Photograph: Jae C Hong/AP
As Liz Cheney stepped off the podium at a Wyoming ranch Tuesday night, to the applause and cheers of her fans, a tom petty song burst out below the Tetons: “Well I won’t back down / No I won’t back down / You could stand me up at the gates of hell / But I won’t back down.”
The woman who has become the most implacable Republican opponent of Donald Trump suffered a crushing defeat in a primary election to decide Wyoming’s only seat in the US House of Representatives.
But unlike the former president, who loves to play the victim, Cheney refused to live in political martyrdom after his act of self-sacrifice. In a 15 minute speech alongside a dozen bales of hay, a vintage red Chevrolet pickup and four US national flags, he made it clear that while Trump had won the battle, the war for the soul of the party continues.
“This primary election is over,” Cheney acknowledged to a crowd that, in painful symbolism, included his father, a former vice president. dick cheney. “But now the real work begins.”
He invoked Abraham Lincoln, who lost the congressional election before becoming president and preserving the union. The Vice President of congressional january 6 committee warned that Trump and his enablers pose an existential threat to democracy and urged Americans of all persuasions to unite.
To many in the crowd, who had drunk and dined in a hospitality tent with a country and western band to entertain themselves, it sounded awfully like the launch of a presidential campaign.
Heath Mayo, 32, a lawyer, said: “On the question of the future of the party, there are few people who will argue against the prevailing argument of Trumpism. She is the only one who can do it. I hope she runs for president in 2024. She needs to be on that stage to make that argument again, even if she loses. She keeps arguing.”
Carol Addelman, 76, who hired Cheney, 22, for the US Agency for International Development, said “of course” he would like to see Cheney run for the White House in 2024. Alan Reid, 60 years, who works in finance, agreed. : “Who else? Who is better? I don’t see anyone from any party showing the leadership that Liz shows.”
Cheney’s political future became a little clearer Wednesday when he launched a leadership political action committee called “The Great Task.” your spokesperson he told the Politico website: “In the coming weeks, Liz will launch an organization to educate the American people about the continuing threat to our Republic.”
In a television interview, Cheney confirmed that she is “thinking ofa candidacy for the presidency in 2024 and will make a decision “in the coming months.”
As the fall of the Cheney dynasty in Wyoming demonstrated, he would have almost no chance of winning a Republican primary. But if the field is crowded and divided, say between Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence, she could have a symbolic impact in the “moderate” lane.
And as the January 6 hearings have shown, Cheney would like nothing more than to be on a debate stage with Trump and prosecute the case against him directly in prime time.
Alternatively, the three-time congresswoman could run as an independent candidate in the general election. This could take crucial moderate votes away from Trump in battleground states, helping his Democratic opponent, presumably President Joe Biden.
But there could also be a danger that he could take votes away from Biden, particularly from cross-Republicans who supported him in 2020 because of his hostility to Trump. Democrats would be eager to avoid a repeat of 2000 when the third “spoiler” Ralph Nader was blamed for costing Al Gore the election.
Cheney, who has vowed to do whatever it takes to keep Trump out of the Oval Office, would be equally wary of such a scenario unless, as some critics suspect, ambition and ego compete with his nobler impulses.
Robert Talisse, an expert in contemporary political philosophy at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, wrote in an email: “If Cheney seeks the Republican nomination against Trump, he will be crushed. If Trump does not seek the nomination, he will still be able to select the nominee.
“If he runs as an independent against Trump, he will likely divert a significant number of conservative voters who may not be able to make up their minds to vote for a Democrat, but who will not vote for Trump either.”
The calculation would be made in the context that the reports of Trump’s weakening control on the Republican Party have been greatly exaggerated. She is one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him: eight have lost their primaries or dropped out, while only two will survive the next Congress.
In fact, as Cheney leaves the stage, at least for now, Sarah Palin, who paved the way for Trump, is making a comeback. On Tuesday, with her endorsement, advanced to the November general election in the race for Alaska’s only seat in the House. The journeys of these two women in their fifties clearly sum up where the Republican Party stands.
But as Cheney pointed out in his remarks, pro-Trump election deniers are on the rise across the country. It has proven to be a winning formula in primaries that reward the strongest voices, but could still backfire for the party in the midterms, where centrist voters are put off by extremism. Republicans may lose their chances in the Senate with several radical candidates who are heavy on celebrity but light on seriousness.
For now, Trump will feel that Tuesday showed that revenge is a dish best served Maga. But Adam Kinzinger, Cheney’s Republican colleague on the Jan. 6 caucus, is confident she won’t back down. Echoing Tom Petty, told MSNBC:: “She is very determined, very stubborn, and will pursue Donald Trump to the gates of hell.”