Is Liz Cheney the last of the mavericks?: A look at the Republican politician's rise, fall, and future

Share this Post:
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney — Photo by David Stubbs / Reuters
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney — Photo by David Stubbs / Reuters

It's the most wonderful time of the year for political scientists and politicians, who avidly watch the polls and political trends with more earnest anticipation than a child on Christmas Eve. It's midterm election season!

Conservatives and liberals are dipping their toes in, teasing 2024 presidential runs and endorsing candidates vying for a spot in the room where it happens. It's an exciting time, when anything can happen.

And while all eyes tend to be on big players like Herschel Walker and Kim Schrier, one name Americans shouldn't forget is Liz Cheney.

Who is Liz Cheney?
As much as voters try to cast Cheney into irrelevance, the soon-to-be former congresswoman seems to claw her way back into the headlines.

First elected in 2016, Cheney has served as Wyoming's lone representative to the House for the last six years. Thought to be one of the last "mavericks" of the Republican Party, she originally ran on economic issues, such as cutting taxes and regulations, creating jobs, and expanding industries like coal.

Cheney made a name for herself in DC. Daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, she has amassed an impressive résumé of her own, including deputy assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, former Fox News correspondent, and chair of the House Republican Conference from 2019 to 2021.

By all measures, Cheney was a well-respected conservative with a promising career — until she poked the beast.

On January 13, 2021, just months after casting her ballot for Donald Trump, Cheney voted to impeach the sitting president of the United States, one of only ten Republican representatives who voted in favor. Her vote came after the infamous January 6 insurrection, which Cheney believes Trump incited.

Following this vote, Cheney also voted in support of the select committee to investigate the insurrection, stating, "I will do everything I can to make sure the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office."

The fall of Cheney
Cheney's brand of conservatism aligns her closely with many of her famous supporters, including former president Bush. Her willingness to step away from party lines on occasion, remain poised, and rise above name-calling insults are reminiscent of the days when the American people were less divided. Cheney's political poise tends to fall closer in line with former senator John McCain, who on the campaign trail defended his rival, President Obama, as a "good person" when far-right conservatives attempted to sully his name.

Cheney's downfall depicts a trend political scientists have been noting in the Republican Party for years: a shift away from moderation and a broader focus on extremist, populist ideals.

Following her public opposition to former President Trump, Cheney's career began to tank. The Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Wyoming voted to censure her and removed her from her seat as chairwoman of the Republican Conference in 2021.

In August of this year, Cheney's seat in the House was up for re-election. Despite receiving endorsements from former President George W. Bush and US Sen. Mitt Romney, and raising more than $15 million in political donations, Cheney lost her seat in the primary to challenger Anthony Bouchard.

In spite of Cheney's political success, legacy last name, and emphasis on economic growth, Bouchard ran his campaign on a promise of loyalty to Donald Trump. He accused Cheney of being "out of touch" with Wyoming voters due to her impeachment vote.

"Wyoming was President Trump's best state both times he ran," Bouchard said. "That's because Wyoming voters are strong conservatives who want our leaders to stand up for America, defend our freedoms, fight for our way of life, and always put working people first, as President Trump did." Bouchard received endorsements from many influential conservative leaders, including Trump.

The new Republican Party
While speculation on what exactly caused Donald Trump's 2016 election win — a mass dislike of Hilary Clinton, dissatisfaction with the Obama years, or Harambe — will continue into the ages, his victory paved way for the rise of a new breed of Republicans. The age of decorum was quickly fading away, and an actively and unapologetically racist, sexist, and homophobic man in the White House opened the doors for the far right to take charge.

With radical conservatives like Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz now redefining what it means to be a Republican, and overt white supremacists on the ascendant on the far right, "moderates" like Cheney are struggling to find a place for themselves in the party. While there are still true moderate Republicans who do not share the same harsh views as those at the helm of the party, they have become the nearly silent minority.

Now, all eyes are on Liz Cheney, wondering if she can resurrect her career by moving farther right, or if she's going down in a blaze of glory.

Speaking out
As far as anyone can tell right now, she appears to be doing the latter. Doubling down on her beliefs that the 2020 election was fair, Cheney is now speaking out against election deniers seeking office in the midterms. Speaking to a group of conservative students at Arizona State University on October 5, she said the state's Republican candidates for governor and secretary of state threaten America's democracy.

"In Arizona today, you have a candidate for governor in Kari Lake, you have a candidate for secretary of state in Mark Finchem, both of whom have said — this isn't a surprise, it's not a secret — they both said that they will only honor the results of an election if they agree with it," she said. "They've looked at all of that, the law, the facts, and the rulings, the courts, and they've said it doesn't matter to them.

"If you care about democracy, and you care about the survival of our republic, then you need to understand — we all have to understand — that we cannot give people power who have told us that they will not honor elections."

Cheney's making enemies with conservatives left and right. After calling out election deniers, she went on to slam Fox News, for its coverage of the war in Ukraine, and Republicans who have supported Putin. "You can't look at something like what's happening today with Russia and Ukraine, and say America is neutral in that," she said. "That's a frontline in the war of freedom, and America must support Ukraine.

"You see news outlets like Fox News, running propaganda. You've watched it not just on Tucker Carlson's show, although he is the biggest propagandist for Putin on that network. You have to ask yourself, whose side is Fox on in this battle? How could it be that you have a wing of the Republican Party that thinks that America would be standing with Putin as he conducts that brutal invasion of Ukraine?"

Anti-Trump social club
She is also continuing to speak out against Trump, making it her mission to stop him from gaining the Republican nomination in 2024. Following her primary loss in August, Cheney told the Today Show, "I will be doing whatever it takes to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office."

For months, she has been hinting at a 2024 bid, not necessarily with eyes on the White House, but with the sole intent of stopping Donald Trump.
"The first thing that we have to understand is that we've never been where we are. We've never been in a phase, a place where we're facing this kind of a threat. And that's because we're facing a threat from a former president who is attempting to unravel the republic," she said in Arizona.

While neither Cheney nor Trump has yet to formally announce their candidacy for 2024, the soon-to-be former congresswoman is sitting on a promising stockpile of donations left over from her last election. Using rhetoric to align herself with Lincoln, whom Cheney noted in her concession speech also lost notable congressional elections, Cheney has labeled this stockpile "The Great Task." She has vowed to invest the remaining money in "The Great Task" to fund campaigns against election deniers this November.

Cheney 2024?
It may be early for 2024 poll numbers, but a theoretical Cheney bid does not look great for either party. First, Cheney's name does not register on most major polls, which see the big names in 2024 shaping up to be Trump, Biden, Harris, and DeSantis.

However, if Cheney does somehow manage to gain enough momentum to run outside of the Republican primary, political scientists predict that she will cause more damage to the Democrats than the Republicans.

Some Democrats have been disappointed in the primary winner for the last two elections. Democratic moderates pull more voters than those on the far left, like Bernie Sanders, who evoke hope in young and passionate people who are otherwise apathetic when it comes to showing up on election day. The main sway Joe Biden held in 2020 was the fact that he was not Donald Trump. Some worry that Cheney's name on the ballot could split the "not Trump" votes between her and the Democratic nominee, especially if it happens to be a moderate again.

While many voters will be looking for someone other than Biden to vote for, Cheney is not the progressive candidate her recent anti-Trump advocacy may have some believing. Despite running on economic issues and leaving most of the hot-button social issues, like LGBTQ+ and women's rights, out of her rhetoric, Cheney — a 57-year-old mother of five and a baby boomer — still holds a strong record of voting against progress when it comes to social issues. Most recently, she voted against the assault weapons ban, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, the Violence Against Women Act, and the Equality Act.

In her time as Wyoming representative, Cheney has voted for legislation that has incarcerated undocumented immigrants and held them in detention centers at the border, stripped what little gun control America has, and cut funding to Planned Parenthood. She may be a maverick, but a vote for her is still a vote against progress for the LGBTQ+ community.

Related: Vote with Pride events
"It is critical that our community vote for representatives that will serve the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community, because we are so vastly underrepresented in all levels of government," said Krystal Marx, executive director of Seattle Pride.

For members of the LGBTQ+ community looking for advice on who to vote for in the midterms elections, or hoping to get more involved with national politics, Seattle Pride will be hosting a free Vote with Pride ballot party on October 26 at the Capitol Hill Library, on October 30 at the Burien Library, and on November 2 at the Northgate Library.