Liz Cheney and the Urgency of the Moment
Liz Cheney and I share little common ground. For the most part a vast chasm lies between us. Cheney contributed to the authoritarian ethos within the Republican Party to which she has fallen prey. Against this is weighed her stand of conscience on bedrock principles of constitutional government and rule of law. If these principles do not hold, little else matters. Those of us who value preservation of our imperfect constitutional republic stand with her.
Yesterday Cheney delivered a memorable speech on the House floor. All but one of her Republican colleagues left the chamber when she rose to denounce the former president's "crusade to undermine our democracy":
Today, we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.... The Electoral College has voted. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple judges the former president appointed, have rejected his claims. The Trump Department of Justice investigated the former president's claims of widespread fraud and found no evidence to support them. The election is over.... This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans.... I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president's crusade to undermine our democracy.
This morning Cheney was ousted from her post as conference chair. She remained defiant when she spoke prior to a vote whose outcome was predetermined:
We cannot let the former president drag us backward and make us complicit in his efforts to unravel our democracy. Down that path lies our destruction, and potentially the destruction of our country.
If you want leaders who will enable and spread his destructive lies, I’m not your person, you have plenty of others to choose from. That will be their legacy.
Through it all she acted with political courage and integrity that is far from common on the American scene. This morning she was booed by scoundrels who in today's America pass for honorable members of the Republican caucus.
Kimberly Wehle laid out the stakes in her column at The Bulwark:
The longstanding and cynical GOP obsession with anti-voter-access laws has mixed with Donald Trump’s Big Lie about the supposed theft of the 2020 election by Joe Biden, congealing into a Republican campaign for indefinite single-party control of American government. It might be too late to turn back toward democracy. But it’s urgent that we try.
It might be too late. One of our two major political parties rejects constitutional governance and rule of law. Power is its only principle. This is the party of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley, each of whom hopes to be installed as the nation's maximum supreme ruler in January 2025 regardless of the outcome of the election in November 2024.
It is urgent that we try to turn back toward democracy. This means joining Liz Cheney and others in the anti-Trump wing of the Republican Party to counter subversion of "the electoral process to snatch future elections from actual voters based on lies about a past election and through laws to discourage voting" (Wehle). This will be an alliance of necessity among people who profoundly disagree on many issues. Among other things, it entails taking seriously good faith criticism of progressive overreach and sloppiness in H.R. 1, the voting rights act known as the For the People Act. It includes the need for Republicans to entertain Democratic proposals to promote civic responsibility and encourage voting. Statesmanship would be helpful.
It remains to be seen if Americans and their representatives in Congress will be capable of acting with the urgency and wisdom that the moment demands.
Olivia Beavers, Melanie Zanona, A defiant Cheney tears into Trump, GOP: 'We must speak the truth,' Politico, May 11, 2012
Amanda Carpenter, The Silence of Sheep: How the Republican party knifed Liz Cheney while hiding from her, The Bulwark, May 12, 2012
Alicia Cohn, READ: Liz Cheney's speech on the House floor, The Hill, May 11, 2012
Adam Serwer, Liz Cheney Has Only Herself to Blame: The representative from Wyoming is taking a stand against an authoritarian streak in the Republican Party that she helped cultivate, The Atlantic, May 6, 2012
Alayna Treene, Shawna Chen, House Republicans vote to remove Liz Cheney from leadership, Axios, May 12, 2012
Kimberly Wehle, How the ‘Big Lie’ Became a Big Threat, The Bulwark, May 12, 2012