Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/UKTN
Liz Cheney voted for Donald Trump’s agenda 93% of the time during his presidency. The Wyoming congresswoman has an A rating from the National Rifle Association gun rights group, and she has called for Planned Parenthood funding for the group’s abortion services. She also comes from a Republican political dynasty, as her father, Dick Cheney, served as Vice President under George W Bush.
In short, Cheney is not a Democrat.
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But as the Republican vice chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, Cheney played a crucial role in building the case against Trump and his lies about the 2020 election, which culminated in the deadly attack on the Capitol, and it has earned him a legion of weird bedfellow fans on the left.
Even Democrats who disagree with Cheney on nearly every other policy issue have expressed admiration for his lucid condemnation of Trump’s anti-democratic crusade.
“We may disagree with Rep. Cheney and other Republicans on the policy,” said Christina Harvey, executive director of the progressive group Stand Up America. “But at the end of the day, we are all Americans. We all care deeply about this country. And we believe that our democracy must be defended.
There is no doubt that Cheney played hard against Trump, his allies and his enablers. During the committee’s first prime-time hearing earlier this month, Cheney delivered a clear message to fellow Republican lawmakers: History will remember your misdeeds.
“In our country, we don’t take an oath to any individual or political party,” Cheney said. “I say this to my fellow Republicans who defend the indefensible: There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
Cheney’s performance in the hearings gave comfort to fellow conservatives who believe the Republican Party has strayed from its roots and transformed into a personality cult worshiping Trump.
Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee who has become a vocal critic of Trump, said Cheney provided a welcome contrast to “those petty, pathetic little whimpers that don’t even have the manhood to stand up to a man. 76 years old”. old punk.
“She performed in a way that exceeded anything I think anyone could have expected, given the pressure she’s been under,” Steele said. “She’s holding up a mirror to Trump and the party and throwing back at them what we’ve all seen… This is really an indictment from a fellow Republican.”
But it is with the Democrats that Cheney’s new fan club is most marked. Harvey’s group recently surveyed its members and asked them to name political figures who inspire them. Cheney’s name came up repeatedly in responses, with one member from Wisconsin describing her as “the only light in an otherwise dark Republican basement.”
While acknowledging that she wanted Cheney to also support Democratic voting rights bills and other electoral reforms, Harvey expressed admiration for her willingness to stand up to members of her own party.
“Would I also like Liz Cheney to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act? Yes, I absolutely would,” Harvey said. “But I give her a huge amount of credit right now for the courage she is showing, in trying to protect the very fact that our system of government is a democracy.”
Cheney has paid a heavy political price on the right for his work with the January 6 committee and his criticism of Trump. Cheney was stripped of her role as House leader last year, just months after she and nine of her fellow Republicans voted to impeach Trump on incitement charges.
Cheney now faces the serious threat of a main challenge, as contestant Harriet Hageman has attacked the incumbent for her anti-Trump views. Trump endorsed Hageman and he traveled to Wyoming last month for a rally in support of his campaign.
“There is no Rino [Republican In Name Only] in America who cast her spell with the radical left more than Liz Cheney,” Trump said at the rally. He added: “As one of the leading proponents of the insurgency hoax, Liz Cheney has pushed a grotesquely false, fabricated, hysterical and partisan narrative.”
Trump’s words seem to have struck a chord with his constituents. A Super Pac aligned with Hageman’s campaign released a poll this month showing Cheney trailing his main challenger by 28% to 56%.
At this point, Cheney’s hopes of winning another term in Congress look bleak and unlikely to improve after his stellar performance in the Jan. 6 committee hearings. But even if Cheney doesn’t return to the House next year, she could continue to play a vital role as a Republican counterpoint to Trump.
Steele said he viewed Cheney’s main race as a “win-win” situation for her. Either she defeats Hageman and returns to the House emboldened, or she loses and boosts her political profile as a bold conservative ready to stand up to Trump no matter the consequences, Steele explained.
“If she loses, the sky is the limit. Now you have completely ostracized this woman to the point that she owes you absolutely nothing,” Steele said. “I hope she considers considering the presidency in 2024. The opportunities to continue the discussion about our country and the right direction for democracy become even greater.”