As a liberal in good standing, I will never forgive the GOP for forcing me to admire something about Republican Rep. Liz Cheney.
On the eve of her Wednesday ouster as Republican conference chair—a fate sealed by her refusal to agree, like the subjugated dolts around her, that the former president’s slobbering nonsense about the 2020 election being “rigged” might have merit—Cheney stood on the House floor and delivered a short speech that will be long remembered.
It came at a moment in American history when a shocking portion of Republican lawmakers and voters choose to ignore the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the rhetoric that caused the uprising, opting instead to embrace an insipid tale of voter fraud cooked up by half-wit fabulists and a fake-university-peddling fraudster.
This is an inflection point for our democracy. Either you believe in the democratic process and the rule of law, or you abandon it and pledge fealty to a narcissistic oaf. It seems like a no-brainer, but as Cheney would likely attest, we’re dealing with a lot of no-brains.
I don’t endorse or agree with much of anything Cheney stands for—she’s fiercely conservative, far more so, by any logical measure, than most of the Republican lawmakers who turned on her. She voted in line with the former president more than 90% of the time.
But I was struck by the words she spoke Tuesday night. They cut to the core of where we are as a nation, and where we might be headed if Republicans don’t abandon the cult they so willingly joined.
She is, at this moment, an honest apostate, and I can’t help but admire the courage it took to stand up and speak truth to lunacy. Most of her cowardly GOP colleagues left rather than hear what she had to say. The truth would’ve burned like holy water on a vampire.
Cheney’s words were important, and because they’ll be lost in the news of Wednesday’s vote, I’m sharing a good chunk of them here. They should be read, and remembered.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., on Tuesday, May 11, 2021:
“God has blessed America, Mr. Speaker, but our freedom only survives if we protect it. If we honor our oath taken before God in this chamber to support and defend the Constitution if we recognize threats to freedom when they arise.
“Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this capital in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence. Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president, they have heard only his words, but not the truth. As he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.
“I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law.
“The Electoral College has voted. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple judges the former president appointed, have rejected his claims. The Trump Department of Justice investigated the former president’s claims of widespread fraud and found no evidence to support them. The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process. Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution. Our duty is clear. Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy.
“This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. 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.
“As the party of Reagan, Republicans have championed democracy, won the Cold War, and defeated the Soviet communists. Today, America is on the cusp of another Cold War, this time with communist China ... . We must speak the truth, our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.
“I received a message last week from a Gold Star father who said standing up for the truth honors all who gave all. We must all strive to be worthy of the sacrifice of those who have died for our freedom. They are the patriots Katharine Lee Bates described in the words of ‘America the Beautiful’ when she wrote ‘Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self, their country loved, and mercy, more than life’.
“Ultimately, Mr. Speaker. this is at the heart of what our oath requires, that we love our country more. That we love her so much that we will stand above politics to defend her. That we will do everything in our power to protect our Constitution and our freedom that has been paid for by the blood of so many. We must love America so much that we will never yield in her defense. That is our duty.”
Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.