Liz Cheney takes on Trump again, but places herself at odds with the Republican caucus and Republican voters. This time her future is far more uncertain. Why can’t we just acknowledge that the 2020 election was conducted like no other in American history and move on from there? Doesn’t democracy and the Constitution require as much?
Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney has been dominating the political news recently after engaging in a heated back and forth with former President Donald Trump over the results of the 2020 election. The origins of the conflict go back to Representative Cheney’s vote to impeach then-President Trump in his final days of office, one of ten Congressional Republicans that sided with Democrats, for inciting an insurrection. At the time, Ms. Cheney managed to hold onto her leadership position with the backing of a lukewarm House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. This time, her prospects are much, much worse.
“It’s at a boiling point. This isn’t about Liz Cheney wanting to impeach Donald Trump; this isn’t about Donald Trump at all. It’s about Liz Cheney being completely out of synch with the majority of our conference,” one GOP lawmaker told The Hill. “As we’re focused on unifying the Republican conference and our mission to win back the majority, she is focused on the past and proving a point. She is alienating herself from the conference, and I have to imagine if she doesn’t resign there will be a new vote in the near future and the result will be lopsided in the opposite direction of what it was before.”
For many Republican’s, Representative Cheney’s seeming obsession with Trump and his claims the 2020 election was stolen are inexplicable. For example, Lance Gooden, a Republican Congressman from Texas, tweeted, “Liz Cheney has promised she will campaign on impeaching Trump ‘every day of the week.’ Good luck with that, Liz! PREDICTION: she’ll be out of her GOP leadership role by month’s end!”
Regardless, the latest back and forth began when Trump issued a statement last week, repeating and amplifying his claims of election fraud. “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!” he wrote. Representative Cheney swiftly responded with a tweet, “The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.” She followed up with an op-ed in The Washington Post on May 5, repeating her claim that Trump prompted the attack on the Capitol on January 6 and concluding “there is good reason to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again.”
She continued, “Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this.” In her opinion, “The Republican party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.” “I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law. Each of us swears an oath before God to uphold our Constitution. The electoral college has spoken. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president’s arguments, and refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud.”
The mainstream media, perhaps needless to say, was happy to laud Representative Cheney’s stand against Trumpism. The New York Times claimed that “Liz Cheney Refuses to Lie.” The Wall Street Journal pitted Cheney against a spineless, feckless crew of other Republicans, “Liz Cheney Confronts a House of Cowards.” Vox.com proclaimed that “Liz Cheney’s downfall shows that the Big Lie is the GOP’s one and only truth.” CNN noted the “ridiculous reasons some Republicans want to get rid of Liz Cheney.”
Completely lost on Liz Cheney, her backers in the media, and a sprinkling of Republicans in general, is the undeniable truth that the 2020 election was conducted like no other in the history of the United States. Even if you agree with the result and you believe the election was conducted in a way better than we’ve previously done, you cannot be on the side of “truth” and the “Constitution” without acknowledging the radical difference between 2020 and every single election that came before.
In fact, 2020 marked the most dramatic change in the electorate since 1920, when women first had the right to vote. In 2016, there were approximately 43 million “early votes” either in person or by mail. Last year, that number spiked to 101 million, an increase of over 234%, driving turn out to a total 159,633,396, 18.9% higher than 2016. Therefore, to continue claiming this was a normal, average run of the mill election, is to perpetuate lies yourself. This is true even if you agree that the increase in mail in voting was a positive thing. Either way, the election did not follow what had been the established process for every contest in the last hundred years.
Further, we know this for certain because Time Magazine of all places reported on a “well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information.” This included hundreds of millions of dollars from Mark Zuckerberg, secret meetings between liberal activists and the heads of social media companies, and a concerted, underground, unreported effort to legitimize mass mail in voting, the distribution of unsolicited, unverifiable ballots, and ballot harvesting. The result of this “conspiracy,” Time Magazine’s own words, “practically a revolution in how people vote.”
These are the undisputed facts that Representative Cheney and others are lying about. Amazingly, that’s not all they are lying about, either. Last time I checked, Joe Biden is in office executing the duties of the President of the United States while Donald Trump is semi-retired in Florida, meaning, whether or not Trump, myself, or any other Republican disagrees with the conduct of the 2020 election and the result, the “rule of law” and the mandates of the “Constitution were carried out.” Literally no one is talking about removing Biden from office and re-installing Trump.
What we’re talking about, however, is the free exercise of our First Amendment right to voice our concerns over a self-described conspiracy and to enact voting laws on the state level to prevent such a thing from happening again. That is not “poisoning” democracy. That is democracy in action. The people, including former Presidents, have the right to speak their mind and petition governments for redress. Incredibly, no one had a problem with this just 4 years ago when the media and liberal politicians were busy pushing the Russia collusion story, claiming President Trump was a traitor and a secret agent of Vladimir Putin. For example, then House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted on May 16, 2017, ““Our election was hijacked. There is no question. Congress has a duty to #ProtectOurDemocracy & #FollowTheFacts.”
Ironically, the response from those who repeatedly refer to former President Trump as an authoritarian is to take authoritarian steps themselves to stifle free speech. Thus, the very same sort of language used by Nancy Pelosi is now forbidden (on a side note, where was Representative Liz Cheney when all these Democrat attacks on democracy were going on?).
CNN’s Jake Tapper even went so far as to wonder how he could put anyone that has doubts about the integrity of the 2020 election on TV. “The lie about the election on its own is anti-democracy and it is sowing seeds of ignorance in the populous and, obviously, it has the potential to incite violence, but beyond that is if you’re willing to lie about that, what are you not willing to lie about?” Tapper asked. He continued, “How am I supposed to believe anything they say? If they’re willing to lie about Joe Biden wanting to steal your hamburgers and QAnon and the Big Lie about the election, what are they not willing to lie about? Why should I put any of them on TV?”
Of course, no mention is made of the many lies and falsehoods promulgated by him and his entire network, everything from the false Russian bounty story to the false Trump refused to visit the graves story, but that should not be surprising. What is surprising, and encouraging to conservatives like myself, the general public still doesn’t seem to be buying it, despite months of being called everything from conspiracy theorists to insurrectionists with blood on their hands. Somewhere between 70-75 of Republicans continue to believe the 2020 election was rigged if not completely stolen. More importantly, Republicans are taking action at a state level, despite being compared to Jim Crow by no less than the current President himself.
Although Georgia recently passed new election laws promptly labelled “Jim Crow 2.0,” costing them the Major League Baseball All Star Game, and prompting admonishments from major Georgia-based corporations including Coca Cola and Delta, more actual Georgians support the law than do not. A poll by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found an almost even split, with 46% supporting the more restrictive election law and 44% against, surprisingly 25% of black people surveyed supported the law even after being told it was tantamount to reimposing segregation, if not actual slavery.
Florida Governor and emerging Republican hero, Ron DeSantis signed a similar bill into law last week, and Texas is also expected to follow suit. That this is occurring despite massive, massive pushback from the establishment is truly astounding. At the same time, it’s not surprising either: After four years of being told Donald Trump was about to be frogmarched from the White House for vague crimes and witnessing an election like no other with their own eyes, why would anyone believe anything either the politicians or the media said anymore?
I know I certainly don’t, and it appears I am not alone.
Nor is this without consequence: Democrats are currently pushing an even more dramatic change to nationwide election laws. The House recently passed HR 1, an unprecedented Federal take over of elections that allows for unlimited mail in balloting and vote harvesting. Trump and others are empowered by the Constitution itself to push back and engage in an open debate. That’s not poisoning democracy, it’s participating in it.
To be clear: Nothing in my position outlined here precludes criticizing President Trump or his rhetoric. One can believe the 2020 election was unprecedented, and simultaneously believe Trump did not serve the country or himself well in the aftermath. Claims of election fraud are nothing new, going back to Andrew Jackson’s loss to John Quincy Adams in the “corrupt bargain.” It’s certainly fair to point that others have handled similar situations better, but to deny a situation occurred is simply false.