There Are No Good Options in Liz Cheney’s Primary
August 16, 2022 | Tags: Politics, REASON, Republican Party, Wyoming
As primary election season begins to wrap up, only Alaska and Wyoming hold elections today. Alaskans, in the first test of their new open primary system, will decide whether to renominate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski as well as whether to choose former Gov. Sarah Palin to be the next representative for the state's only seat in the House of Representatives.
Wyoming also has only a single House seat, but it looms much larger on the national stage. Rep. Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and a Republican stalwart since she was first elected in 2016, faces near-certain defeat in her party's primary against Harriet Hageman, an attorney and former supporter of Cheney. The contest is likely to cause mixed feelings among libertarians.
The reason for her ouster is no secret: Cheney publicly broke with former President Donald Trump, repudiating his shambolic attempts to subvert the results of the 2020 election with conspiracy theories. After the January 6 Capitol riot, Cheney was one of 10 Republicans to vote for Trump's impeachment, pinning the responsibility for the violence directly on him.
A few months later, Cheney was removed from her position as chair of the House Republican Conference, despite a considerably more conservative voting record than her replacement, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R–N.Y.). And that summer, Cheney was nominated to be vice chair of the House's January 6 Committee, one of only two Republicans on the entire panel.
Despite Cheney's longtime support for Trump—she even received an email from Kimberly Guilfoyle, Trump's top 2020 fundraiser, praising her "tremendous support of President Trump, and your leadership and respect among your GOP colleagues"—her public criticism of the former president and support for the January 6 Committee sealed her fate with the GOP. In a recent University of Wyoming poll, primary voters preferred Hageman to Cheney by a two-to-one margin, 57–28. Hageman claims that the 2020 election was "a travesty" and "rigged to make sure that President Trump could not get reelected."
Hageman is troubling, but Cheney is also far from an ideal candidate. In fact, she has become somewhat of an unlikely Democratic hero—Wyoming's Democratic Party is even recommending its members switch parties and vote for Cheney in the primary. Ironically, this positioning tends to either absolve, or simply ignore, her record on nearly every other issue.
Mother Jones labeled Cheney a "hero of 2021" for her Trump criticism. But the article also details a 2010 "McCarthyite witch hunt" in which Cheney ran ads criticizing several Obama administration attorneys who had previously represented terror detainees in court. For representing clients in accordance with the Sixth Amendment, Cheney termed the officials the "al Qaeda Seven."
In 2014, Cheney and her father co-wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which they castigated then-President Barack Obama: "America remains at war, and withdrawing troops from the field of battle while our enemies stay in the fight does not 'end' wars. Weakness and retreat are provocative. U.S. withdrawal from the world is disastrous and puts our own security at risk." The two defended the merits of the Iraq War on a TV appearance with Megyn Kelly. And in a 60 Minutes interview last year, nominally intended to focus on her criticism of Trump, Cheney averred that waterboarding is "not torture" and that she "absolutely" supports it—a position she shares with Trump.
Wyoming is not only more Republican than any other state, but it also eclipses its closest competitor (North Dakota) by nearly a dozen points. The candidate that wins the Republican primary is almost certainly going to win the House seat. Democratic primary voters have not been polled, and the state Libertarian Party is running no candidates.
Other than her views on Trump, there's little indication of where Hageman actually differs from Cheney on the issues. (When asked, Hageman simply replied, "I'm not a globalist.") Cheney deserves tremendous credit for the integrity to choose her principles at the expense of her standing within her party. But otherwise, the contest for Wyoming's House seat poses no obvious upsides for libertarians.