For Republicans who have had it up to here with being lectured by Rep. Liz Cheney about how sad it is that they lack the sterling character and integrity she possesses, there’s good news and bad news this week.
The good news is that despite raising enormous sums of money for a small market state like Wyoming, being the darling of the national corporate press and the standard-bearer for a state GOP family dynasty, Cheney appears to be about to suffer an epic primary rejection. Pre-election polls show her losing by 20-29 points to challenger Harriet Hageman, who was endorsed by Cheney’s nemesis, former President Donald Trump.
The bad news is that she still isn’t going away. To the contrary, expect her to receive as much if not more coverage in the next two years even after she’s booted out of Congress. That’s because, as she continues to hint in fawning interviews with liberal journalists, her crusade against Trump is just getting started. That, along with her avowals that she will not change parties, leads to only one inescapable conclusion.
She will likely run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 as a gadfly opponent to Trump or any other actual Republicans in the race. That will enable her to continue with what has proved to be a very effective Never Trump scam, which has given her otherwise outdated and irrelevant personal brand purpose.
So expect to still keep seeing a lot of her on left-wing cable news and broadcast channels posing as a GOP Joan of Arc on a mission to save her party and country from the bad orange man and the overwhelming majority of Republicans who still prefer him, warts and all, to the Bush-era Republicanism she represents.
Her House career is about to end because Wyoming voters believed she conned them. They think that not only because she voted for a sham impeachment of Trump but because she essentially joined the Democrats last year by agreeing to become part of the Jan. 6 Committee after, in an unprecedented step, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to allow the GOP caucus to name its own members.
Since then, Cheney has spent most of her time in Washington pretending to be the committee’s ranking member, leading its fishing expedition and then serving as the star of its theatrically produced television show trial that was a sham of a congressional hearing.
As even a recent laudatory profile in The New York Times (“Liz Cheney Is Ready to Lose But She’s Not Ready to Quit”) noted, Cheney has only spent half of the $13 million she raised for the primary from ancien regime Republicans and Democrats on the race. Indeed, even when deigning to visit Wyoming, she’s avoided public events, only appearing before small, pre-selected audiences. That allows her to avoid facing the voters she betrayed and to go on living in a cocoon where, reading from the playbook composed by her media fan club, a dwindling group of admirers can tell her she’s writing a new chapter in “Profiles in Courage.”
That’s heady stuff, especially compared to the demonization that her family faced for years from the media. Her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, is all-in on her efforts to turn the clock back to 2004. He was treated as the spawn of the devil by the same hacks who, in a painfully tired trope, now lionize them in order to discredit the 2022 version of Republicanism.
Cheney’s rhetoric about forestalling a fictional threat to democracy notwithstanding, her animus toward Trump and GOP voters is rooted in the resentment that she and other members of the old establishment have toward him for stealing their party out from under them. Already out of touch with the base because of her enthusiasm for disastrous wars and distinct lack of interest in the social and economic issues that grassroots Republicans care about, Cheney’s hopes to continue as a party leader were already finished before she turned on Trump.
Cheney’s claim that she alone represents true Republicanism is supposedly the rationale for not changing parties. But a better reason is that her act as the martyr sacrificing her career on the altar of principle only has a future if she doesn’t follow the path of so many of her fellow Never Trump poseurs and become a full-fledged Democrat. If she does that, she’d be just one more ex-Republican talking head claiming that the half of the country that has kept faith with the GOP, and to one extent or another with Trump, are idol-worshiping insurrectionist deplorables.
By running for president, even without the faintest hope of success, her celebrity will live on. Democrats will continue to give her money. And the “Profiles in Courage” profiles in legacy media will continue to be published as she roams the country scolding the very people whose votes she wants. That’s something that could never happen if she simply joined the Democrats, at which point she would no longer serve any purpose for them.
Ultimately, Cheney will have to settle for joining the Democrats once Trump or some other Republican is nominated. It’s easy to imagine her then being given a speaking slot at the 2024 Democratic convention and campaigning for the re-election of Joe Biden or whoever is nominated there, and hoping to be rewarded with a job in 2025 if they win.
But that is still two years in the future. In the meantime, the Cheney show can continue. That her upcoming presidential candidacy, like the Lincoln Project and just about everything else Never Trumpers have done in the last few years, will be a transparent grift, is beside the point. So long as playing the role of Liz Cheney, the last righteous Republican, is of use to the left and gives her a path to notoriety and perhaps even office in a future Democratic administration, she will keep performing it.