Opinion: Don’t shed tears for Liz Cheney

But in this era of Trump, traditional political forces have been supplanted by a blind loyalty to the standard bearer. That’s how Wyoming’s only congressman became an outcast in her own party, stripped of her House leadership position, kicked out of her state’s GOP, widely ridiculed and essentially banned for having the boldness to fight for something conservatives like her used to cherish: American democracy.
Because Cheney had the nerve to take on Donald Trump and his insurgents, the former president took on Cheney by promoting his main challenger. On Tuesday, if the polls are to be believed, Cheney will lose.

But don’t shed tears for Liz Cheney. His star has never shone so brightly.

Cheney stars in this summer’s hit TV series: The House Committee Hearings Investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. As vice president and one of only two Republicans brave enough to sit on the committee, Cheney got the lead in hearings that methodically and dramatically exposed the role Trump and his cronies played in the violent attempt to annul the election of Joe Biden.

She didn’t mince words when questioning witnesses – mostly Republicans – excoriated her fellow party members for their timidity and bluntly warned the nation that Trump posed an “internal threat” that put the republic even in danger. She boldly declared that she intended to prevent the former president from becoming a future president. Here, she could get some help from the myriad investigations into Trump’s actions, including a Justice Department investigation that led the FBI to remove top-secret and confidential documents from his Florida manse last week.

Cheney’s candor evokes a time when patriotism (sometimes) trumped partisanship and public servants (sometimes) worked across the aisle for the greater good.

Her bravery in the face of overt hostility has made this conservative conservative – the daughter of the liberal man seen as a political Darth Vader – the darling of the left. Democrats cling to her every word, elated to the point of giddy that she has become the point person for what may well be the most important congressional panel since Watergate.

Meanwhile, progressive donors are racing to fill her campaign coffers as, in desperation, the congresswoman urges non-Republicans to change their voter registration and vote for her. Unfortunately for Cheney, nearly 73% of Wyoming residents already identify as Republicans, and many have made it clear to pollsters and reporters that they despise her. (Cheney received so many security threats that, even with a special protection detail, she largely avoided campaigning in the state that sent her to Congress three times.)

Now, as she faces a potential loss, Cheney is being touted as a future presidential candidate.

But who would support her? Democrats who flatter her oppose just about everything Cheney stands for beyond Trump’s threat to the union. After all, she’s a rock-hard Republican who voted with Trump 93% of the time (and with President Biden less than 18% of the time).
Cheney has been a vocal opponent of abortion rights and an advocate for gun ownership, though she was one of 14 House Republicans to support a bipartisan child safety bill. guns in June. She opposed creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, strengthening the Voting Rights Act, and reforming the police following the murder of George Floyd. Like most of her Republican colleagues, she aspired to repeal Obamacare.

On Friday, she extended her broad opposition to Biden’s flagship initiatives, voting against legislation aimed at tackling global warming, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, raising taxes on wealthy corporations and cutting the federal deficit. Democrats passed the bill without a single Republican vote.

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When she ran for the Senate in 2013 – a race she eventually dropped out – Cheney voiced her opposition to same-sex marriage, despite her own sister having married a woman the year before. Mary Cheney said her sister was previously supportive of her relationship, insinuating she spouted anti-gay rhetoric to win votes in deep red Wyoming. (Liz Cheney has since said she was wrong.)
And while, with words and clothes, she paid tribute to women’s suffrage and to the young women who testified to Trump’s behavior on January 6, Cheney was never a reliable advocate for women’s rights. Instead, she voted against such feminist standards as pay equity, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, and protecting pregnant employees from workplace discrimination. She was the only MP from either party to oppose the creation of a women’s history museum near the National Mall. Granted, she was one of eight House Republicans who voted to protect access to contraceptives this summer, but her position is less bold than pragmatic, as it places her comfortably in the American mainstream.

It seems highly unlikely, then, that feminists who tout her fearlessness in the face of the nation’s biggest bully will catapult to the White House a candidate who has tried to thwart them at nearly every turn. Ditto for progressives who love his heroism but hate his politics. Perhaps some moderate Republican women and men would support her, but they are little more than a fading memory in a party now dominated by Trump loyalists.

That leaves the conservatives, the reliable voters who elected her in the past, who elected her father, Dick Cheney, to the seat she now holds and who stuck with him when he was the controversial vice-president of George W. Bush. To win the GOP nomination for president (or any other elected office), Cheney needs his party’s grassroots conservative voters. But most Republican voters are no longer Cheney people. They are Trumpists.

Could she win them back? Over Trump’s corpse.

Still, don’t write off Cheney just yet. She lacks neither courage nor nerve. He is a formidable opponent.

Even if it loses this week, it will return to US living rooms in September, in the much-anticipated new season of January 6 panel hearings. She could, as her admirers predict, sacrifice her political future to save the republic. All in all, not a bad compromise. Then again, maybe she – with the help of other democracy lovers – can save them both.

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