Liz Cheney Is No Political Hero
If the congresswoman really cared about democracy, she never would have supported Trump in the first place
In her last days as GOP conference chair, Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post, “The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.”
Cheney was referencing what is known as “the big lie” about election fraud and chastising Republicans for joining Donald Trump and the conservative media ecosystem that caters to his ego by furthering the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. As she tells it, “[T]he most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law.”
Cheney posits that Republicans in Congress must now decide whether to keep feeding the lie or be “real” leaders and tell the truth to their voters. As if people falling at the altar of Donald Trump have any tangible investment in truth-telling. As if you could count on Republicans to direct them there even if they did.
Around the same time, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was caught on a hot mic being honest about Cheney’s standing in the party. “I think she’s got real problems,” he said. “I’ve had it with her. You know, I’ve lost confidence… Well, someone just has to bring a motion, but I assume that will probably take place.”
That motion came late last week as Republicans, by way of voice vote, removed Cheney and replaced her with Elise Stefanik in the number three leadership position. Stefanik received some criticism within her party for being a moderate and faced a challenge from the more conservative Chip Roy, but given that she had the backing of Dear Leader Trump, Stefanik handedly won, according to sources in the room. It is almost adorable that some believe it was ever about “conservative values” for the political right. The carnival-barker racist ex-president proves which issue matters most on that side.
As for Liz Cheney, she has no power in the GOP but is now a highly sought-after national political figure who’s being celebrated by powerful people in media and politics. Like Trump, Cheney understands the benefits of nepotism. Now, like Trump, she can also enjoy the perks of her growing political celebrity.
Recently, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of Cheney’s recent criticism of Republicans in Congress who’ve continued to defend the indefensible, “I do commend Liz Cheney for her courage, for her patriotism.”
In a piece for NBC News’ Know Your Value, Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski wrote that despite their political differences and personal history, she celebrates Cheney’s continued calls for Republicans to break from Trump.
“There is a lesson here that we should all try to employ as we deal with the difficulties in Washington,” Brzezinski claims. “We can disagree with each other’s political beliefs, while at the same time respecting the intellectual and ideological coherence underpinning our opponents’ actions and principles. In other words, we can support Liz for her strong stance and remarkable ‘truth to power’ speech while simultaneously disagreeing with her on foreign policy, abortion, and any number of other issues.”
If you belong to a party that for decades has had no problem with denying Black folks the right to vote to keep power, you aren’t that invested in democracy.
Those familiar with my work know that I wake up to Morning Joe, so it’s no shade to Brzezinski directly, because I believe she is being sincere in her words. I’m sure the same goes for Nancy Pelosi. Nonetheless, I chuckled a little bit until I realized that they, along with everyone else on the same wave, are being serious.
I don’t mean to minimize Cheney’s contributions, but at the same time, get a grip.
Yes, in the age of Fox News, Facebook, and Donald Trump post-2016, any single person — even the daughter of Dick Cheney — is doing a good thing when they outright dismiss the idea that our former clownish despot was cheated in the last election. But I’ve yet to hear Cheney say in her assessment of her party that the racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, and transphobia it has exploited in its pursuit of power helped create the problem she warns of today. Cheney arguably employed the same sort of Islamophobic attacks as Trump back in 2019. Has she apologized for that on her media tour? I can’t find it anywhere on my Google.
I know she’s said nothing about the GOP’s longstanding commitment to making it harder for Black people to vote. I know reminding certain folks of this tends to irritate, but I must: If you belong to a party that for decades has had no problem with denying Black folks the right to vote to keep power, you aren’t that invested in democracy. It is amazing, albeit typical, that most of these people on television and in major publications championing the Cheney cause fail to note this in their assessments.
I don’t discount that Liz Cheney has probably come under the harshest criticism of her career for what she is doing. I wouldn’t be surprised if she will have to take extra precautions to maintain her personal safety given how aggressive select members of the Trump base, which operates more like a cult, can be. Again, anyone speaking out is doing some service.
Still, Liz Cheney is a Republican. She is like the rest of those Republicans who feign moral superiority over Trump. It was perfectly fine to deprive others of their rights in the pursuit of power, but now that the tide has turned, suddenly they understand how fragile democracy is. And as the daughter of Dick Cheney who has twice abandoned plans to run for Senate but was considered more likely to become the first Republican woman to serve as speaker of the House before her recent political misfortunes, this also comes across to me as a PR spin and the start of a revenge tour. Trump may no longer be president, but he manages to continue to be able to topple political dynasties.
Cheney remains an elected official — and to her credit, not pathetic and debased like Jeb Bush or that kid of his in Texas — and is making the most of the opportunity. One assumes Liz Cheney is betting she will have the last laugh if Trump is indicted and this blows up in the GOP’s face. Then there is Kevin McCarthy, who may have had it with Cheney, but based on her talk with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, will continue to deal with her making his life difficult.
On Sunday, Wallace effectively asked Cheney about a conversation between Trump and McCarthy where the two may have tried to “get their story straight” about a call made on January 6 during the insurrection. Wallace invoked “witness tampering,” and Cheney proceeded to explain that McCarthy has plenty of info he could pass along to the DOJ, FBI, etc. In a separate interview, Cheney told ABC News’ Jon Karl that the House minority leader should “absolutely” testify before a possible commission investigating the Capitol insurrection.
I suppose I’d find this level of trolling amusing if in this same interview Cheney didn’t claim to “regret” voting for Trump in 2020 yet somehow partially praise his legacy. “It was a vote based on policy, based on substance and in terms of the kinds of policies he put forward that were good for the country,” Cheney explained. “But I think it’s fair to say that I regret the vote.”
If that’s what Liz Cheney continues to believe, anyone calling her a champion of democracy or a symbol of patriotism is no less silly than a person hollering “stop the steal.” This is a Republican plotting her next moves, which might now include a presidential bid (that will fail). Given the circumstances, that’s not so bad for a Republican whom Donald Trump hates in 2021, but Liz Cheney is not the political hero she’s being made out to be.