Democrats Might Just Save Liz Cheney ... So, Hooray?
Donald Trump’s vengeance campaign against Rep. Liz Cheney has hit a snag. A "crossover voting" bill died Tuesday in the Wyoming House — it would’ve ended same-day party affiliation changes and prevented voters from switching parties in the three months prior to a primary election. Supporters of the bill specifically wanted to keep Democrats and independents from switching parties on Election Day and voting in Republican primaries.
For Wyoming's far right, passing a ban on crossover voting took on new importance this year. Opponents of Rep. Liz Cheney worry the practice will benefit her by allowing Trump critics to change their affiliation and vote for her.
That concern was enough that Trump himself weighed in on the matter, sending out a statement last month urging lawmakers to pass the bill. Trump took a special interest in Wyoming's House race after Cheney voted to impeach him over the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Yes, in the current upside down world, Democrats might help save Liz Cheney’s political career. That’s some sad shit but it’s where we are right now. Wyoming is the most Republican state in the nation, with a GOP advantage of plus-26. If Cheney loses the primary, no Democrat has a chance against the MAGA stooge they’d likely face in the general. Cheney’s terrible but she’s better than the reduced-for-quick-fascism-sale Republicans running now.
Trump probably only supported the crossover voting bill because he loathes Cheney, but Trump posing as a party stickler is nonetheless amusing. Cheney’s a lifelong Republican, while Trump’s as loyal to political parties as he’s been to his wives. He registered as a Republican in 1987, switched to the Reform Party in 1999, and was a registered Democrat during the George W. Bush/Dick Cheney administration. He returned to the Republican Party in 2009, perhaps in white flight from Barack Obama.
Trump’s own devotion to the GOP was so tenuous that during the 2016 primary the Republican National Committee forced him to sign a loyalty pledge binding him to support the eventual nominee and not run a third-party spoiler campaign like a common Jill Stein. That was supposed to benefit Jeb Bush — you know, the GOP’s intended eventual nominee — but once it looked like Trump was going to win the damn thing, the other GOP candidates had to hem and haw like assholes before agreeing to support the guy they’d spent months calling unstable, unfit, and a lunatic.
Oh, and Trump likely only won the GOP primary because of crossover voting. He won the majority of open primaries while losing most contests where only Republicans could vote. After Trump clinched the nomination, party leaders considered limiting or outright ending open primaries to avoid another Trump catastrophe — remember when he was supposed to lose spectacularly? Instead, the catastrophe moved into the White House.
But in a move that would sharply limit who could participate in presidential primaries, many party activists are also pushing to close Republican contests to independent voters, arguing that open primaries in some states allowed Donald J. Trump, whose conservative convictions they deeply mistrust, to become the presumptive nominee.
The political establishment is always fighting the last war. Republicans changed their primary rules after a bruising 2012 race, and it only wound up helping Trump in 2016. Trump’s hostile takeover of the GOP is now so complete that fealty to Trump is what makes someone a true Republican. Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger were almost kicked out the party Trump crashed.
Now we’re all stuck rooting for Liz Cheney. When will this nightmare end?
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."