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If there’s one thing we should have learned in the last four years, it’s that you never can anticipate who your friends will be when confronting the threat to democracy.
Old categories like conservative or moderate Republican are no longer relevant frames to assess who will stand up for the rule of law, the Constitution—or the truth of an election’s outcome and the need to reject rising, anti-democratic authoritarianism. Did you expect former Congressman Joe Walsh would be such a staunch Never Trumper? Or that top strategist Stuart Stevens, who worked on five Republican presidential campaigns, would end up writing a book called It Was All a Lie?
In the weeks since Rep. Liz Cheney stood up against the new Republican litmus test to deny the truth of the election and the dangerous role of Donald Trump, criticisms of her staunchly conservative pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-regulation polices have been voiced by Democrats to raise doubts about whether she can be trusted. Sure, there are legitimate questions about her silence toward Birthers or her support for her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and his use of waterboarding.
New York Times columnist Charles Blow rightly notes that she’s no Joan of Arc and that we should not forget the past or cry over her struggles. “Liz Cheney and her father are positioning themselves as protectors of the old order, as paragons of truth and as defenders of our American norms,” he writes, adding, “As if we don’t know what they are, as if the horribleness of Trump redeems them for relative measure.”
But I don’t subscribe to Blow’s emphasis on Liz Cheney’s past role. In this pivotal moment, her vociferous support for the Iraq War and the deadly lies of Dear Old Dad matter less. At a time when our democracy remains in serious danger, what matters more is her refusal to repeat the Big Lie and her determination to call out the truth about Trump in an effort to see that he never holds public office again. Note her fierce defiance before House Republicans voted to purge her:
“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”
You can decide for yourself how large an act of courage that is by her—to vote for his second impeachment, to state clearly that his actions and the actions of his elected cultists cannot be tolerated, even if it has spurred her ouster from GOP leadership and possibly losing her House seat next year.
Here in this insurrection era, now in its post-January 6 phase, I’m more than ready to stand with Liz Cheney or any Republican who’s decided there are higher principles and more fundamental values than sticking with Trump and grabbing power by any means necessary. We need more friends like this—ones that the Republicans have trouble avoiding—if the GOP fever is ever going to be broken.
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