I never thought I would say this, but I am so glad Liz Cheney is keeping her job.
The Republican representative from Wyoming on Wednesday night survived an attempt to push her off of the House GOP’s leadership team after she was one of 10 Republicans in the chamber who voted to impeach now-former President Donald Trump following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. She didn’t just keep her job — she won the secret ballot among her fellow House Republicans by a substantial margin, 145-61, at the end of a “tense” four-hour meeting. If one wants to be hopeful, the vote is a sign that maybe the party isn’t as far gone to extremism as it has seemed in recent weeks.
“It was a very resounding acknowledgment that we can move forward together,” Cheney said.
On the other hand, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) reportedly got a standing ovation from about half the caucus after being called to account for her conspiracy mongering. That’s a less hopeful sign.
But I want to focus more on Cheney’s victory. She has never been the kind of politician that liberals could feel warm and fuzzy about — hawkish like her father on foreign policy, elbow-throwing as a partisan. Just two years ago, she labeled Democrats as “the party of anti-Semitism, the party of infanticide, the party of socialism.” She will never become an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and there will always be plenty of reasons for left-of-center activists and observers to criticize her, even fiercely.
Still, Cheney was right about Trump.
She was right to vote for his impeachment — because he really did incite the Capitol riot with his months of lies suggesting the presidential election was stolen from him. She was right to vote to certify Joe Biden’s presidential victory. And she didn’t go along with the majority of her Republican colleagues who voted the other way on those issues, even though it risked her position in House leadership, and might still end up costing her the support of Wyoming voters.
She voted in favor of democracy. She voted in favor of reality. That means something.
“The major political divide going forward, and the only one that matters, will be between the defenders of liberal democracies and their vandals,” Shikha Dalmia, a contributor to The Week, wrote this week on Twitter. “All previous disagreements will cease to matter. There will be new alignments between past foes and ruptures with past friends.”
That might be overstating it a bit. Policy still matters, and there are always going to be conflicts within any coalition on goals and tactics. Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and lefty Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) share a party, for example, but they have very different ideas about how to get stuff done — and, often, what stuff to get done. Those differences aren’t going to go away. That gap will be even bigger between Democrats and the remaining Republicans who are still committed to democracy, who aren’t making excuses for the insurrectionists and the president who inspired them.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t kinda, sorta root for those Republicans, though.
American democracy is still in a highly fragile, very vulnerable place — and might remain so for the foreseeable future. Democrats can’t expect to win every election, or to keep the White House and Congress for an indefinite period of time. Sooner or later, Republicans will come back into power. And since that’s the case, Democrats should hope their rival party is being led by people like Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), who is fighting a lonely battle against his party’s extremists, instead of people like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), whose devotion to Trumpism seemingly knows no bounds. They should desire that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) prevails and that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) loses ground.
Most of all, Democrats and their allies should be cheerleaders for democracy. Right now that means being glad Liz Cheney kept her job.