Blog post

Liz Cheney’s defense of democracy needs a political strategy

Comment

Two years ago, Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney was on her way to becoming the future Speaker of the House. She was the third House Republican with a completely safe seat. She lost that job in the House Republican conference and has now lost her seat entirely. All because she decided to stand with the Constitution and the republic, and against the crimes of a republican president.

An underrated factor in Cheney’s rise and fall was that she was still a national politician who snagged a seat in Wyoming. She was born in Wisconsin, went to high school near Washington, DC, and went to the University of Colorado before starting a Washington-based career in government and Republican politics. Indeed, his first attempt to win a post in Wyoming — a short-lived 2014 primary challenge for Republican Sen. Mike Enzi — struggled with all-in charges. In 2016, she managed to overcome this to win the vacant House seat, but she still focused on national, not local, political issues. She never made the kind of deep connections that many MPs have in their own constituencies.

Even his dad, who was definitely from Wyoming, didn’t really spend much time in the state after college, especially after he represented the state in the House from 1979 to 1989. He too entered politics in as national, not local, politician. There’s nothing wrong with that at all; so have many congressional leaders. But the weaker the district’s ties, the more likely the representative is vulnerable to upheaval. She won her election as a strong Republican partisan; she lost last night as one of the only Republicans in Washington to oppose the last Republican president.

She campaigned as a national candidate against Trump, not as a local politician at all; its final two-minute commercial was explicitly aimed at both national and state audiences. This was not about a candidate running as a “proxy” – a representative asking the electorate to trust her to make decisions on their behalf. She wasn’t even a candidate running against her opponents, whom she barely mentioned, as irresponsible opponents of democracy. Instead, Cheney was essentially asking Republicans to use their vote to oppose a former president who wasn’t even on the ballot. This is going to be a tough sell, even if Republican voters had serious doubts about Trump.

Whether she was seriously seeking re-election or not, Cheney’s advocacy of democracy and the rule of law was superb, as were her contributions to the Jan. 6 select committee.

She now pledges to continue her fight against Trump, perhaps with a presidential candidacy. However, it’s hard to see how Republican primary turnout would achieve its goals if Trump runs in 2024. An explicit anti-Trump nominee would appear to have no chance of being nominated. On the contrary, such a campaign would likely split the anti-Trump vote and help it win.

A third-party anti-Trump candidate in the general election might have more success. In 2000, Ralph Nader focused his third-party campaign on contested states, and in those states he worked to secure the votes of those who would otherwise support Democratic candidate Al Gore. But even if Cheney were willing to campaign to elect a Democrat over Trump, it would still be a tricky proposition because she could end up winning votes that would otherwise have gone to the Democratic nominee. A true Nader-type anti-Trump candidate would more likely ignore Trump’s crimes and misdemeanors and campaign solely on extremely conservative political preferences, hoping to weed out some Republicans who might be tempted to vote for a true conservative.

Curiously, Cheney’s father was on his way to becoming Speaker of the House when his own career path was changed in 1989; Dick Cheney was the second House Republican behind a soon-to-retire party leader, but became George HW Bush’s backup secretary of defense when Bush’s first choice was defeated in the Senate. Additionally, Dick Cheney’s greatest accomplishment during his House career was also serving on a select committee, in his case the one investigating the Iran-Contra affair – and his role was to limit damages. investigation policies, not to help make it effective. . It certainly doesn’t seem likely at this point that Liz Cheney will become cabinet secretary, let alone vice president or president. But as hard as it is to see a next step that would help her fix the Republican Party and rekindle her commitment to the constitution and the rule of law, she may actually end up having the most important political career ever. anyway.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and politics. A former political science professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University, he wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.

More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion