Sen. Cynthia Lummis knows the consequences of throwing Donald Trump under the bus. We all saw what happened to Rep. Liz Cheney. But Lummis did it anyway last week, and she’s still standing.
Some might interpret that as a sign of Trump’s waning power and not give Lummis credit, but defying the former president wasn’t the only indication she’s shifting from party minion to independent thinker.
Successfully turning against the former president and keeping his insults at bay is all about timing. Cheney voted with Trump’s positions for four years. But she couldn’t stomach Trump’s behavior when he lied about the 2020 election and incited a mob to storm the Capitol.
Branded by Wyoming Republican Party bosses as a traitor to their king, Cheney became a primary target in Trump’s “sweet revenge tour.” Harriet Hageman handily ousted her in the primary, setting up what was supposed to be a slew of midterm election wins for Trump-endorsed candidates on his road back to the White House.
Lummis, the state’s junior senator, played a much different game. Like almost every GOP lawmaker, Lummis campaigned as a Trump lapdog in 2020 and spent the past two years courting his favor.
But no longer. Lummis didn’t blame Trump for inciting a riot and threatening to end democracy, and even voted to acquit him during his second impeachment trial. However, she drew the line following Trump’s failure to spark a massive “red wave” to put her party back in power in the Senate.
When a Politico reporter asked Lummis last week if she endorses Trump in his third presidential bid, her response was remarkable. The journalist even preceded his tweet about it with three exclamation points.
“I don’t think that’s the right question,” Lummis said. “I think the question is who is the current leader of the Republican Party. Oh, I know who it is: [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis.”
There were many Republican politicians willing to blame him for his miserable election efforts. However, no one expected Lummis to be on that list.
She had no hesitation calling DeSantis — the potential rival Trump fears the most — her party’s leader, “whether he wants to be or not.” It’s a scorching burn.
After Cheney’s experience, what politician in Wyoming — or anywhere — would willingly open herself up to Trump’s persecution?
Such attacks may yet come, but Trump has been boxed in by fresh Republican detractors like Lummis. He couldn’t announce his campaign and accept blame for his obviously inferior slate of candidates, so Trump did what comes natural: He lied and pretended his endorsements helped the party.
Lummis has enjoyed a self-serving political relationship with Trump while managing to stay on his good side. Like Hageman, she jumped on his bandwagon late, but once aboard she used it to her maximum advantage.
After deciding not to run for a fifth U.S. House term in 2016, Lummis initially backed Rand Paul for president. She ultimately supported Trump, even after a video surfaced in which he bragged about groping women’s genitals against their will.
“Because he had the good sense to choose Mike Pence as his running mate, I still intend to vote for him, but I will be holding my nose and repeating, ‘Supreme Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court’ as I vote,” Lummis said in a statement. “I fear for my freedom and our nation’s future if Hillary Clinton is appointing Supreme Court justices and running the federal government.”
For the record, Cheney called Trump’s comments “appalling” but also said she would vote for him.
Trump interviewed Lummis twice for secretary of the interior. While she didn’t get the job, Lummis declared herself an “unabashed crusader” for Trump, vowing to “march shoulder-to-shoulder” with him and his America First agenda.
Her earlier “nose-holding” vote didn’t keep Trump from tweeting that Lummis “is a friend of mine and a great woman [who] has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Lummis easily won her Senate race in 2020.
Lummis was sworn in only 16 days before Trump unwillingly left office in January 2021. While she initially called Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory legitimate, in her first official Senate action she joined seven of her new GOP colleagues who objected to certifying Biden’s key Electoral College win in Pennsylvania.
And where, pray tell, was Lummis’ respect for Trump’s vice president when MAGA goons shouted, “Hang Mike Pence!” while roaming the Capitol?
Wyoming Republicans battered Cheney for her Trump impeachment vote, but have been strangely silent about Lummis putting distance between herself and their leader. She has the advantage of not being up for re-election until 2026, when Trump’s control over the party may be long gone.
Lummis is in the state Republican Party’s doghouse, though. She was one of 12 GOP senators last week who voted to advance a federal same-sex marriage bill.
Support for any LGBTQ rights is a sure way to put a politician in the crosshairs of the Wyoming Republican Party. It didn’t waste any time letting Lummis know what she did is unacceptable.
In a mass email to members, the party “sadly” noted Lummis’ support for a bill it claims “threatens religious liberties” and is opposed by the Wyoming Republican Party Platform, which was unanimously adopted.
The email says marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and calls for Republicans to “keep in mind the Judeo-Christian principles of the Founding Fathers” and contact Lummis about her vote.
Supporting the new bill is the polar opposite of what Lummis did in 2013, when she co-sponsored the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act.” That failed legislation tried to block the feds from punishing a person for acting on their religious belief that only marriages between a man and a woman should be recognized.
What prompted Lummis’ dramatic change of heart on the issue? Perhaps she was influenced by Cheney, who publicly opposed same-sex marriage for years before finally admitting she was wrong last year.
Cheney patched things up with her sister, who is married to a woman, but more importantly she stood up for the rights of people the Wyoming GOP always maligns.
Lummis issued a statement calling marriage “a deeply personal issue.” She said her decision recognizes the equality for all that is enshrined in the Wyoming Constitution.
One of my criticisms of Lummis’ congressional career is that she too often plays it safe. But a week in which she’s shocked constituents by opting not to support Trump and taking a principled stance for marriage equality helps break that mold.
Please keep surprising us, senator. You may not always please the people who voted for you, but the rest of us deserve to be represented, too.
CORRECTION: This commentary has been updated to reflect that Cynthia Lummis supported Rand Paul. -Ed.