Idaho congressional delegation won’t follow Liz Cheney’s lead

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Vice President's Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., delivers opening remarks as the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to release its findings of year-long investigation, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Vice President’s Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., delivers opening remarks as the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to release its findings of year-long investigation, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 21, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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It’s easy to write glowing editorials about Liz Cheney, Congresswoman from Wyomingwho openly denounced former President Trump for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

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chuck malloy

His words during the first round of congressional televised hearings on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot were profound and courageous. “Tonight I say this to my fellow Republicans who defend the indefensible: There will come a time when Donald Trump will be gone, but your dishonor will remain.”

History can prove her right. But in the immediate term, the Idaho delegation is not about to side with Cheney or the Democrats who have spent four years trying to figure out how to remove Trump from office.

Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and Congressman Mike Simpson are political survivors. All have held leadership positions in the Idaho Legislature and now have senior committee assignments in Congress. Crapo, who served nearly 30 years in Congress, is the senior member of the Finance Committee and chaired the Banking Committee. Simpson, who has held the position since 1999, is a senior member of the appropriations committee — who has been a cash cow for Idaho’s Second District. Risch served 13 years in the Senate and is the senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee. These are dream assignments for anyone in Congress.

Congressman Russ Fulcher, now in his second term, hasn’t been around long enough to be called a “political survivor,” but he knows the rules of the longevity game. Make no mistake, it works exactly the same for Democrats.

The first rule of the survival kit is not to upset the leadership. If Republican leaders say the hearings are “political theater,” then (unless you’re Liz Cheney), it’s all Phantom of the Opera. And, until further notice, Donald Trump remains leader of the Republican Party — with at least a good chance of reclaiming the White House in 2024. Political survivors on the GOP side know better than to contradict him.

Risch, a strong leader during his time as acting president of the Idaho Senate, knows all about political pecking orders. He was not going to use his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to openly disagree with Trump. Risch thought he could be more effective as an administration confidant. Risch’s reward was generous access to the president, which only a few senators have.

Crapo made a political career out of being a loyal soldier for the Republicans. He slipped briefly when he got his approval of Trump a few weeks before the 2016 election, but quickly returned to the fold after heavy criticism from Republicans. He hasn’t hesitated since.

Simpson took an even bolder approach in 2016, saying Trump “unfit” for the presidency. He then spent the four years supporting Trump, as a political survivor would. If Simpson accepted Cheney’s approach, there’s a good chance he’ll soon be known as a “former” congressman. Chances are that Simpson’s opponent, Bryan Smith, would have won this year’s primary election by a healthy margin.

Fulcher was the only member of the Idaho delegation who voted against certification the results of the 2020 presidential election. It didn’t hurt him politically, though commentators had fun poking fun at Fulcher for his stance. The media talks about the “big lie” Trump is promoting about stealing the 2020 presidential election, but for a good number of Republicans in Idaho’s First District, it’s the “ultimate truth.”

I doubt anyone in the delegation supports anything Trump has said or done, or fully agrees with his bombastic approach. Secretly, they may want the GOP to find another “conservative” candidate to lead the presidential ticket in 2024. But if it’s Trump vs. President Biden in 2024, there’s no doubt who. the delegation would support. And there is no doubt that Trump would win Idaho by a wide margin.

Political Survivors like to follow the “will of the people,” especially when conservative principles are at stake. Political Survivors also like the power that comes with having their party’s nominee in the White House.

In a world of survivors, power – and party solidarity – are the keys to accomplishing anything substantial. For the most part, “courage” can be relegated to short-timers.

[email protected] Chuck Malloy is a longtime journalist and columnist from Idaho. He can be contacted at [email protected]

This story was originally published June 21, 2022 1:34 p.m.

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