Liz Cheney’s Political Calculation In Her Continued Defiance of Trump
Many representatives in the GOP are frustrated with Liz Cheney and her continued defiance of Trump in her party, in particular, her continued stance on the role that he played in the January 6 Capitol insurrection that led to her vote for impeachment. In a party remiss to move on from Trump but instead seems overwhelmingly still apt to embrace him, this may seem a poor political calculation for Liz Cheney.
It could be that Liz Cheney is maintaining her stance over principle in a sincere belief that Trump’s lies and actions with his “stop the steal” campaign in the wake of his clear and ultimately unchallengeable loss to President Biden undermined democracy and fomented the Capitol riot. It could also be that Liz Cheney is making a correct political calculation. Perhaps her unwavering stance against the majority of her party has elements of both.
On the latter point, Liz Cheney may see the light at the end of the tunnel of a party that will ultimately find its way to move on from Trump. With regard to her own political vulnerability, she won reelection with 69% of the vote in 2020 despite being a frequent critic of Trump while he was president. With regard to the primary challenges she faces from GOP Trump faction challengers state senator Anthony Bouchard and state rep. Chuck Gray, she may understand that it is likely they will split the faction’s vote, survive with 40% of the primary vote, and win general reelection in her overwhelmingly red state.
With regard to the possibility of a Trump run for president in 2024, Liz Cheney may see what most political operatives with even just a semblance of competence that, while he would be virtually unbeatable in the primaries, it is highly unlikely that Trump would the general election. Trump was not only broadly unpopular while serving as president during a strong economy (something that is usually unheard of), a majority of Americans view his handling of the pandemic and his post election behavior that culminated in the Capitol insurrection as poor at best, abysmal at worst. Compound that with his legal trouble with the ongoing investigations of the Trump Organization by the Manhattan District Attorney (one civil, one criminal) and what revelations they may produce, and it is hard to see any success in a Trump general election presidential run.
Of course, Trump would never concede a general election loss and would be certain make false claims once again of wide spread fraud in a future loss, but after 4 years of what is likely to be an ongoing economic boom period, the general American electorate minus a minority of Trump’s most extreme diehards, will have little appetite for such antics. With Rudy Giuliani having recently been raided by the FBI, it does not look good that he would have him as a credible ally in such a crusade (not that he was all that credible the last time around). Perhaps in such an environment Liz Cheney and other members of GOP leadership that along with her defied Trump and Trumpism emerge as leaders with foresight and courage.
On the flip side, consider Trump does not run in 2024. There would likely be good reason he does not run. Perhaps he would see the writing on the wall that a booming economy under President Biden, and/or damning revelations result from the Manhattan DA investigations would make victory all but impossible in 2024. Without Trump as a candidate in 2024 but with him still holding perhaps a significant influence in the GOP with candidates pandering for his endorsement, it is a strong possibility that the GOP primaries produce an extreme pro-Trump general election presidential candidate who backed his stop the steal nonsense and defended him in the wake of the Capitol insurrection (eg., Senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz) and will have a hard time overcoming that stigma within the back drop of a strong economy. Again, Liz Cheney, still a relatively young GOP political figure, may gather steam while Trump continues to fade in the rear view mirror.
Perhaps Liz Cheney’s seeming confidence in the face of adversity within her party is not contrived. Perhaps she knows exactly what she is doing and her strategy will win the day, and…perhaps she is right.