Liz Cheney’s resounding defeat was more than the rejection of a brave and principled person. It was a departure from values and a worldview that have shaped the Republican Party for well over a generation.
It was also a stubborn denial of reality and the stone-cold fact that President Trump lost the 2020 election and schemed and lied to deny it, sacrificing the country’s security and stability on the altar of his infinite ego.
Winning re-election “would have required me to go along with President Trump’s lie,” Cheney said in a scathing concession speech delivered just over an hour after polling stations closed Tuesday night. “It would have required me to enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the very foundations of our republic.”
“That,” she said, “was a path I could not and would not walk.”
For decades, the Cheneys of Wyoming stood alongside the Bush family in New England and Texas as dynastic pillars of the GOP. Liz Cheney’s defeat in Tuesday’s congressional primary, combined with George P. Bush’s failed run for Texas attorney general earlier this year, firmly sealed the coffin of the old party establishment and, for the time being, erased any direct claims to its future .
“This is not the Republican Party of the ’80s, ’90s, or even the early 2000s,” said Christine Matthews, a GOP scholar and strategist who was a harsh Trump critic. “What it means to be a Republican these days is to be loyal to your tribe. It’s not about problems. It’s basically whatever Trump says.”
That means little focus on governing and a lot of energy spent on grudges and settling scores. It also means ignoring political initiative and political philosophy, the drivers of conservative gains since the Reagan era, in favor of belligerence and purging those deemed insufficiently obedient to the GOP ruler-in-exile.
A recent CBS News/YouGov poll was revealing.
By nearly 4 to 1, Republicans polled said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who parroted Trump’s lies about winning the last presidential election. 53 percent of Republicans also said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who infuriates liberals, rising to nearly 7 in 10 among those identified as MAGA Republicans. (By contrast, most Democrats said it was more important for a candidate to support President Biden’s policies than to anger conservatives.)
It’s politics by vendetta, and if responsible Republicans like Cheney continue to fall, the prospects for the future after the November midterm elections are not good.
“It’s very tough when either of the two major political parties doesn’t recognize fundamental truths and is unwilling to put country first,” said conservative strategist Bill Kristol, a Cheney supporter who served as the White House president George HW Bush.
This isn’t just a rosy review.
President Reagan never shied away from political struggle, nor did Bush or other Republicans of his day. But after blistering the Democrats during the campaign season, they worked constructively across party lines to achieve important legislative results. The Republicans also fought each other fiercely, and then put the differences aside in favor of party unity; Reagan even made Bush his vice presidential nominee after the two fought for the White House.
However, those days of pragmatism, policy accommodation and, it should be said, adult behavior have been replaced by the personal irritation and vindictiveness that animates Trump and much of the Republican Party base.
“There’s a new MAGA establishment,” Kristol said, “and if you cross it, you’re in trouble.”
Cheney’s heresy not only told the truth about the former president and his incessant lies, but also helped guide congressional hearings that exposed in garish and chilling detail the depths of Trump’s immorality and ruthless self-esteem. She displayed the kind of courage that deserves prestigious awards and invitations to outlandish speeches, but didn’t bring her anywhere near a fourth term in a state where the Cheney name was once political platinum.
(Her father, Dick, represented Wyoming in Congress for 10 years and served two terms as a vice president under President George W. Bush.)
In Texas, George P. Bush—grandson of the 41st President, nephew of the 43rd—was less heroic in his run for Attorney General. He turned his back on his famous family and harassed Trump, even after maliciously belittling Bush’s father, Jeb, and insulting his mother, Columba, during the 2016 presidential campaign. Still, young Bush’s flatteries proved fruitless; He lost heavily in the Republican primary in May to incumbent Ken Paxton, a Trump toady who has spent the past seven years under federal indictment.
Bush “couldn’t break away from the brand associated with his name” and the air of privilege and ties to the old establishment that emanated from it, said Jim Henson, a pollster and professor of political science at the University of Texas.
With her defeat, Cheney made the journey from candidate to political martyr.
The Jan. 6 congressional hearings resume next month, promising more incriminating evidence and more stains on Trump’s tarnished reputation. Additionally, Cheney has vowed to continue leading the anti-Trump opposition once she leaves office early next year, potentially as a kamikaze candidate for president in 2024.
“This primary is over,” she said Tuesday night to cheers from her supporters, “but now the real work begins.”
She later elaborated, pledging to do “everything to make sure Donald Trump never comes near the Oval Office again.”
It’s a fight Cheney and her allies absolutely must win.
https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-08-16/liz-cheney-primary-results-trump-defeat-for-republican-establishment Cheney defeat a Trump win and blow to fading GOP establishment