It was about seven weeks ago when Rep. Liz Cheney said something she’d never said before. The Wyoming congresswoman — a lifelong conservative Republican, a member of the House GOP leadership as recently as last year, and a lawmaker who voted with the Trump White House roughly 94% of the time — said she felt compelled to support Democratic candidates for the first time.
In context, Cheney discussed Kari Lake, the election-denying Republican gubernatorial candidate in Arizona. Asked whether she would back Lake’s Democratic rival, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Cheney said, “I am going to do everything I can to make sure that Kari Lake is not elected.”
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Pressed on whether that would include campaigning for Democrats, in order to defeat election deniers, the GOP lawmaker replied, “Yes.” Cheney added that partisanship “has to have a limit.”
As we discussed soon after, what the Wyoming Republican was describing was a simple litmus test: Election deniers have no place in elected office. Period. It was a defensible position, predicated on the idea that those who reject the foundation of our system of government — we settle our differences at the ballot box, and agree to honor the will of the voters — simply can’t be trusted.
But some skeptics weren’t sure what to expect in the weeks that followed. It was one thing for Cheney to offer tepid and indirect support for one gubernatorial candidate because the GOP nominee is such an unhinged conspiracy theorist, but would she really step up and put country over party in other races?
Evidently, yes. The Associated Press reported over the weekend:
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney crossed the political aisle again this election year and endorsed a Democratic colleague in a competitive House race, backing former CIA officer Abigail Spanberger on Saturday as she seeks a third term in a newly redrawn district in northern Virginia.
Four days earlier, Cheney weighed in on Ohio’s competitive U.S. Senate race, throwing her support behind Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan over Republican election denier J.D. Vance.
That same day, the Wyoming Republican traveled to Michigan to campaign alongside Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who’s running in a highly competitive district.
“I’ve certainly never campaigned for a Democrat,” Cheney said. “But we’re in a moment now where my party has really lost its way and it’s lost its way in a way that is dangerous. ... We’ve become beholden to a man who was willing to attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power.”
Three days before that, Cheney launched a $500,000 ad buy in Arizona, targeting Lake and Mark Finchem, the right-wing secretary of state candidate.
The point is not that the conservative congresswoman is some kind of progressive hero. She’s not. Indeed, from a Democratic perspective, Cheney’s policy record is indefensible and she’s wrong about practically everything.
But as we’ve discussed, from a democratic perspective, the Wyoming congresswoman is a rare voice trying to prevent one of the nation’s two major parties from abandoning our system of government — and if that means publicly backing candidates from the rival party, it’s a price Cheney’s willing to pay.
It’s difficult to say with confidence whether it’ll make an electoral difference. No one knows how many votes Cheney is capable of moving in some of these contests, and it’s entirely possible that each of the Democrats she backed will end up losing anyway.
But Cheney has nevertheless broken new ground, and I’m inclined to give her some credit for putting the country’s interests ahead of her party’s interests.