Cheney’s Choices

I wish I could imagine a scenario under which defeated Congresswoman Liz Cheney might lead a movement that defeats both Donald Trump and Trumpism. But I think that’s unlikely and, worse, there’s a scenario where she helps him win again.

Now that the inevitable has happened and Cheney has been crushed in the Wyoming Republican primary one thing is certain. Cheney will write a book, go on the lecture and talking head circuit, and make a fortune. Good for her. She deserves it. She had the guts to stand up to an awful human being and a horrible demagogue, which is more than you can say for about 99% of her fellow Republicans.

Her defeat demonstrates a new low for her party. I’ve called the GOP the de facto fascist party of America. Do you really need more evidence?

But her talk of running for President is likely to lead nowhere or nowhere good.

I don’t see much point in a Cheney presidential run.

Let’s say she runs in the Republican primaries. There’s no reason to think she won’t get pasted in pretty much every one. She may become a rallying point for the few principled Republicans left in the party, but that’s about it. All she will do is further underscore Trump’s grip on the party.

Or she could run as an independent. Now, that’s a more intriguing option because the idea there would be that she would offer a protest vote for that same slim minority of traditional Republicans, thus delivering the presidency to the Democrat over Trump or whichever Trumpy Republican gets the nomination.

But I’m not optimistic about that. I think what’s more likely to happen is that negative partisanship — the most powerful force in American politics today — will take over. Even anti-Trump Republicans will disagree so strongly with the Democrats that they’ll hold their noses and vote for Trump or his shadow. They’ll consider a vote for Cheney either wasted or a vote for the Democrat. Cheney will get some votes, but she won’t matter in the end. Or worse, she’ll siphon off independents who, turned off by Trump, would have voted for the Democrat, but now have a more palatable conservative option.

Maybe Cheney’s most promising option is to run in Andrew Yang’s new Forward Party. She could help put Forward on the map as a credible third party. That would be even more the case if her running mate was Yang or some other notable Democrat. But here again a real concern would be that they would attract more independents that would have gone for the Democrat than the Republican.

Look, while I probably disagree with Liz Cheney on 95% of everything, she’s earned my respect. She has stood up to Trump. If there’s a heaven for politicians (and, my God, why would there be?) she’s earned her place in it. But in this life it looks to me like a futile run for president would probably be ineffectual and it runs the risk of actually helping Trump or a Trump acolyte.

It’s just not worth it. She should take her show on CNN or MSNBC and have her influence that way.

And on another matter… the Dane County Board will decide tonight about what to do about a jail expansion.. unless they don’t decide. The Board has three options before them: a project with 825 total beds (18% less than we have now), a project with 725 total beds (28% less than we have now) or not making a decision at all and kicking it over to the voters in a November referendum. In a county that is growing at a rate of about 15% over a decade, it seems strange to be even contemplating an 18% reduction in the jail, much less 28%. But there might not be enough votes for the additional $10 million (due to new cost projections) to build even the 825 bed facility because a budget amendment takes a super majority. Maybe the best we can hope for is a referendum


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

7 thoughts on “Cheney’s Choices

  1. Agree with all you said about Liz Cheney. I hate to think but do wonder if she had been a man if more Republicans would have listened….re: Jail – I hope for a referendum. I understand the County Board has yet to meet in person, which makes it difficult to build relations or consensus. Until they really begin to work together, I think it’s hard to imagine them making hard and big decisions in virtual meetings. My two cents.


  2. Amazing to see Democrats getting behind anyone “not Trump” but Liz Cheney for crying out loud?

    How about kicking the woke brigade out of your own party first? That is Biden/Harris, both existential threats to our country. Make the case for Tulsi Gabbard (if she was a man more Democrats would have listened) or similar before you try to fix the other guy’s party.


      1. Disagree with “you can’t compare” but FWIW American Democracy is doing a pretty good job of destroying the country all on it’s own. We have popularity contests that you can only win if you promise everything to anyone. Then the bill comes due and you throw it on America’s credit card. And then rinse/repeat 4 or 6 years later. Some think a Monarchy could fix it. Others have suggested network States as opposed to geographical.


      2. We do have a system made up of narrow interest groups, so it’s difficult for any pol to appeal to a broader public interest. They need to shop themselves to each group and that group only cares about their particular issue and, almost always, has an extreme position on that issue. So, for example, I’m pro-choice but my views on that wouldn’t pass muster with most pro-choice advocacy groups because I’m not pure or passionate in my support for abortion rights. Still, my views are closer to where the plurality of Americans are at on that issue than the absolute and strongly-held views of the most passionate abortion rights advocates.


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