This is how bizarre Wyoming politics are these days: I’m a Democrat defending an uber-conservative Republican who’s been condemned by her law-and-order-loving party-mates for voting to impeach a president who, in a deranged attempt to overthrow a lawful American election, incited a deadly insurrection at the Capitol.
Surreal. Since when is defending the Constitution and the rule of law unpatriotic? Guess I didn’t get the memo.
Sure, the party apparatchiks voted to no longer recognize U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as a member of the GOP, but I simply refuse to believe that a majority of rank-and-file Wyoming Republicans think she should be thrown out of office.
I’ve been interviewed by journalists from Washington, D.C., to Switzerland who are fascinated by Wyoming’s odd political climate. Most are anxious to write Cheney’s political obituary. In their view, the fact Donald Trump hand-picked Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman to oppose her is game, set, match. They’ve asked me why Cheney hasn’t dropped out of the race.
I’ve pointed out that Hageman, who finished third in the 2018 gubernatorial GOP primary, isn’t exactly a political powerhouse. A former friend of Cheney who shares most of her conservative views, Hageman even opposed Trump’s nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention.
Cheney might want to mention that during their debates.
Anyone who listened to Cheney as Congress marked the first anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack should know she’s committed to making sure Trump will not get away with what she calls his “dereliction of duty.” She is using her position as co-chairman of the House committee investigating the riot to show the nation — and Wyoming voters — that Trump’s lies about Democrats stealing the election came dangerously close to unraveling our democratic republic.
Cheney noted that many people, including Trump’s own daughter, Ivanka, pleaded with the president on Jan. 6 to call off his supporters. But Trump, who called his own vice president a coward for not following his order to disrupt the official count, didn’t budge — not even when rioters erected a gallows outside the Capitol and chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”
Hours passed before the White House finally released a video of Trump telling the angry mob, “Go home. We love you.”
And his cult following still fervently believes the Big Lie.
This is what Cheney told ABC News last week: “Any man who would provoke a violent assault on the Capitol to stop the counting of electoral votes, any man who would watch television as police officers were being beaten, as his supporters were invading the Capitol of the United States, is clearly unfit for future office, clearly can never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again.”
Does that sound like someone who won’t fight like hell to stay in office? I think she’s relishing this role as truth-teller, to try to bring her party back to reality.
For the most part, Cheney has ignored her detractors despite their control of the state party. Last week she called them “radicals” and noted Chairman Frank Eathorne has “toyed with the idea of [state] secession.”
Cheney was too kind. This is a state party that’s been way out of control for several years. Anyone who won’t toe its extreme-right line is lambasted as a “Republican in name only.” Many state lawmakers are in their crosshairs for failing to do as they’re told.
I’ve never seen a political party at war with at least half its members. Why do voters put up with it?
Political pundits in the D.C. beltway have taken notice that Cheney is banking on a “silent majority” within the party’s ranks. “Her backers say the bark of Ms. Cheney’s most vocal Republican critics in the state is worse than their bite, insisting the rabble-rousers in the party are out of sync with the sentiment of most Wyoming residents,” wrote Seth McLaughlin of the Washington Times.
He included an excellent assessment by Cheney backer Amy Edmonds, a former state lawmaker. “They are loud and they are ugly,” she said. “They are a minority, though. That is definitely not Wyoming.”
I think she’s right. The way Wyoming GOP officials have treated Cheney is disgraceful. So is the lack of any public support from the other two members of the congressional delegation, Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis.
I keep expecting Cheney’s Republican supporters to break their silence about her principled stand against Trump’s reprehensible actions. He nearly thrust the nation into a constitutional crisis.
It’s a strange phenomenon, but the most vocal praise for Cheney’s tenacity in this political fight of her life is coming from Democrats. Any foe of Trump is an ally, but most members of my party I’ve talked to feel compelled to point out that while they can’t stand anything else she’s done, they admire her for what she’s doing about Trump.
At first those words kind of stick in your throat, but I’ve gotten past it. There’s absolutely no need to hedge when you’re supporting someone who’s speaking truth to power.
Because voters can change parties at the polls on primary election day, Democrats who cross over can significantly impact who will win the Republican nomination. However, that possibility could motivate Trump supporters to show up in droves.
Is there a path for Cheney to win her primary and cruise to a fourth term in a state that gave Trump 70% of the vote in 2020? Of course there is.
First, that silent majority of Republicans, if it indeed exists, must actually vote.
It would help Cheney if she can score solid debate victories. She and Hageman will be formidable foes, and their split over Trump will spice things up. The challenger showed she can go for the jugular in her debates four years ago against a crowded field when Mark Gordon won the GOP gubernatorial primary.
The House’s Jan. 6 committee will afford Cheney unmatched opportunities to toss some high-profile bombshells. In Wyoming politics, though, indicting Trump could actually win him more votes.
“We can either be loyal to our Constitution or loyal to Donald Trump, but we cannot be both,” Cheney told ABC News. “And the nation needs a Republican Party that is based on substance and values and principles. … Fundamentally, at the end of the day, we cannot be a party based on lies.”
As a future Republican for a day, I couldn’t agree more.