The Fatal Conceit of Liz Cheney
Landslide defeat will not alter her self-created primrose path.
Liz Cheney (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Only in the bubble-wrapped environs of the Washington Swamp could the most unpopular Republican in the country suffer a blowout defeat — and then compare herself to Abraham Lincoln. “Lincoln was defeated in elections for the Senate and the House before he won the most important election of all,” said Cheney.
Oh, the hubris. Yes, even after getting walloped by Donald Trump-backed challenger Harriet Hageman by a breathtaking 37 point margin in Tuesday’s (Aug. 16) Wyoming GOP primary, Representative Liz Cheney demonstrated in her concession speech just how out of touch with reality she truly is. And thus, she no doubt continues to harbor dreams of occupying the Oval Office, convincing herself somehow that getting run out of her home state on a figurative rail positions her perfectly for a run at the White House.
Seriously. Hers is nothing short of a religious mission. It must be, for only blind faith could lead one to believe that maliciously balkanizing one’s own movement — forget even party — while placing oneself on a pedestal is to be applauded. She has come to fancy herself Joan of Arc. And on Tuesday, the comparison was made valid. She was burned at the political stake. She is just the last one to realize it.
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Cheney supported Trump’s congressional agenda 93% of the time but now considers the radical transformation he pursued — and largely achieved — during his time in office to be inconsequential. She carries on as if Jan. 6 wipes out all remnants of a historic, groundbreaking presidency that challenged long-standing shibboleths and accomplished so much of the agenda Cheney herself had supported for her entire adult life. And she carries on as President Joe Biden, the man she has effectively been propping up with her useful-idiot behavior, makes it his mission to unravel all that Trump accomplished.
So what is her endgame? Once she has completed her abandonment of the GOP and fulfilled her mission to decapitate Trump, assuring us that Biden — or any other Democrat — is better for the country than that vile 45th president, where does she go from there?
There is no solace to be found in Wyoming, where she was already widely viewed as a carpetbagger. After all, she grew up and spent virtually her entire adult life inside the DC Beltway. She won her congressional seat the same year Trump was elected, 2016, on the strength of her legendary father, one of the most towering figures in the state’s history. And Dick Cheney is now going down with the ship, having enthusiastically doubled down on the anti-Trump chorus, cutting a TV spot for his daughter’s failed unidimensional campaign, calling Trump “a coward.” But it was way too little, way too late. Cheney’s doomed vessel had long since left the port.
But it gets worse. By openly appealing to Democrats in a predictably futile attempt to make up for monumental losses among her previous supporters, Liz Cheney got the worst of all worlds. It removed the last shred of doubt about what she is willing to do for the sake of her betrayal, marking her as a turncoat — without even the benefit of gaining anything from it. She took on Trump, and all she got was a stinging rebuke from the same voters who had elected her by large margins in three previous election cycles. Her expedient appeal directly to the left proved to be yet another bridge too far for the 74 million people who voted for Trump in 2020.
The Singular Liz Cheney
There is hardly a parallel among Democrats for Cheney’s lack of popularity in the GOP. There is no one on the other side who has, or seemingly would, abandon the most towering figure in his or her own party. Sure, some Democrats are concluding the obvious — that Biden should not run again — but there is no animus toward him, only sadness and gratitude for taking down Trump. Thus, Cheney easily wins the prize for the single most unpopular political figure in the entire country. To put it in perspective, stipulating that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics, consider a single metric from a recent survey — see image below — reported by Axios: the second most unpopular Republican in the country, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is 45 points ahead of Cheney (-43 to +2) — 45 points!
Ironically, it is only her extraordinary assault on Trump that made Cheney a national figure. Few had heard of her before she turned on a president from her party and gave aid and comfort to the enemy. It’s one thing to vote for the impeachment of a man you believe responsible for inciting a crowd to riot. It’s quite another to make his permanent removal from national politics a religious mission and the seeming entirety of your life’s work.
Nevertheless, expect Cheney to run for president anyway, likely as an independent, and why not? No Republican will support her. Once her pious candidacy inevitably hits the rocks and reality bites her, she will, like most deposed members of Congress, undoubtedly mosey down the street and pull in ten or 20 times her congressional salary as a K Street lobbyist. That is her future, because even the thought of a presidential run for a woman whose singular identity revolves around selling out her party, not to mention ideology, is beyond laughable. She is a legend only in her own mind.
Republicans hate her. Once they complete the final episode of their Jan. 6 Soviet-style TV show trial in September, Democrats will discard her like yesterday’s newspaper — or trash. Independents can hardly be expected to embrace someone whose unique national identity was forged by abandoning lifelong beliefs and not just joining, but serving as the mouthpiece for, a party whose policies she passionately opposed for her entire life in Washington.
After all, who trusts a traitor — no matter the side? Benedict Arnold did much good, serving with distinction and rising high in the ranks of the fledgling American Continental Army. But he is remembered only as history’s most notorious turncoat. Cheney supported Trump’s congressional agenda but will forever be seen in the extraordinary light of betrayal, with no love on the other side to compensate.
In a climate that has forced out virtually all the Republican members of the House who voted to impeach Trump, lost is perhaps the most remarkable epilogue to this inglorious episode in American history: However inadvertent, this will mark the third political dynasty slayed by Trump, an exceptional accomplishment. He ended the Bushes and Clintons, and now the Cheneys fall in line behind them, brought low by one of the most consequential figures in American political history.