The Spectacle of the G.O.P.'s Shrinking Tent

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On May 12, House Republicans voted to remove Representative Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House, from her leadership post. Her transgression? Vocally rebuking the claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.

But Cheney’s ouster is just the latest plot development in a story about the contemporary G.O.P. that goes back farther than Nov. 3, 2020, and even Nov. 8, 2016. Over the past decade, the party has decimated its former leadership class. John Boehner and Paul Ryan were pushed out. Eric Cantor lost in the primaries. George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and John McCain were viciously attacked by Donald Trump and his supporters. Cheney is just the latest victim of this ongoing party purge, and she certainly won’t be the last.

So how did the Republican Party get here? And what does that tell us about its future — and the future of American democracy?

Nicole Hemmer is the author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics,” an associate research scholar with the Obama Presidency Oral History Project and a host of the podcasts “Past/Present” and “This Day in Esoteric Political History.” A political historian by training, she has followed the development of the contemporary Republican Party as closely as anyone, with specific attention to the role right-wing media has played in the party’s development.

We discuss how Republican Party loyalty has morphed into unwavering fealty to Donald Trump; whether the G.O.P. is a postpolicy party; the vicious feedback loop between the G.O.P. base, right-wing media and Republican politicians; how the party of Lincoln became a party committed to minority rule; Hemmer’s grim outlook on what the current G.O.P.’s behavior will mean for the future of American democracy; and much more.

Mentioned in the episode:

"Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics" by Nicole Hemmer

Living in the World of Pants-on-Fire Lies,” by Nicole Hemmer, CNN

George W. Bush Is a Flawed Messenger for Republicans,” by Nicole Hemmer, CNN


"Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America" by Kathleen Belew

"Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex and Gender in the Twentieth Century" by Charles King

"The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr. and the Debate Over Race in America" by Nicholas Buccola

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein.

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“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld, audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin.

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