Wednesday, August 17, 2022


While I admire Liz Cheney's devotion to democracy and contempt for Donald Trump, it troubles me that she thinks her presence in the 2024 presidential race will eventually rally her fellow Republicans to her way of thinking about him. The longer I watch Cheney, the more she seems like a jilted lover who won't accept the fact that her ex -- the GOP electorate -- just isn't into her pro-democracy, anti-Trump stance and never will be. No matter how many times her party's voters reject anti-Trumpism, whether in her House primary or in the primaries of other Republicans who've been critical of Trump, she believes she should just keep trying to make the voters see reason.

Many of us have acted this way after being dumped, but let's face it -- it's stalker behavior.

In The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein writes:
... many of Trump’s remaining Republican critics believe that a Cheney candidacy in the 2024 GOP presidential primaries could help prevent him from capturing the next nomination—or stop him from winning the general election if he does. “Of course she doesn’t win,” Bill Kristol, the longtime strategist who has become one of Trump’s fiercest conservative critics, told me. But, he added, if Cheney “makes the point over and over again” that Trump represents a unique threat to American democracy and “forces the other candidates to come to grips” with that argument, she “could have a pretty significant effect” on Trump’s chances.
Have you ever done this? Have you ever come to the conclusion that someone who dumped you will have a change of heart if you just explain why you shouldn't have been dumped at great length and in detail? Have you made phone calls, sent long emails, arranged "accidental" meetings, just to plead your case "over and over again"? If so, you were being a stalker -- and that's what Cheney is doing.

Brownstein adds:
... many Cheney supporters believe that the real leverage for her—and other Trump critics—would come from working to defeat the former president, or a like-minded alternative, in the 2024 general election. The only plausible way to break Trump’s hold on the GOP, these critics believe, is to show that Trump, or Trumpism, cannot win national elections. Even if Cheney cannot deny Trump the nomination, she could still ultimately loosen his hold on the party, this thinking goes, if she persuades enough centrist and white-collar voters to reject him and ensure his defeat in a general election. To save the party, in other words, Cheney might first have to be willing to destroy it.

... Cheney’s GOP supporters are ... divided over a possible general-election strategy; some sympathizers believe she would hurt Trump most by running as an independent third-party presidential candidate in the general election, and others worry that such a bid would help Trump by splitting voters resistant to him.
The belief that Cheney would hurt Trump in a general election by running third-party is, to put it bluntly, insane -- notice who's rallied to her recently (Democrats, moderate independents, the mainstream media) and who hasn't (any significant bloc of Republican voters). Of course she'd split the anti-Trump vote and guarantee his victory.

But consider the argument Brownstein is making here after talking to Cheney backers: She intends to prove that Trump can't win by sabotaging the GOP vote. It won't work, but it's shockingly reminiscent of the toxic thoughts many jilted lovers have. Cheney is saying in effect, If we democracy-lovers can't have them -- i.e., Republican voters -- then you can't either, Donald Trump.

Cheney needs to face the reality that her party is lost to her. The relationship can't be mended. And even if Republican voters dump Trump, they'll dump him for a like-minded authoritarian, Ron DeSantis. If Cheney wants to prevent Trump's election in 2024, she should back Trump's Democratic opponent. Beyond that, she should burn the love letters and move on from the GOP. It's through with her, and with everyone who thinks about democracy the way she does.

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