By: Lokelani Wilder
This week House Republican leaders removed Representative Liz Cheney (Wyoming) from the number three minority leadership position and moved to replace her with Representative Elise Stefanik (New York). There are two elements of this replacement that should come as no surprise – the Republicans are attempting to replace Cheney with a woman and by a Donald Trump loyalist. Republicans do not want to risk losing female voters and they are gambling that Stefanik may appeal to some of those voters and save them. Here in Hawaii, women outnumber men by 30,000 and represent the state’s largest voting bloc. Despite being the largest bloc, we unfortunately make up only 30 percent of our state’s government. This number is declining due to the pandemic as women make sacrifices to stay home to tend to their families. We need more voices not fewer. Liz Cheney’s removal is a move in the wrong direction.
House Republican leaders describe a desire for party unity as the justification for Cheney’s removal. They complain that Cheney will not stop talking about the election and that the election is an issue that Americans deem no longer important. The problem is that Donald Trump will not stop talking about the stolen election and this talk keeps Cheney in the fight defending in her view an assault on the rule of law and democratic principles.
Despite electing Biden, in 2020, the nation voted against the establishment – McConnell and Pelosi – and blamed Congress for some of their woes. Not as much as they blamed Trump. 56 percent of Biden’s voters in 2020, said they were voting for him because he simply was not Trump. There was a lot of animosity in the country toward Donald Trump and there still is a lot of animosity. Republicans in the House are severely misreading the signs of their base.
With Cheney, we got a few things. We got a very conservative politician who appeals to women voters – the nation’s largest voting demographic. We got name recognition. Dick Cheney might have been establishment himself and infamously nicknamed Darth Vader, but he was ruthlessly efficient. He was smart. Liz Cheney is not her father; but she has certainly had a front row seat to learn from her father’s successes and his failures. Liz Cheney has the potential to be better leader than her father. You also must remember that Dick Cheney supported Donald Trump. He was one of the few Republican national leaders to publicly endorse the former President. Other former national Republican leaders largely did not.
The Cheney’s and Trump are mentally and politically closer aligned that this current conflict alludes. What differs is their methodologies and that is the genesis of their conflict and is the roots of Cheney’s removal.
Republicans in Hawaii have struggled since the 1950s, as labor unions increasingly organized workers in once numerous sugar and pineapple plantations. Democrats first swept into power that decade ushered in a minimum hourly wage and more spending on education. In later decades they pursued reforms that boosted middle class land ownership and mandates for employer-provided health insurance. All of these are persistent Democrat platforms today. In recent years, electoral losses, and multiple defections by elected Republican women lawmakers to the Democratic Party have whittled the party’s numbers further. In 2017, Republicans in the state House demanded the resignation of their minority leader, Beth Fukumoto, after she criticized misogynistic remarks by President Donald Trump. She quit the party soon after and joined the Democrats, leaving House Republicans with just five members. In some ways, Liz Cheney is the latest Beth Fukumoto.
Conservative women in Hawaii are typically opposed to excessive taxation and abortion. We support the rights of gay people but have opposed redefining marriage. We often must fight against the stereotypes that a Republican win equates to erosion of women’s rights and access to health care. Additionally, we need to fight against the stereotypes that we are a party aligned to largely haole plantation owners before statehood. As we fight against these stereotypes, our own party platform learns, evolves, and becomes much more inclusive. One will find Hawaii’s Republican Party today to be a true rainbow and no different demographically than our Democrat counterparts. Conservative women in Hawaii want women who strongly fight for the things we believe both as a party and as individual women. We want freedom and choices. What we the Conservative women in Hawaii will remain focused on is making incremental changes to provide the state of Hawaii with a choice provided through a viable two-party system where all our views and all our voices, like Liz Cheney’s, can continue to be heard.