Wyoming's Liz Cheney took a stand and pays the price

Once a Trump sycophant, Congresswoman put principles over party to lead January 6 committee to investigate former president and associates

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Liz Cheney, the scion of Wyoming’s most powerful political family, whose voting record mirrored that of former US president Donald Trump, suffered a crushing defeat in her state’s Republican Congressional primary on Tuesday night.

The three-term Congresswoman and daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney fell out of favour with conservative supporters after she bucked party trends, refused to accept Mr Trump's "Big Lie" and then helped to lead the January 6 committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol by pro-Trump supporters.

She told a small group of supporters gathered in Jackson, Wyoming, that her path to victory was “clear” but it would have “required that I go along with president Trump’s lie about the 2020 election".

From the beginning of her campaign, Ms Cheney was adamant that she was willing to lose if it meant defending the constitution.

“It would have required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic,” she said.

Once considered a rising star in the party, her loss to Harriet Hageman, who received Mr Trump’s endorsement, reveals just how far right the Republican party has slid and how powerful the former president’s grip on it remains.

“It means there is going to be one fewer moderate within the US House of Representatives,'' said Brian Smith, professor of political science at St Edward's University in Austin, Texas.

“Liz Cheney is by no means a moderate but she's more to the centre than a lot of Republicans.

Throughout the campaign, one of the major frustrations raised by voters was that Ms Cheney was elected to serve them and they supported Trump, therefore she was betraying their confidence.

“Trust is hugely important,” Mr Smith told The National. “For some voters, it's as important as religion, that linkage between the voter and their representative, such that when the representative does bipartisanship votes for the other side, or in this case, serves on the January 6 hearing, it’s looked at as a form of betrayal."

After accepting defeat, Ms Cheney invoked the words of Abraham Lincoln, widely revered as one the country’s greatest Republican leaders, feeding rumours she could make a run for the White House.

“The great and original champion of our party, Abraham Lincoln, was defeated in elections for the Senate and the House before he won the most important election of all," she said.

"Lincoln ultimately prevailed, he saved our union and he defined our obligation as Americans for all of history."

But experts believe with the current state of the Republican Party, Ms Cheney will have an exceedingly difficult path to the Oval Office.

“She'd be underfunded and have a hard time winning primaries in deep red states,” said Mr Smith.

Mr Trump rejoiced in Ms Cheney's defeat.

"Liz Cheney is a fool who played right into the hands of those who want to destroy our country," he posted on social media.

For some, it is almost unfathomable that Ms Cheney may no longer have a place in the Grand Old Party, a party many Republicans say they no longer recognise — but that is where it is as of today, in a chokehold at the hands of the former president.

In her desperate attempt to salvage a victory, Ms Cheney had to court the state’s few Democrats to try to win over the Republican Party. That strategy failed and while it is doubtful if in any general election she could win their support, she has at least appeared to earn their respect.

Ms Cheney appears to have already shifted focus from her primary defeat to her political future. Her campaign team filed paperwork switching her campaign committee to a political action committee, an exclusive by Politico reported.

Called The Great Task, it has a reported goal of educating Americans on the 2020 election.

Updated: August 18, 2022, 3:45 AM
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