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Liz Cheney Goes Out Swinging
Sorry, this is still bad news.
In the end, it wasn’t close. Rep. Liz Cheney lost her seat Tuesday in the Wyoming Republican primary. Donald Trump-endorsed candidate Harriet Hageman crushed Cheney 68.3 percent to 28.9 percent. Hageman carried every county but Albany and Teton.
Cheney conceded defeat in the primary but not in the larger battle against Trumpism: "This primary election is over. But now the real work begins.”
Cheney was a hardcore conservative who voted with Trump 93 percent of the time. She’s voted against abortion rights, voting rights, queer rights, and most gun safety bills. This matters because she received the Thomas More treatment for refusing to take the oath of Trump supremacy. This isn’t 2010 when incumbent Republicans were primaried by rightwing Tea Party candidates. This is a MAGA purge.
Cheney condemned Trump in her concession speech — first by simply conceding the election she obviously lost without claiming it was “rigged” or “stolen.” Then, she directly called out Trump as an existential threat to democracy.
From the New York Times:
It was just two years ago that Representative Liz Cheney won a primary with 73 percent of the vote — a point she reminded her supporters of in her concession speech on Tuesday night in Wyoming.
“I could easily have done the same again,” she said. “The path was clear. But it would have required that I go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election. It would have required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic.”
“That was a path I could not and would not take.”
Yes, Cheney is financially secure and has only lost access to power, but she is also one of the few Republicans willing to make that small sacrifice. Her replacement as House Republican conference chair, Elise Stefanik, easily prioritized her ambition over the truth.
Cheney was a reliably partisan Republican who’d smeared Democrats as the party of “anti-semitism, infanticide, and socialism.” Ironically, this was why I felt a brief glimmer of hope on January 6, when she unequivocally denounced Trump’s attempted coup:
CHENEY: We just had a violent mob assault the Capitol in an attempt to prevent those from carrying out our Constitutional duty. There is no question that the President formed the mob, the President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob. He lit the flame.
“We just had a violent mob assault the Capitol in an attempt to prevent those from carrying out our Constitutional duty. There is no question that the President formed the mob, the President incited the mob, the President addressed the mob. He lit the flame.”
— Rep. Liz Cheney (@Rep. Liz Cheney) 1609979119
Many of us thought the nightmare was finally over. Liz Cheney — who’d voted for Trump in the last election — had enough. Other Republicans would surely follow. They didn’t, and with just a few exceptions, Cheney ultimately stood alone. The undeniable fact is that if more Republicans were like Cheney, Donald Trump would’ve been impeached and convicted by a bipartisan consensus of the people he’d just tried to kill. Sure, Republicans would’ve moved on to someone awful like Ron DeSantis but at least the Trump threat would’ve been neutralized. Instead, within days, even so-called “normal” Republicans like Rep. Nancy Mace were refusing to hold Trump accountable.
Mace also disproves the fiction that Cheney could’ve remained on Trump’s good side if she’d just shut up about the Big Lie. Trump (unsuccessfully) tried to end Mace’s career simply because she’d made slightly critical comments about his insurrection.Trump rejected Rep. Mo Brooks when he suggested “moving on” from the 2020 election.
Cheney is now the fourth pro-impeachment Republican who’s lost her primary. Four others, like Rep. Adam Kinzinger, are retiring. That leaves just two survivors, David Valadao from California and Dan Newhouse from Washington. (Both states have a nonpartisan primary system, although that wasn’t enough to save Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler from Trump’s wrath.)
I’ll hardly mourn Cheney’s loss but I don’t think it’s anything to celebrate. Trump obviously relished Cheney’s eventual banishment from Congress. He wrote on Truth Social: “Now, she can finally disappear into the depths of political oblivion where, I am sure, she will be much happier than she is right now."
Former Congress member Tulsi Gabbard, now a guest host for Tucker Carlson’s white power hour, also gloat-tweeted: "It appears that Liz Cheney, one of the GOP's chief warmongers, is about to lose. This is good news for every American regardless of party.” Wow, imagine having less integrity than Dick Cheney’s daughter! If Cheney is a “warmonger” (a Trump talking point, as well), Hageman is hardly an anti-war activist. She’lljust provide cover for dictators, like Trump and Gabbard. That’s not giving peace a chance. It’s abandoning any moral obligation to our allies.
Cheney is a terrible politician who ultimately stood up to her party’s fascism. We can kid ourselves and claim there’s no difference between Cheney-ism and Trump-ism but Cheney-ism doesn’t burn down your house when it loses an election. Most of us should remember the difference between 2012 and 2020. Whenever a Republican who opposes Trump is defeated, the party only becomes more radicalized and dangerous. You don’t have to like Liz Cheney to understand that’s bad news.
Follow Stephen Robinson on Twitter.
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