Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary election loss Tuesday was no surprise.
The clock has been ticking on the Wyoming Republican in her ultraconservative state ever since she took a stand against former President Donald Trump’s actions surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack and his attempt to unlawfully maintain the presidency.
Ultimately, her drubbing came as predicted. She's projected to lose by nearly 40 percentage points to Harriet Hageman, a Trump-backed business lawyer who’s spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.
If Cheney wants to be on the "right" side of history, she’ll need to take off the blinders she’s been wearing.
In the lead-up to primary day, and in the hours since, there’s been speculation as to what Cheney’s post-congressional plans will be — with some predicting she’ll run for president.
“The primary election is over, but now the real work begins,” Cheney said vaguely in her concession speech Tuesday.
In an interview with NBC's "TODAY" show on Wednesday, Cheney was a bit more direct, acknowledging that she’s "thinking about" a potential presidential bid in 2024.
But it’s hard to see that ending in success for Cheney. She holds many extremely conservative views, so she wouldn’t appeal to many liberal voters. And she despises Trump and the Jan. 6 attack, so she wouldn’t appeal to many conservative voters.
If Cheney truly wants to beat back Trump and the fascist Republican Party enabling him, a long-shot presidential bid almost certainly doomed to failure isn’t the way to do it.
The real solution will require her to do something she’s opposed in the past: vigorously uphold voting rights and voter access.
Cheney voted against Democrats’ 2021 proposal to restore protections outlined in the Voting Rights Act that had been gutted by the Supreme Court. And she’s denied that Trump's lies about the 2020 election paved the way for Republicans in state legislatures to pass voter suppression measures. By now, Cheney surely knows that the GOP’s future electoral prospects depend on suppressing votes.
Bolstering voter protections for people Trump and the GOP want to deny is the best way to combat the right's authoritarian power grab. Ultimately, Cheney’s willingness to do this would show she truly cares about democracy — and not just retribution — after her ouster from Congress.
I question whether Cheney will actually go this route, but her concession speech certainly set her up for a future of voting rights work, if she’s as dedicated to democracy as she claims.
“It has been said that the long arc of history bends toward justice and freedom,” Cheney said. “That’s true, but only if we make it bend.”
Something like that has been said, in fact — by former President Barack Obama. Refashioning a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. in 2013, Obama said, “The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own.” He delivered those remarks to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington — which focused heavily on the right to vote.
This Cheney excerpt stuck out, as well:
At the heart of the attack on Jan. 6 is a willingness to embrace dangerous conspiracies that attack the very core premise of our nation: that lawful elections, reviewed by the courts when necessary and certified by the states and Electoral College, determine who serves as president.
The GOP’s anti-American attacks on elections aren’t merely about the presidential. They’re far-reaching, affecting politics on all levels. If Cheney wants to be on the "right" side of history, she’ll need to take off the blinders she’s been wearing and see that the conservative assault on democracy goes beyond Trump and Jan. 6.