Zakaria: Republicans Care More About Tribal Loyalty Than Conservative Principles
The Republican Party’s decision (in effect) to excommunicate Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) is a watershed event. It marks the final transformation of the party from an ideologically driven enterprise to one that is tribal, marked less by ideas and more by group loyalty.
Let’s compare the voting records of Cheney to the woman who is set to replace her as chair of the House Republican Conference, Elise Stefanik of New York. The American Conservative Union gives Cheney a lifetime score of 78 (out of 100) for her consistent conservatism. Stefanik gets a lifetime rating of 44, which is one of the lowest scores for a House Republican these days. But Stefanik has pledged fealty to Trump and his “big lie” about fraud in the 2020 election, while Cheney will not. And Republicans these days care more about tribal loyalty than conservative principles.
This is a big shift. During the 20th century, the party evolved from a country club for wealthy elites (itself a kind of tribe) into a party animated by ideas. The struggle began in the 1950s. As National Review publisher William Rusher once noted, “modern American conservatism largely organized itself during, and in explicit opposition to, the Eisenhower administration.”