It’s easy to write glowing editorials about Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who has openly called out former President Trump for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Her words during the first round of televised congressional hearings on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot were profound and courageous. “Tonight, I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: There will come a time when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
History may prove her to be correct. But in the immediate future, the Idaho delegation is not about to side with Cheney, or Democrats who 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 held top leadership positions in the Idaho Legislature and now have lofty committee assignments in Congress. Crapo, who has served almost 30 years in Congress, is the ranking member of the Finance Committee and once chaired the Banking Committee. Simpson, who has held his job since 1999, is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee – which has been a cash cow for Idaho’s Second District. Risch has served 13 years in the Senate and is the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. These are dream assignments for anyone in Congress.
Congressman Russ Fulcher, serving his second term, hasn’t been around long enough to be called a “survivor,” but he knows the rules of the game for longevity. Don’t be fooled, it works exactly the same for Democrats.
The first rule in the survival kit is that you don’t buck leadership. If Republican leaders say that the hearings are “political theater,” then (unless you are Liz Cheney), it’s all Phantom of the Opera. And, until further notice, Donald Trump remains as the leader of the Republican Party – with at least a fair chance of taking back the White House in 2024. Political survivors on the GOP side know better than to cross him.
Risch, a strong leader during his time as pro-tem of Idaho’s 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 being a confidant to the administration. Risch’s reward was generous access to the president, something that only a few senators have.
Crapo has made a political career of being a loyal soldier for Republicans. He slipped briefly when he pulled his endorsement of Trump a few weeks before the 2016 election, but quickly came back to the fold after heavy criticism from Republicans. He has not waivered since then.
Simpson took an even bolder approach in 2016, declaring Trump “unfit” for the presidency. He then spent the four years backing Trump, as a political survivor would do. If Simpson went along with Cheney’s approach, chances are he soon would be known as a “former” congressman. There’s a good chance that Simpson’s opponent, Bryan Smith, would have won this year’s primary election by a healthy margin.
Fulcher was the lone member of Idaho’s delegation who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results. It has not hurt him politically, even though commentators have had a field day mocking Fulcher for his stand. People in the media talk about the “big lie” that Trump has been promoting about the 2020 presidential election being stolen, but for a good number of Republicans in Idaho’s First District, it’s the “ultimate truth.”
I doubt if anyone in the delegation stands behind everything Trump has said or done, or totally agrees with his bombastic approach. Secretly, they may wish that the GOP finds another “conservative” candidate to head the presidential ticket in 2024. But if it comes down to Trump vs. President Biden in 2024, there is no question over who the delegation would support. And there’s little question that Trump would carry Idaho by a wide margin.
Political survivors like to go along with the “will of the people,” especially when conservative principles are on the line. Political survivors also like the power that goes with having their party’s candidate in the White House.
In a survivor’s world, power – and party solidarity – are the keys for getting anything of substance accomplished. For the most part, “courage” can be relegated to the short-timers.
ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at email@example.com