Can There Be Redemption for Liz Cheney?

Molly Jong-Fast / The Atlantic
Can There Be Redemption for Liz Cheney? Liz Cheney speaking with reporters. (photo: Center for Creative Photography/University of Arizona/Getty Images)

The only person capable of stopping Trump may be his ideological twin.

I’ve had a visceral dislike for the Cheneys since the 1980s. My grandfather—the late, great communist Howard Fast—never had kind things to say about Dick Cheney and his sins. But if Representative Liz Cheney ends Trump’s political career, I will have to reconsider my feelings about the family. In the first January 6 hearing in early June, Cheney handcuffed herself to Trump and jumped into the sea, in the hopes of drowning his political career at the risk of her own. Until Cheney, there was no powerful Republican willing to take such a gamble. Mike Pence was too cowardly, Kevin McCarthy too stupid, and Mitch McConnell too evil. Scion of a famous far-right family, the former third-ranking House Republican, and ideologically allied with Trump—she supported his agenda as president 92.9 percent of the time, except when she voted to impeach him—Cheney is just powerful enough to make her sacrifice matter. Cheney was almost Trump’s ideological twin.

If you want proof of Cheney’s impact, pick up a copy of one of last weekend’s editions of newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. In a harsh critique, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board called Trump “The President Who Stood Still.” “As a matter of principle, as a matter of character, Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again,” the New York Post opined. Murdoch has apparently decided that Trump’s brand of gold-plated authoritarianism is no longer useful to him.

Politico media columnist Jack Shafer explained the turn this way: “Murdoch has no friends. He has no loyalties. He has no principles. And never has. His support of politicians has always been transactional and extractive. Now entering the final days of his political career, Trump is expendable, making the Post’s and Journal’s twin discoveries in the same moment of Trump’s crimes against the Constitution a convenient cover story for the orange man.”

Last Thursday, the January 6 committee held its last primetime hearing—for now. The committee is regrouping to assess all the new evidence that turned up as the success of the hearings encouraged more people to come forward. (This week we learned that Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, had been subpoenaed and testified in front of a grand jury.) Does that mean more hearings, and more revelations, landing close to the November midterms, when they could hurt the chances of the Trumpists and election deniers running across the country? At a minimum, more hearings mean more trouble for Trump—more stories like former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s tales about the ketchup on the wall and Trump telling his staff that the rioters were “not here to hurt me.”

Come November, it’s also likely Liz Cheney will be a lame duck—she’s facing a tough primary for the one congressional seat in Wyoming in August. But her work on the committee will also likely be complete—and a new legacy secured—when her term ends.

“I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible,” Cheney said at the first hearing. “There will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.” Since then, she has beat the slow drumbeat of the future to pressure members of Trumpworld to come forward, and it has worked. As these hearings proceed, we see more and more members of Trumpers coming forward, from Hutchinson to Sarah Matthews to Matthew Pottinger. At the end of each hearing, committee members implore more witnesses to come forward. It’s like a parable: The only person who could take down Trump is the daughter of the man who created the Republican Party that made Trump possible.

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