Liz Cheney voted for Donald Trump’s agenda 93% of the time during his presidency. The Wyoming congresswoman has an A rating from the National Rifle Association gun rights group, and she has called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood over the group’s abortion services. She also comes from a Republican political dynasty, as her father, Dick Cheney, served as vice-president under George W Bush.
In short, Cheney is no Democrat.
But as the Republican vice-chair of the January 6 select committee, Cheney has played a crucial role in presenting the case against Trump and his lies about the 2020 election, which culminated in the deadly attack on the Capitol, and that has won her a legion of strange bedfellow fans on the left.
Even Democrats who disagree with Cheney on almost every other policy issue have expressed admiration for her clear-eyed condemnation of Trump’s antidemocratic crusade.
“We can differ with Representative Cheney and other Republicans on policy,” said Christina Harvey, executive director of the progressive group Stand Up America. “But at the end of the day, we’re all Americans. We all care deeply about this country. And we believe that our democracy must be defended.”
There is little doubt that Cheney has played hardball on Trump, his allies and enablers. During the committee’s first primetime hearing earlier this month, Cheney delivered a stark message to fellow Republican lawmakers: history will remember your misdeeds.
“In our country, we don’t swear an oath to an individual, or a political party,” Cheney said. “I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: there will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.”
Cheney’s performance during the hearings has provided solace to fellow conservatives who feel the Republican party has strayed far from its roots and morphed into a personality cult worshipping Trump.
Michael Steele, the former Republican National Committee chairman who has become a vocal critic of Trump, said Cheney has offered a welcome contrast to “these little petty, pathetic whiners who don’t even have the manhood to stand up to a 76-year-old punk”.
“She has performed in a way that surpasses anything I think anyone would have expected, given the pressure that she has been under,” Steele said. “She’s holding up a mirror to both Trump and the party and reflecting back on them what we all saw … It’s really an indictment coming from a fellow Republican.”
But it is with Democrats that the new Cheney fan club is most marked. Harvey’s group recently conducted a survey among its members and asked them to name political figures who inspire them. Cheney’s name came up repeatedly in the responses, with one member from Wisconsin describing her as “the only light in an otherwise pitch-dark Republican cellar”.
While acknowledging that she wished Cheney would also support Democrats’ voting rights bills and other election reforms, Harvey expressed admiration for her willingness to stand up to members of her own party.
“Would I also like Liz Cheney to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act? Yes, I absolutely would,” Harvey said. “But I give her a tremendous amount of credit right now for the courage that she is showing, in trying to protect the very fact that our system of government is a democracy.”
Cheney has paid a heavy political price on the right for her work with the January 6 committee and her criticism of Trump. Cheney was stripped of her House leadership role last year, just a few months after she and nine of her Republican colleagues voted to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection.
Cheney now faces the serious threat of a primary challenge, as candidate Harriet Hageman has attacked the incumbent over her anti-Trump views. Trump has endorsed Hageman, and he traveled to Wyoming last month for a rally in support of her campaign.
“There is no Rino [Republican In Name Only] in America who has thrown in her lot with the radical left more than Liz Cheney,” Trump said at the rally. He added: “As one of the leading proponents of the insurrection hoax, Liz Cheney has pushed a grotesquely false, fabricated, hysterical, partisan narrative.”
Trump’s words appear to have struck a chord with her constituents. A Super Pac aligned with Hageman’s campaign released a poll this month showing Cheney trailing her primary opponent 28% to 56%.
At this point, Cheney’s hopes of winning another term in Congress appear bleak, and they are unlikely to improve after her noteworthy performance in the January 6 committee hearings. But even if Cheney does not return to the House next year, she could continue to play a vital role as a Republican counterpoint to Trump.
Steele said he considered Cheney’s primary race to be a “win-win” situation for her. Either she beats Hageman and returns to the House emboldened, or she loses and she boosts her political profile as a bold conservative willing to stand up to Trump regardless of the consequences, Steele argued.
“If she loses, the sky’s the limit. Now you have completely ostracized this woman to the point that she owes you absolutely zero,” Steele said. “I hope she considers looking at the presidency in 2024. The opportunities to continue the discussion about our country and the right direction for democracy become even greater.”
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