Republicans punish Liz Cheney for opposing Trump

The politician has lost the Wyoming primary by a wide margin to a candidate backed by the former president

Liz Cheney during her concession speech.

The result was no surprise. Opposing Donald Trump was going to cost Liz Cheney, representative of Wyoming, the most Trumpist state in the United States. Republican voters have not forgiven her and the daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney has been defeated by a wide margin against Harriet Hageman in the state primary. Cheney will say goodbye to Congress. Trump has had his revenge.

With a relatively small percentage scrutinized, the difference was enough to declare Hageman the winner. With more than 50% of the vote counted, the Trump candidate had 64% of the vote and Cheney, only 32%. Cheney’s desperate appeal to convince Democrats to switch parties and vote for her did not turn the polls around.

Cheney quickly conceded defeat, when just 15% of the vote had been counted. “No House seat, no office in this land is more important than the principles that we are all sworn to protect,” she said, pointing out that two years ago she had won the primary with 75% of the vote. “I could easily have done the same again. The path was clear, but it would have required that I go along with president Trump’s lie about the 2020 election. [...] That was a path I could not and would not take.”

“This primary election is over but now the real work begins,” she said. “We cannot abandon the truth and remain a free nation,” she added, explaining that Trump’s false claims of electoral fraud led to violence, including the siege of the US Capitol on January 6. “No patriotic American should use these threats or be intimidated by them. Our great nation must not be ruled by a mob provoked over social media,” she said.

“I have said since January 6, that I will do whatever it takes to make sure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office,” she continued, warning that not recognizing the results of the 2020 election is a threat to US democracy. “Our survival [as a democracy] is not guaranteed. History has shown us over and over again how poisonous lies destroyed three nations.”

She continued: “This is a fight for all of us together. I’m a conservative Republican. I believe deeply in the principles and the ideals on which my party was founded. I love its history. And I love what our party has stood for. But I love my country more.”

“So, I ask you tonight to join me. As we leave here, let us resolve that we will stand together – Republicans, Democrats and independents – against those who would destroy our republic. They are angry and they are determined, but they have not seen anything like the power of Americans united in defense of our Constitution and committed to the cause of freedom. There is no greater power on this earth. And with God’s help, we will prevail. Thank you all. God bless you. God bless Wyoming. God bless the United States of America,” she ended.

Liz Cheney during a hearing of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Liz Cheney during a hearing of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.J. Scott Applewhite (AP)

There is speculation that Cheney may run in the Republican primaries for the presidential election. Her chances of winning, however, are slim, even if there is a sector of the Republican Party that does not like Trump.

With Cheney’s fall, only two of the 10 Republican members of the House of Representatives who voted to impeach Trump for the assault on the Capitol will be on the ballot for the midterm elections on November 8. But Cheney’s case was special. The dispute between Cheney and Trump was not just political, it was personal.

Cheney and Trump had already had knocked heads over foreign policy and in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cheney, for example, emphatically encouraged the use of face masks, given her father’s vulnerability to the disease. But the definitive split came when the Wyoming representative acknowledged Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, and refused to go along with Trump’s false claims of electoral fraud.

On January 6, when she was at the Capitol to certify Biden’s victory, she received a call from her father warning her that Trump had said the US had to get rid of the “Liz Cheneys of the world” during a rally to supporters before the attack. When she voted to impeach Trump, the Republican Party stripped her of her position as Minority Leader in the House of Representatives. She began to receive threats and to be harassed on social media. She was not even able to campaign in Wyoming for security reasons.

Donald Trump, at a campaign event with Harriet Hageman in Casper, Wyoming.
Donald Trump, at a campaign event with Harriet Hageman in Casper, Wyoming. Lauren Miller (AP)

Cheney agreed to be vice chair on the House Select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol and became a more vocal in her criticism of Trump and his supporters. “I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: there will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain,” she said at the opening hearing of the committee.

Coming from the most Trumpist state in the country, where the former president won nearly 70% of the vote in the 2020 election, Cheney knew the political cost of her position. Trump endorsed another candidate, Harriet Hageman, who has easily won the primary. In such a Republican state, moreover, winning the primaries is almost the same as being elected representative, since there is no doubt that Hageman will defeat her Democratic rival on November 8.

Alaska primary

Sarah Palin, who rose to fame as a vice-presidential candidate with Jon McCain in the 2020 elections, participated this Tuesday in two votes.  The first was to replace the representative of Alaska who died in March, a position that would last until the midterm elections in November. The second was to stand as the Republican candidate for that position in the November vote.

In the primaries, the top four candidates qualify, and Palin should have no problems making the cut. In the election to fill the vacant position, however, the count will be very long and complex given the preferential voting system that Alaska has adopted. Under that system, voters rank the candidates. If no one achieves more than 50% of the vote, the second-most voted for option is taken into account. But before that happens, all the votes must be counted. For this reason, the winner is not expected to be announced until August 31.

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