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Cheney vows to thwart a 2nd Trump presidency. How strong is Trump's grip on the GOP?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Liz Cheney was defiant as she lost her seat in the House of Representatives this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIZ CHENEY: I have said since January 6 that I will do whatever it takes to ensure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office. And I mean it.

INSKEEP: OK, so what could she do? Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch and a regular guest here.

Welcome back, sir.

JONAH GOLDBERG: Always great to be here.

INSKEEP: How much of her party does Liz Cheney represent?

GOLDBERG: Oh, I think there's probably, I don't know, 15, 20% that will say out loud that they admire her and agree with her. And there's probably maybe a little bit more, you know, that would say it in private but don't want to say it out loud. And then there are a bunch of people who might agree with her on on some level, but also find her, you know, collaboration with the enemy, so to speak, to be unacceptable. And then there's just all the Trump people who despise her.

INSKEEP: Let's talk about that one group, the people who talk about the collaboration with the enemy. These are - like, let's not overgeneralize, but we're talking about people who know what happened on January 6, but simply regard Democrats as so unacceptable that they're still with Trump. I mean, William Barr comes to mind.

GOLDBERG: Yeah, no, that's right. There's - there were a large group of people who can maintain the cognitive dissonance of saying January 6 was bad but that it does not speak to any fundamental problem with the GOP, that Donald Trump was responsible for it, that there are lots of people who think it was good. This is the problem I have with a lot of the stuff on the right these days, is that there is a remarkably big tent for, you know, what I would call an increasingly lunatic fringe, and there is no room at the end for people like Liz Cheney who just simply say, this was a bridge too far, and I want nothing to do with it.

People forget that Liz Cheney basically was more like Mitch McConnell until January 6. She played the game, and she voted with Trump. She, you know, criticized when she thought she absolutely had to, but otherwise stayed silent and was a loyal soldier. And so that's what's so infuriating about so much of this, is people are basically saying because she was so offended by January 6, she has to go. Why can't she work with the system? She was working with the system, but then she said this is too much. And I think she was right to. I mean, I wish she was critical a little earlier, but it's amazing that this is the litmus test now.

INSKEEP: Well, what is the path forward then for someone like her who is conservative and who considers Trump essentially not conservative, not acceptable? What can she do? Can she run as an independent for president? What could she do?

GOLDBERG: Well, she can run as an independent, but I don't really just see the path how she actually runs successfully. Similarly, she could run in the Republican primaries if the Trump establishment lets there actually be primaries. But I don't see a path in 2024 for her getting elected as a Republican or really as an independent anywhere. This is going to be her wilderness period in the sense that I don't think she can get elected to anything for a while, but she could be a very powerful spokesperson for her issues.

INSKEEP: Wow. There's a clause there that we have to pick up on another time - if the Trump establishment allows primaries. That's something to think about. Jonah, thanks so much.

GOLDBERG: Thank you for having me.

INSKEEP: Jonah Goldberg is editor-in-chief of The Dispatch.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.