvard alumnus Ted Cruz, who also used to oppose Trump, she evidently recalculated her political approach sometime after the 2016 election, cynically reinventing herself as a champion of blue-collar America.
On the other side of the raging war, over 100 establishment Republicans are preparing to release a letter  threatening to split from the party “if [they] can’t get the GOP back to a rational party that supports free minds, free markets, and free people.” That follows Trump’s passing comments in January about forming a new “Patriot Party.” So pronounced is the rift within the Republicans that both sides have openly threatened to create a new party!
Liberal commentators have argued that more GOP politicians need to muster the political courage to put their foot down, reject Trump, and stop this trajectory. To them, restoring normalcy is a simple matter of politicians “doing the right thing” and resisting the pressures of their base, and they are delighted to see Cheney’s rejection of Trump.
This approach, however, cannot possibly stop the rising polarization in the United States and the rise of Trump in particular. It is precisely the “normalcy” of the past few decades that has caused the current instability. The establishments of both parties are now thoroughly discredited in the eyes of millions. So while they may garner some applause from the liberal pundits, those few “principled” Republicans who resist the tide of Trumpism will ultimately be doomed to political irrelevance.
Fight for a mass socialist party!
For well over a century, the “Grand Old Party” was an apparently permanent fixture on the American political landscape, a shining example and model for the capitalists of the world. For decades, it effortlessly enjoyed a mass base of support. It is now in a prolonged death agony, subject to convulsions, crisis, and instability—like the economic system it defends. Its precise fate remains to be seen, but whether it is transformed fully into a party of Trumpism, trundles along as “Trumpism-lite,” or is displaced altogether, the glory days of the “moderate, respectable” Republican Party are dead and buried.
Just a few months later, those convulsions have again burst to the surface, and socialists must carefully analyze these developments. The two-party system—a key pillar of bourgeois control for over a century—is out of equilibrium. If the capitalists lose control of the Republicans, they will be left with only one reliable political leg to stand on. But the Democrats, too, are based on an unholy cross-class electoral coalition that could hemorrhage large numbers to the left if a bold class-independent lead were given.
Only one force in society can pump the breaks and put an end to this madness: the organized working class. According to a recent poll, 62% of Americans  believe we need a new major party. The potential is there. The urgent task of the labor movement is to split Trump’s base by forming a mass socialist party with an objectively pro-worker program. Until a clear working-class lead is given, the monster of Trumpism will continue to grow, distorting and prolonging what is at root the class polarization of society.