Bad and Honest Campaigning Sends Cheney Packing


Friday, August 19, 2022

We should want politicians to be honest with us about their beliefs.

That’s a fairly anodyne statement. In fact, I’d challenge any political scientist to produce a more popular sentiment in modern America than “politicians lie too much.” Americans are inclined towards skepticism of government officials (one of the countless reasons this nation is exceptional). We seek honesty from our leaders, but they rarely deliver.

Say what you will about the embattled congresswoman from Wyoming, you can’t deny she’s spoken her mind and been honest with her constituents.

Congresswoman Cheney lost her reelection bid on Tuesday to a Trump-backed challenger. Perhaps the term “lost” doesn’t do the results justice; she was trounced. Cheney failed to crack 29 percent at the polls in the GOP primary.

The growing rift between Cheney and President Trump is well documented. Not four years ago, Cheney was finishing her first term in Congress and had enough support among her fellow Republicans that they elected her conference chair, without opposition. At the time, insiders speculated that Cheney would someday be speaker. However, in short order, Cheney’s path to the gavel crumbled. A feud developed between Cheney and Trump in the wake of the 2020 election and the riot at the Capitol. Months later Cheney was ousted from her position as conference chair after she joined nine other House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in 2021. Since losing her coveted leadership position, Cheney most notably served as vice chair of the January 6th committee. 

To her credit, Cheney has (thus far) remained committed to conservative principles where other anti-Trump conservatives have failed. For example, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, another vocally anti-Trump Republican, has somewhat abandoned conservatism, supporting President Biden’s agenda in 54 percent of roll-call votes. Meanwhile, Cheney’s support for Biden’s agenda rests at a mere 18 percent. Looking at her voting record, it’s difficult to challenge Cheney’s conservative bona fides. 

However, Cheney never really tried to win her primary. Sure she attended debates and ran advertisements, but unlike some of her fellow Republicans who supported impeachment, Cheney made her opposition to Trump a cornerstone of her campaign. In one of her campaign ads, Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, speaks directly to the camera for a minute, calling Trump a “coward” and accusing him of being the greatest individual threat in the history of the republic. It’s not the sort of ad a competitive Republican candidate runs.

Cheney made her reelection campaign about Donald Trump. In her closing message to voters, Cheney focused on Trump. She didn’t mention the recession, the national crime surge, or the threat of China. Whatever you think of that message, it’s understandable that Wyoming voters were frustrated Cheney didn’t focus her campaign on issues closer to home. 

Cheney spent the past two years attempting to solve what she believes is the biggest problem facing the country. She lost Tuesday because her constituents don’t share that belief. 

But it’s better for everyone that Cheney was honest.

Of course, Cheney’s supporters lauded her for “speaking truth to power” and used all the other typical language you’d expect from that crowd. But shouldn’t those celebrating Cheney’s defeat also credit her for being straightforward with them?

It’s well-known that countless Republican leaders support the former president in their public rhetoric while rebuking him behind closed doors. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is a prime example. Leaked audio recordings show him criticizing Trump in the strongest possible terms amongst colleagues in the wake of the January 6th riots. McCarthy even explored the possibility of removing Trump through the 25th Amendment. By the end of the month, McCarthy traveled to Mar-a-Lago to make amends.

Cheney could’ve easily chosen the same path, biting her tongue and saving her true beliefs about Trump and the legitimacy of the 2020 election for private conversations, all the while continuing her rise through the ranks of the House Republican Conference.

But Cheney was forthcoming about her beliefs, and the pro-Trump wing of the party replaced her with someone better aligned with their priorities.

Certainly, Cheney’s opponents prefer she be honest, and get primaried, instead of hiding her true beliefs from her constituents. Especially if that deception might mean having a closeted anti-Trump Republican wielding the Speaker’s gavel.

Unless, for Cheney’s opponents, forcing establishment Republicans to parrot Trump is a bigger victory than defeating those who speak ill of him. Which is a better indicator of Donald Trump’s power within the GOP, Liz Cheney losing by 37 points, or Kevin McCarthy continuing to capitulate to the former president in pursuit of the speakership? Too close to call.

Ben Snead lives in Portland, Oregon, and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of Oregon's Clark Honors College. During his free time, Ben enjoys going on hikes and road trips in the Pacific Northwest.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Ben Snead

Ben Snead lives in Portland, Oregon, and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of Oregon's Clark Honors College. During his free time, Ben enjoys going on hikes and road trips in the Pacific Northwest.

ben.snead on Instagram @ben.snead

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