On May 21, Anthony Bouchard, a Wyoming state senator and candidate for Wyoming’s 2022 at-large U.S. House seat election, announced — in an alleged attempt to get ahead of opposition researchers — that when he was 18, he impregnated a 14-year-old girl. He went on to compare the incident to Romeo and Juliet. This rightly led to widespread condemnation, including from his fellow Wyoming Senate Republicans, and will hopefully end any chance he has of making it to Congress. His campaign was notable in the first place primarily because of who it aimed to unseat — incumbent U.S. Rep. and recently removed House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney. Bouchard, like an ever-growing list of candidates for her seat, has taken aim at Cheney for her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump in January for his alleged incitement of the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, as well as her condemnation of false Republican claims of election fraud. Those actions also, as mentioned previously, led to House Republicans removing Cheney from her post as conference chair on May 12 and has made her a target of Trump’s, who has described her as “a bitter, horrible human being.”
Conversely, Cheney has only become more popular among Democrats, 51% of whom view her either somewhat or very favorably, as opposed to only 20% of Republicans. Many prominent Democrats have spoken in her defense, as well. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., stated that “reasonable Republicans across the country must take back their party” in response to her removal. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described her ouster as a “new and very dangerous low point” for the GOP. President Joe Biden responded to the vote by saying that he doesn’t “understand the Republicans,” as well as exchanging a fist-bump with Cheney prior to his address to Congress.
While the statements from top Democrats are likely a political play to exploit any remaining anti-Trump sentiment for electoral ends — which is probably pointless, given Cheney’s low favorability among non-Democrats — the fact that she enjoys such strong support among Democratic voters is deeply concerning. While Cheney was undoubtedly correct in her condemnation of Trump and his false claims of election fraud — in contrast to most of the rest of her party — she has otherwise been a poisonous political figure who has stood against all values that progressive-minded people should hold dear. Democrats should not rehabilitate her solely for standing against a few of the worst excesses of Trumpism. Rather, they should celebrate that such a consistent evil-doer has been removed from a position of influence.
While Cheney has only been in the House for a little over four years, she has consistently been on the wrong side of issues. She was a virulent opponent of the Iran nuclear deal and a staunch supporter of Trump’s policy of re-applying devastating sanctions on the country. She opposed ending U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s brutal invasion of Yemen, which she described as “intended to help our allies defend against threats to their security.” However, the worst among her offenses was her sponsorship in 2020 of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that prevented the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan unless a number of conditions were met. Chief among those conditions was assessing if any “state actors have provided any incentives to the Taliban, their affiliates, or other foreign terrorist organizations for attacks against United States, coalition, or Afghan security forces,” an obvious allusion to the now-largely debunked Russian bounty story. Time and time again, she has stood for increased U.S. aggression around the world, sometimes even beyond what the president from her own party wanted — not to mention her strong opposition to abortion rights or her aversion to addressing climate change.
Her appalling record stretches beyond her time in Congress and back to when she was a Fox News contributor and a failed Senate candidate. In these roles, she defended her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, for the torture that he oversaw as VP. She said that opponents to waterboarding were “really not interested in looking at the facts.” As appalling as that is, her most disgusting moment came in how she responded to attacks on her openly gay sister during her Senate bid. Amid the attacks, Liz Cheney refused to defend her, instead stating that she was “not pro-gay marriage.” To be clear, this happened in 2013, less than two years before gay marriage was made legal nationwide by the Supreme Court. This was not during some era of the past in which not condemning a gay relative as a sinner would be the death knell of a political campaign. In fact, her father defended his daughter’s right to get married almost a decade earlier, in a presidential election that his ticket won. Cheney’s refusal to stand up for her sister was inexcusable by any standard of common decency, and a morally just world should have made her an outcast.
Even compared to her successor as Conference Chair, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., Cheney doesn’t come out ahead. While Stefanik, unlike Cheney, voted to overturn results from the last election, she actually has a considerably less pro-Trump voting record than Cheney overall. Cheney voted in line with the former President almost 93% of the time, while Stefanik did so slightly less than 78% of the time. So even on that front, Cheney’s ouster is a positive. All of this should be enough for Democrats to think twice before defending her. Of course, Cheney’s liberal defenders would counter all of this by saying that her voting record isn’t the issue at hand here and that she should be, and is being, applauded for standing up to Trump’s anti-democratic actions. But that’s not what’s happening. Since a majority of Democrats approve of Cheney, making such hay of her removal has caused many to ignore that record. Even if they weren’t ignoring it, it would still not be worth making Cheney into a martyr of the anti-Trump cause. Republicans, including Liz Cheney the majority of the time, have become the party of Trump, regardless of if one sometimes-critic keeps a leadership position. There’s plenty of ways to demonstrate that which don’t involve rehabilitating the reputation of such an immoral person. Let Republicans purge Liz Cheney — she doesn’t deserve any better.
Brandon Cowit is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.