Rep. Liz Cheney is about to lose her day job. If so, she’s totally fine with that.
Cheney, a third-term Republican from Wyoming, throws himself into Tuesday’s Cowboy State primary, defiantly embracing the message that has caused the conservative response brewing to oust her: namely that former President Trump, with his baseless claims of a “stolen” election, poses an existential threat to the country’s democratic foundations and should be barred from holding office in the future.
That argument, combined with Cheney’s national fame, has made her both the public face of the anti-Trump movement and an outcast in the eyes of MAGA believers, including those in ruby Wyoming, where the former president remains wildly popular.
Some recent polls have Cheney’s challenger – an election denier named Harriet Hageman – by nearly 30 points.
The Cheney name has been revered in conservative Wyoming circles for decades; the seat she holds was once taken by her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney. And two years ago, the thought of losing that chair would have laughed at Laramie.
Then came last year’s attack on the Capitol—a riot aimed at undoing Trump’s electoral defeat. Since then, Cheney has pursued the 45th president with crusader fervor, becoming one of only 10 House Republicans to support Trump’s second impeachment, which found him responsible for inciting the insurrection, and then joined the select Jan. 6 committee that overturned the rampage. examined.
It was then, political experts say, that Cheney decided that fighting Trump and his election lies was more important than keeping her job in Congress.
“She’s almost certainly toast,” said David Barker, a political scientist at American University. “My guess is that she knew the moment she decided to actually join the Jan. 6 committee and was chasing the president that way.”
“She hasn’t just been a passive member of the committee,” Barker added. “She really led the whole load and does it in the most provocative and high-profile ways.”
Cheney, as vice-chair of the select committee, was indeed the most prominent figure in the panel’s eight public hearings this summer. And heading into the final stretch of what appears to be a doomed campaign for a fourth term in office, Cheney isn’t evading the anti-Trump sentiment that has put her in hot water with Wyoming voters. She amplifies it.
“America cannot remain free if we give up the truth. The lie that the 2020 presidential election has been stolen is insidious — it preys on those who love their country,” Cheney said in a video released Thursday. “It is a door that Donald Trump opened to manipulate Americans into giving up their principles, sacrificing their freedom, justifying violence, ignoring the rulings of our courts and the rule of law.
“This is Donald Trump’s legacy, but it cannot be the future of our nation.”
Cheney is 56 years old and her own legacy – along with her political future – remains uncertain. But that much is clear: she’s both bet on the idea that by challenging the most popular figure in her own party, she can prevent him from running for president again. In that campaign, she essentially argues that the GOP needs to be saved from itself – and she will either be the one doing it, or try hard.
“She faced a binary choice between doing what she thought was right and necessary, after Jan. 6, and continuing her political career in the Republican Party,” said Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. And unlike most politicians, she made a pure and honorable choice. And she is clearly prepared to bear the consequences.”
In a last-ditch effort to gain ground in Tuesday’s primaries, Cheney sent out a public endorsement from her father last week. Appearing in a cowboy hat, Dick Cheney questioned Trump’s masculinity, calling the former president “a coward” who “tried to steal the last election with lies and violence.”
“In the 246-year history of our nation, there has never been a person who poses a greater threat to our Republic than Donald Trump,” he said in a statement. the minute-long ad.
Yet 70 percent of voters in Wyoming voted for Trump in 2020 — the highest number of any state in the country. And even the appeals of a state agency like Dick Cheney aren’t expected to save his daughter in Tuesday’s race. The experts say the simple reason is that the GOP, as the old guard power brokers like Dick Cheney knew, no longer exists.
“Donald Trump carried out a hostile and irreversible takeover of the Republican Party,” Galston said. “The Reagan party that appealed to so many of the now middle-aged or even aging Republican conservatives in the 1980s and 1990s is gone. It’s not coming back.”
Cheney is hardly alone among GOP lawmakers to suffer politically for clashing publicly with Trump over the January 6 attack. Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year, only two are in line to return in the next Congress. Four others are retiring, while three others lost their primaries to Trump-backed conservatives who backed his false election claims.
Cheney, out of 10, is the last outstanding race and the outcome seems certain.
“Yes, he won — at least in the short term,” Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), one of the impeachment support retirees, told WGN-TV in Chicago last week. “There’s no point in pretending I somehow won a big win and saved the party.”
For Trump’s allies, the former president remains a heroic figure – the most exciting force in the GOP that launched the populist movement that overthrew Hillary Clinton and continues to fuel expectations that Republicans will reverse control of the House in November’s midterm elections. . In that light, Cheney, Kinzinger and the other Trump critics are seen as renegades from the greater cause of gaining power.
In February, the Republican National Committee took the remarkable step of reprimanding both Cheney and Kinzinger for their involvement in the Jan. 6 investigation. It said the two “participated in a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse.”
Cheney’s likely defeat on Tuesday has sparked much speculation about potential next steps, including the possibility that she could make a presidential run herself in 2024 – an idea she has not ruled out.
Yet her success in such a contest would depend entirely on the collapse of Trump’s popularity within the party, which will likely last longer than Cheney would like, some experts said.
“My feeling is that if so… [her plan]She’ll have to wait a long time,’ said Galston. “I don’t think Donald Trump supporters will ever forgive her, and I don’t think they will leave.
“Where else would they go?”
Caroline Vakil contributed.