IMAGINARY LOVERS NEVER LET YOU DOWN
Liz Cheney's decision to bow out of the Wyoming GOP Senate primary was inevitable, I guess, given her terrible poll numbers and inability to turn around negative coverage, but I actually thought it should have been possible for her -- or someone -- to run a successful primary challenge even against a solidly right-wing incumbent like Mike Enzi.
My first thought was that it would have taken someone who seemed to be utterly pure, in every possible teabagger particular -- a Wyoming equivalent of Ted Cruz -- to beat Enzi. To the crazy base, it's virtually impossible for an incumbent to be right-wing enough, or to deal out enough a sufficient amount of pain to liberals and Democrats. A fresh face from outside Washington politics can seem, to the right, like some desirable fantasy lover, someone who, unlike the old ball-and-chain, appears perfect. Liz Cheney couldn't have been that. She's never held office, but it's as if she's an old Establishment figure -- it's as if her longtime residence in the Beltway and multiple appearances on East Coast talk shows gave her the equivalent of a voting record that can be picked apart.
But there are some people who can overcome this kind of thing. How did Newt Gingrich become a born-again teabagger of sorts for a few weeks in 2012? What did he do that Liz failed to do?
Newt's survival skill is that he always seems to believe his own BS. This is true even when his current BS contradicts a previous version of his BS. Newt has a peculiar personality disorder that allows him to make pronouncements with absolute conviction, whether or not he's said exactly the opposite years or weeks or even hours earlier.
Newt's personality disorder is very different from Liz Cheney's, or her father's. Newt is messianic rather than (like the Cheneys) sadistic. If he'd done a shameless 180 on gay marriage, people might actually believe him, because he seems to persuade himself that he's telling the truth with whatever contradiction of past statements he's offering up now. Liz was never persuasive on this.
Messianic is what the crazy base wants. Maybe Liz just needed to do a lot of emotional paeans to "constitutional conservatism" and "limited government" and "taking our country back" and all that. The base finds all that inspiring. She wasn't inspiring. I think she could have overcome a lot of hurdles if she had been.
She was following her father's style, which is not classically messianic. But he was the right guy for his moment, the immediate post-9/11 era, when the base hated terrorists and liberals in equal measure and Cheney seemed to be leading the war against the former, and thus making the latter howl. All Liz was ever able to do was second her father -- she didn't actually get brown people tortured back when that was what the base craved most (partly, if not mostly, for how upset it made us lefties). The base remembers loving Dick for that, but it's a grandfathered emotion -- if you support a bellicose foreign policy now, you're called a "neocon" at Free Republic, and it's not a compliment. If Obama had really been a peacenik, closing Gitmo and refraining from drone strikes, Liz coulda been his antagonist -- and maybe she coulda been a contender.