Liz Cheney will be gone from Congress but not forgotten
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) lost a Republican primary to keep her seat this week and will soon be gone from Congress, but she will not be forgotten for her fight for principle over party.
Former President Donald Trump has won some and lost some GOP primary races in which he’s endorsed candidates, but he took down his most prominent Republican antagonist Tuesday when Cheney lost her chance to serve again in Congress by more than a two-to-one margin.
Her defeat means only two of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump still have a chance to get back to Congress for the next session. The Republican caucus room in the next session of the U.S. House of Representatives will not be a kinder and gentler place especially with a GOP leader like Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) who comes to heel when Trump barks.
Her defeat and the forced retirements of her anti-Trump colleagues is a clear illustration of Trump’ stranglehold over the GOP. Trump’s success may snatch defeat from the jaws of Republican victory in November.
While Trump’s hold on Republicans is firm, his standing with Americans is shaky. Four out of five Republicans have a favorable opinion of him, but most independents and four-fifths of the Democrats dislike him, according to a new national survey for the Economist completed Wednesday.
The former president’s purge of his opponents in the party is going well, but the GOP could pay the price in November.
The disgraced former president has triumphed in GOP primaries, but his acolytes like Dr. Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania and former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia are not performing well with less than three months until the November midterm elections. Things in Pennsylvania are so bad that the Cook Political Report has just moved the Senate race there from “toss-up” to “lean Democratic.” The Republican campaign for control of Congress is in jeopardy because of Trump’s success in the primaries and his failure to keep a low profile.
Election deniers and sordid political riffraff have a home in the GOP, but Cheney who put integrity over party is out in the cold. In a hyper-partisan environment without a center, she’s stuck in no man’s land.
It’s hard to believe that Cheney won’t have a prominent political future. As the daughter of two-term Vice President Dick Cheney and as the most prominent member of the House Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection, she is a national figure.
But it’s also difficult to imagine what that role could be.
Her opposition to Trump has made her persona non grata in the GOP. The Economist poll indicated that two out of three Republicans dislike her.
Most Democrats have a favorable opinion of her because of her hostility toward Trump. But her traditionally conservative opposition to an aggressive and progressive federal government is a problem for most members of that party. She, like all her GOP congressional colleagues, voted against the landmark Inflation Reduction Act, which increases corporate taxes and constitutes an energetic government challenge to the climate crisis and the excessive cost of prescription drugs.
But she has made it clear that she aims to hound Trump all the way to hell and back. So, she has threatened to campaign for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination to drive the final nail in Trump’s coffin. If she runs for president and loses while taking Trump down, her political career will end in a blaze of glory, and she will have done a great service to the nation.
She has little chance to win the nomination. If former Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s (R) failed GOP primary campaign in 2016 is an indication, her presidential primary prospects are limited. She might even have a tough time getting debate invitations and ballot access. But she could make Trump’s life miserable during the campaign. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), another Republican who may be eyeing a White House bid, would mostly likely love to have her on the debate stage to take Trump down.
Cheney’s message for her presidential campaign would likely be that Trump is a threat to traditional Republican conservative principles. He was an aggressive chief executive in a party that formerly valued limited government and states’ rights. He has made a mockery of conservative devotion to the sanctity of the Constitution with his attempt to subvert the outcome of the 2020 election.
In short, she should argue that Trump is just a demagogue without a conservative compass. That would be an effective message for traditional Republicans. But this is not her father’s Republican Party anymore. The GOP is now the party of Trump idolatry not conservative ideology.
Cheney plans to use the millions of dollars left over from her failed congressional campaign to create an anti-Trump organization. She could use her leftover campaign cash to mount independent expenditure campaigns against the GOP true believers who accept Trump’s Big Lie. Her group is yet unnamed. I would call it “Conservatives Against Chaos, Carnage and Corruption.” Conservatives value order and America has been in disorder since Trump entered the political arena.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, “Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon,” airs on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon