Establishment Republicans love to blame Donald Trump for their losses, but they are their own problem
Rep. Liz Cheney – the daughter of former US Vice-President Dick Cheney, of the President George W. Bush era – had publicly positioned herself as chief co-prosecutor of former President Donald Trump in the congressional hearings into the events around the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. But that isn’t why she lost this week’s Republican primary in the state of Wyoming and the chance to run for re-election.
The Western mainstream media is portraying Cheney’s loss of her congressional seat this week as the result of her firm stance against Trump and his behavior in egging on his supporters as they sought to interrupt the process by which the 2020 election would be certified by US lawmakers.
But Cheney didn’t lose just because she’s a prominent Trump critic. She lost because she routinely defends and proudly represents a broken establishment that voters in America’s heartland are increasingly rejecting.
Just ahead of Cheney’s highly anticipated loss, Meghan McCain – the daughter of neoconservative war hawk and late Senator John McCain – Tweeted: “Liz Cheney has guts, is an original and goes against the grain and MAGA kool aid drinking group think that’s a cancer in GOP leadership.” Reducing Cheney’s 66% to 29% defeat by Harriet Hageman – a lifelong Wyoming local and lawyer who has represented ranchers and the energy industry – to the mere fact that Trump had endorsed her opponent, is an insult to Wyoming’s voters. McCain’s framing also conveniently allows for both the Washington and Republican establishments – of which the McCains and the Cheney’s are essentially royalty – to avoid addressing the inconvenient, underlying reasons for the loss.
One of Cheney’s biggest problems is that, like the McCains, she’s a neoconservative who has consistently advocated in favor of greater American interventionism and belligerence around the globe – from Ukraine to Iran and beyond. She wants to dump ever more weapons into Ukraine, apparently oblivious to the potential blowback from this recklessness. She even co-authored an opinion piece for the Washington Post with Massachusetts Congressman Jake Auchincloss, in which she wrote that Ukrainians “are not just fighting for their own freedom. They are fighting for ours, too.” Ah, the classic neocon trope – that America has to meddle everywhere around the world in the interests of “freedom”! Funny how that “freedom” is only ever needed in places that either have lots of natural resources or else just happen to be at or near somewhere that Washington wants to regime change.
Wyoming Republicans are the kind of “live and let live” sort of people who are strongly against the government running much more than a lemonade stand. A whopping 70% voted for Trump in the 2020 presidential election while just 27% chose Joe Biden. It’s no coincidence that Trump has the backing of Wyomingites when he was not only the first modern president to not start a new foreign war while in office, but also worked at reducing big government.
Trump’s election in 2016 was the result of general exasperation with the corrupt establishment running the country, and that exasperation persists, particularly on the Republican side of the aisle. Although Trump no longer serves as an electoral vehicle for voters to channel those frustrations, results like Cheney’s defeat are nonetheless symptomatic of a persistent desire for systemic reform. It’s the proverbial tip of the iceberg that occasionally breaks through.
The Republican Party base is no longer what it was back in the days when right-wing voters elected Republican candidates with Washington establishment pedigrees. Cheney represents that old guard. Her tone deafness to that fact on the campaign trail included dragging her 81-year old father to whistle stops, who’s synonymous with establishment special interests in sectors ranging from energy to defense, which were routinely evoked during his vice-presidential tenure as alleged pretexts for his drive to war, having previously served as Chairman of the oil company, Halliburton, and as the Secretary of Defense in the George H.W. Bush administration.
Liz Cheney has arguably spent considerably more time in Washington than in Wyoming. She cut her political teeth inside the Republican establishment, serving in Bush Jr’s state department, and previously as an aid officer to the CIA-linked USAID program in Poland and Hungary in the wake of the Cold War.
While Cheney has also been vocal against cancel culture and high taxes, that’s now the very basic minimum requirement to be considered for Republican candidacy in this era of reckless fiscal spending and societal erosion. By no means should passing such an elementary litmus test constitute a high bar for winning the support of Republican voters or that of anyone else fed up with the corruption of the American system and way of life.
Cheney proudly positions herself as a gatekeeper of that corrupt, broken system and as one of its staunch defenders. She mistook it as a virtue, and the GOP primary voters who sent her packing have just conveyed that they want her and other establishment fixtures like her to get out of the way.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.