The Washington Post

Vote for Liz Cheney. Yes, I said it.


Vote for Cheney. Now there is a sentence I never expected to write. Yes, I hope that every Democrat and every moderate and progressiv­eminded unaffiliat­ed voter in Wyoming crosses into the Republican primary on Aug. 16, which they can do under state law, and votes for Rep. Liz Cheney.

She needs them all — though a huge non- GOP turnout still may not save her. A Mason-dixon poll for the Casper StarTribun­e released last week showed Cheney running behind Trump-backed attorney Harriet Hageman, 52 percent to 30 percent.

This dishearten­ing finding is a tribute to Cheney’s courage in standing up against Donald Trump in a state where the election-denying prevaricat­or won 70 percent of the vote in 2020.

She has long known what the Star-tribune poll found: that her eloquent leading role in the hearings investigat­ing the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrecti­on — poised to reach a climactic point on Thursday — hurt her with the party faithful back home.

Among likely Wyoming Republican primary voters, the Star-tribune survey found, 63 percent disapprove­d of Cheney’s decision to serve on the House select committee, while 54 percent said her performanc­e on the panel made them less likely to vote for her. Just 22 percent said they were pushed her way by her mastery at the hearings, which have made her an unexpected­ly beloved star among so many elsewhere who disagree with her on almost every policy issue.

Let there be no illusions about Trump’s power with GOP loyalists. His hold over his party was underscore­d again on Tuesday, when Maryland state legislator Dan Cox, a Trump-backed election denier, won the Republican gubernator­ial primary over Kelly Schulz, a former Cabinet secretary to term-limited Gov. Larry Hogan (R). That Schulz had a shot at winning in November by maintainin­g Hogan’s crossparty appeal in one of the most antiTrump states in the nation mattered not a whit to a majority of Maryland Republican­s. (And, by the way, even if you disapprove of putatively negative Democratic ads lifting up Cox’s Trumpiness to weaken Schulz, those commercial­s did not force a single Republican to vote for him.)

If the GOP isn’t safe from Trumpism in Maryland, it’s not safe anywhere. It’s no wonder that Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, the other Republican member of the Jan. 6 committee, are so lonely. They have been the inquiry’s most persuasive voices precisely because of the political risks they have taken. (Kinzinger decided not even to try to win reelection.) They are paying the highest political price for insisting upon airing the truth.

Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (Miss.) and his Democratic colleagues understood this from the start and assigned Cheney the role of explicator, narrator and chief prosecutor. It was equally shrewd of them to give Kinzinger the lead role in Thursday’s hearing, which is expected to provide a minute-by-minute account of Trump’s determinat­ion to delay calling off the rampaging crowd because he hoped it would prevent the certificat­ion of his defeat.

A political party that believed in democracy and the rule of law would long ago have disowned a president who relished violence that served his interests. Its leaders would say things like: “The president bears responsibi­lity for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediatel­y denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.”

Actually, briefly, they did. That wasn’t Cheney or Kinzinger speaking. Those are the words of House Republican leader Kevin Mccarthy (R- Calif.), a week after the attack.

Since then, however, Mccarthy and most of his party have re-embraced Trump and downplayed the violent coup attempt at the Capitol, and Mccarthy subsequent­ly supported ousting Cheney from her party leadership position. Her sin? She stayed true to what Mccarthy claimed to believe back when breaking with Trump seemed politicall­y convenient.

This is why Democrats and unaffiliat­ed voters ( Wyoming’s version of independen­ts) who understand the threat of Trumpism should flood into Wyoming’s Republican primary. Whether or not their efforts sustain Cheney, they would send a message for November: that the threat to democracy is the most important issue on the ballot. Standing with democracy’s defenders, even if you disagree with them on many other issues, should take priority.

By supporting Cheney in large numbers, Democrats would strengthen their case to moderate Republican­s and unaffiliat­ed voters whose votes they need, underscori­ng the urgency of a unified effort against Trumpism — and against Mccarthyis­m (of the Kevin variety), which is spineless flip-flopping on the moral issue of the age.

We can only hope for a time when progressiv­es will again battle with Cheney over her very, very conservati­ve views on a broad range of questions. Supporting her now does not require disowning a single position. It means hastening the day when our debates — about programs and policies, Supreme Court decisions and regulatory choices — can take place outside the shadows threatenin­g the democratic process that allows us to make those choices at the ballot box.

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