Liz Cheney and the Republican “Gleichschaltung”


Peggy Noonan, “Liz Cheney Confronts a House of Cowards; House Republicans are about to demonstrate they can’t handle the truth about 2020 and Jan. 6, Wall Street Journal, May 6,2021 (7;11 p.m. ET).

For background, see,

“Trump and the American ‘Gleichschaltung’,” The Trenchant Observer, May 13, 2020.

There is a movement afoot in the House of Representatives to strip Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) of her post in the House Republican Leadership.  Her opponents are furiously trying to remove her because she has refused to endorse the Big Lie that Donald Trump won the November election, and that it was stolen from him by massive fraud.  Cheney survived a similar challenge a few weeks ago, but she has apparently lost the support of House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and is being challenged by a proponent of the Big Lie and everything Trump.  Cheney says she will not tell lies to keep her position.  The whole development reminds one of what took place in Germany in the 1930’s.


Adam Serwer, “Liz Cheney Has Only Herself to Blame: The representative from Wyoming is taking a stand against an authoritarian streak in the Republican Party that she helped cultivate,” The Atlantic, May 6, 2021.(1L25 p.m. ET).

The Gleichschaltung in Nazi Germany

After Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, he immediately began actions aimed at seizing absolute power.  In February he launched a terror campaign against Communists and other opponents.  The Reichstag Fire on February 27, which Hitler claimed was the work of the Communists, led the following day to the Reichstag Fire Decree, which allowed Hitler to arbitrarily arrest his opponents.  Elections were held on March 5, in which despite the terror the Nazis obtained lessthan a majority of the vote, 43.9%. In the last free elections, November 1932, the Nazis won 33% of the vote, the Social Democrats 20%, the Communist Part 17%, and the Center Party just short of 12% of the vite. (See Wikipedia, “November 1932 German federal election,” and “July 1932 German federal election.”

Nonetheless, with the support of other parties, the Reichstag or parliament adopted the Enabling Act on March 23, 1933, which gave Hitler full dictatorial powers.

He soon began implementing a policy of  “compelled political conformity” which was known as the Gleichschaltung.  During this process, university rectors, professors, political opponents, and others who did not march in lockstep with Nazi views, were removed from positions of influence or suffered worse fates.

There are many translations of the term Gleichschaltung. The German word is often used in English to refer to the specifically Nazi connotations. Among the translations are synchronization. like getting on the same frequency. In the specific historical context of Germany in the 1930’s, Gleichschaltung meant the synchronization of all views with those of the Nazi Party. The literal meaning in German is a switch to the same or identical gear or value.

How are we to understand the Republican fury directed against Liz Cheney?

She voted to impeach President Trump after the Capitol Insurrection on January 6, 2021.

She has steadfastly refused to accept “The Big Lie” that the Democrats stole the November election through fraud.

In general, she has refused to repeat the lies that have now become Republican orthodoxy.  Indeed, willingness to repeat The Big Lie and other Republican lies about the November election and the January 6 insurrection appears to have become a virtual litmus test of good standing in the Republican Party.  People like Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and Lauren Boebert (R–CO) now command attention in the party, while Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) stand aside and are silent.

Washington has moved into The Twilight Zone

Washington and the media seem to have moved into The Twilight Zone.  President Joe Biden and the Democrats are like a homeowner who can only talk about the new kitchen he us installing, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the roof, in another section of the house, is on fire.

The Democrats haven’t even indicted Trump for any of his many apparent crimes.

They are operating on “Prosecutor Time”,  like Robert Mueller did, unmindful of the fact that the nation is moving on “Political Time,” and that that time is running out for those who hope to influence the 2022 elections.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who is actively campaigning to replace Cheney in the Republican Leadership in the House, has been an ardent defender of the Big Lie and other Republican lies championed by Donald Trump and his supporters.


Colby Itkowitz, “Stefanik emphasizes support for false election claims, Trump movement ahead of leadership vote,”
Washington Post, May 6, 2021 (7:37 p.m. ET).

Catie Edmondson and Luke Broadwater, “Stefanik Resurfaces False Election Claims as She Moves to Oust Cheney; Republicans say Liz Cheney, their No. 3, is being targeted because she won’t stay quiet about Donald J. Trump’s election lies. Her would-be replacement is campaigning on them,” New York Times, May 6, 2021 (7:06 p.m. ET).

Why is there such Republican fury against Cheney and other Republican legislators who insist on telling the truth, or at least not telling lies?

The answers to this question are not logical, but rather psychological and political in nature.

To maintain the strength of a cult and of the belief system of cult members, deviation from the official beliefs of the cult cannot be permitted. When the beliefs of the cult are manifestly divorced from reality, to allow deviant views would be to allow a mortal threat to the cult’s belief system. If the belief or propaganda bubble of the cult is pierced, the beliefs in the leaders of the cult could come crashing down to the ground, and with them the entire power structure and power of the cult’s leaders.

This accounts for a phenomena whereby dissident members of a political cult or movement are often dealt with more harshly than opponents from outside the group or party.

A second psychological factor that plays a major role maintaining unity or identity of thought within a cult or a cult-like political movement is that members who have accepted, incorporated, and repeated the big lies of the cult that are at variance with observed reality, or accepted moral values they used to believe were wrong, are themselves in a state of acute cognitive dissonance.  In this state, they are torn between the irrational beliefs which they now hold and the facts and values rational people can observe or affirm. One way to reduce the stress of this cognitive dissonance is to vilify those who reject the beliefs or values of the cult’s followers.

Trumpism has become a political cult which is in many respects similar to the cult of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1930’s. Trump supporters will reject this view, which is precisely what you might suspect from members of a political cult such as that referred to.  Readers should examine the facts, and catalogue for themselves the similarities and the differences.

A third component of the cult-like behavior we are observing among the Republicans in Congress is that current Republicans unwilling to speak the truth have caved into their worst fears, that they will lose their seats and also their membership in Republican political society–future jobs, invitations to banquets and parties, personal political friends–if they oppose the cult, its most extreme spokesmen, or the cult’s leader, Donald Trump .

They have made their deals with Mephistopheles (the Devil), as it were, and they are now all locked together, synchronized, and will share  their fates with  their fellow opportunists, cult followers, and the cult leader himself.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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