By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – “Liz Cheney spoke truth to power and for that she is being fired,” says Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, just the latest Democrat to make hay out of the imminent GOP purge of one of their own leaders over her efforts to distance her party from former President Trump.

And worried Republicans are on the defensive. “Until we become a party that is willing to engage in the issues of the day, our answer not ‘no’ on policy, we’re going to struggle,” says Sen. Mike Braun (R-Indiana).

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Yet that’s exactly where D.C. Republicans are these days, saying “no” to popular elements of President Biden’s agenda and “shut up or get out” to one of their leading advocates of a break with the former president over his persistent falsehoods about the “stolen” election.

“They’re going to get rid of Liz Cheney because they’d much rather pretend that the conspiracy is either real or not confront it than to actually confront it and maybe have to take the temporary licks to save this party and in the long term this country,” says Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois).

Meanwhile, although Trump remains popular among a huge majority of the GOP, his approval ratings have sunk to new lows overall. At the same time, Biden’s pandemic management is winning high marks across the board, even drawing 47% approval among Republicans in a new AP/NORC poll.

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No wonder Democrats are eager to help their adversaries dig their political hole ever deeper.

Says Schumer: “Republicans are seeking to perpetrate and act upon the big lie that the election was stolen, simply to placate, maybe please, the most dishonest president in American history.”

Some historical context: it’s not unusual for a former president to retain the allegiance of much of their party after they leave office and seek to retain a degree of power. Think of the Bush family fending off competition and seeing George W. Bush win the nomination eight years after his father was defeated, and the Clintons trying repeatedly to return to power after the Bush years.

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But those contests were about ideas and the future as well as personalities. The current Republican upheaval is about past grievances at a time when it seems like most voters want to look forward, and that’s a tough brand for a political party to sell.

Jon Keller