The fact that Daddy Dick was there, the dark eminence who soiled the Republic and inflated executive power with drugged glee, said it all. This was the occasion of his daughter’s electoral defeat at the hands of another Republican, Harriet Hageman. Neoconservative bumbler and part of an enterprise that loves war and cherishes the buccaneering free market, Liz Cheney was facing final judgment at the hands of voters in Wyoming for her belligerent position against Donald Trump.
Cheney had hoped to purge the GOP of Trumpist influence by simply reiterating her own toxic alternative, the very sort that did much to bring about the success of Trump in the first place. All that mattered was reiterating her hatred of orange-haired ogre and his alleged role in the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot.
This was a bit much given how she had done little by way of condemning Trump for any earlier misdeeds even as the GOP was being transformed. As a matter of fact, her voting record for Trump’s proposals comes in at an astonishing, distinctly non-dissenting 93%.
Former Republican Rep. Justin Amash issued a strong rebuke last year regarding her newly fashioned image in the party. She could hardly be seen as “some sort of hero”, having come to the anti-Trump show belatedly late. She might have joined him in his earlier warnings that “the president’s approach could lead to things like violence, could lead to a lot of animosity and contempt and all sorts of things that would be harmful to our country.”
During her time in Congress, Cheney also showed hostility to raising the minimum wage, voted against the Equality Act and the Equal Rights Amendment, the Voting Rights Act, the George Floyd Act and the Build Back Better and Infrastructure bills. And that’s just a modest sampling.
Cheney’s position as vice chair on the January 6 committee was purely decorative. In getting her on board, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could leave an impression that the investigation into the former president was somehow bipartisan, bringing in both Democrats and the GOP. In the meantime, Cheney could play the principled constitutional defender, enraging members of the party that never forgave her.
In losing her voter base, Cheney seemed to have won, inexplicably, a few admirers. Former US Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, hoped she would not “disappear from public life.” She had “displayed more courage and integrity than almost any other member of her party – indeed, given the pressure she was under, perhaps more than any lawmaker now alive.”
It is worth noting that Trump, for all his monstrous defects and vandalising tendencies, never took his country into an illegal war nor endorsed a massive, illegal warrantless surveillance program of citizens. For all his Caesar-like pretensions, he was not an adventurist in the way President George W. Bush was, nor committedly Machiavellian in the manner of Dick Cheney. Besides stealing the 2000 election, a point virtually no one sober enough after the fact amongst Democrats and Republican strategists can deny, Bush went on to destabilise and crater the Middle East and give a very complete account about how dismal the neoconservative cabal could be.
In due course, the neocons, with the Cheney mindset running the show, converted the US government into a forward base for forced democratisation even as they were destroying democracy – or an impression of it – at home. (A plantation, property-minded republic with a constitution to match was never intended as a democracy.) It made Dick Cheney’s plea for his daughter’s re-election darkly laughable. “In our nation’s 246-year history,” went the campaign ad fronted by Father Dick, “there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump.”
Daughter Liz is hoping for bigger, more ruinous things. In her graceless non-concession speech, she promised that “our work is far from over”. This project, she suggested, lay in the battle against “the conspiracy and the lies” regarding the 2020 elections. She promised to “do whatever it takes” to deny any pathway for Trump’s return to the White House.
This immediately had commentators jotting down options. Did that mean that Cheney would have a stab at the office herself? (She subsequently revealed on NBC’s Today that she was toying with the idea.) Any primary run against Trump would seem positively quixotic, though she did allude, irrelevantly, to one of the Republic’s most remarkable and devious minds as a source of inspiration. “Abraham Lincoln was defeated in elections for the Senate and the House before he won the most important election of all.”
Nothing proved sacred to Cheney, who also mentioned Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, “That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and a government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Pity those last words seemed to have been ignored by her family.
In her dig through Civil War history, not even Ulysses S. Grant was spared. The Union General, instead of heading back to the safety of Washington, decided to head to Richmond “and the heart of Lee’s army. Refusing to retreat, he pressed on to victory.”
Bringing the spirits of Lincoln and Grant into play, along with the nonsense of the US being “the best hope of freedom on earth”, was in spectacularly poor taste. The Cheney family has made a truly corking effort in shredding the Republic Lincoln tried saving. Along the way, they managed to lose a constituency. There was never much in the way of principle here – except the one that only ever matters for the Cheneys: power, and how to possess it.
Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He currently lectures at RMIT University. Email: email@example.com