“We are a big tent party,” said House of Representatives Republican leader Kevin McCarthy. For McCarthy it was nearly a psychotic departure from reality. He was in the process of engineering the bloody removal of Liz Cheney from the No. 3 spot in his House leadership team.

It seems that under his big top ... excuse me, big tent ... there are just two species: pro-Trump and the few who must be excised in some sort of unethical cleansing. They are the few not marching in lock step with the absolute leader of the GOP, Donald Trump. That would include the Senate as well as the House, state legislatures and GOP meetings. Wherever there are Republicans, there is an effort to eliminate all those who dare challenge the emperor who is wearing no sanity. When it comes to his continuing claims that he actually won the presidential election, emperor Don is as naked as a jaybird.

The Republican party is fast becoming a totalitarian organization, likened by their most hysterical critics as national socialists. That’s hyperbole. Although, among some elements of the party, the N-word is Nazi. But most of those who were formally conscientious conservatives now coexist with white supremacist extremists and antisemitic militias. And they believe it’s Trump over all. Those who dare stray have no place in his despotism. Just ask Liz Cheney, who was Republican royalty until she was deposed and replaced by Elise Stefanik, whose political approach has been, how would you say it, “flexible.” First she was a “moderate,” and then she morphed into the most immoderate Trump supporter you ever did see.

Oh, Cheney will continue to shout her heresy. As she put it after her extraction, “I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”

I am among those who had vowed to move on and focus on the new president, Joe Biden, ignoring the Donald Trump years as a truly nightmarish horror film. But Biden has just methodically worked on repairing the devastation. Nothing sexy about that. Even though Trump has been barred from most social media, he still possesses the bully pulpit. And his ability to bully his craven leaders around is impossible to ignore, particularly when his leaders are like Kevin McCarthy, who stalwartly leads from behind.

Trump put out a statement, showing once again his belief that winning gracefully is for suckers. “Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being,” Trump wrote. Sticking the knife in as deep as it could go in conservative circles, he concluded, “I look forward to soon watching her as a paid contributor on CNN or MSDNC!”

So he still maintains the power to impose his will within the party and certainly force himself to the center of attention and cause us snivelers in the media to make him a lead story. He shared the front page with the long lines at the gas pump, the escalating Middle East war, the good news about the United States apparently emerging from the trauma of COVID, India being overwhelmed by it, and the tiger that appeared in, then disappeared from, Houston.

This is where you’d expect some cheap-shot humor, like Donald Trump once again proving that he’s not a paper tiger. That he’s a cool cat as he prowls around Mar-a-Lago, roaring and showing that his voice is not diminished, not one bit.

Instead, I will point out that Trump rules as lord and master over millions in his base, who buy his crazy “big lie” that he had the election stolen from him by a 70% margin. With that comes the power to intimidate most all of his party’s politicians, whose only remaining guiding principle is to get elected or re-elected. They’ve calculated that the best way to do that is to avoid the wrath of Trump and get rid of anybody who, like Liz Cheney, sternly warns that “down that path lies our destruction, and potentially the destruction of our country.”

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN; his opinions are his own.

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