But before people get carried away with the notion that she will defend democracy at all costs, note that some of her answers suggest she does not yet appreciate what is necessary to defeat Trumpism, a mind-set dependent on lies and seeking to undermine the Constitution. For example, she insists she will not leave the GOP and will work to elect non-MAGA Republicans in 2022. But if those Republicans vote to make McCarthy speaker, doesn’t that work against her goal? If the former president remains a threat to democracy, what would prevent him from directing a Speaker McCarthy to not certify the election of a Democrat in the future? The ultimate defense of democracy would be to prevent a GOP majority so long as it is under the sway of liars and authoritarians.
Even more troubling, she shied away from criticizing Jim Crow-style legislation that Republican-led states are passing based on the “big lie.” Instead, she claims some measures have been “misrepresented in the media” and that the greater danger is “federalizing” voting rights under the Democrats’ voting reform bill H.R. 1. She insists states should do what they please. In practice, that is no different from MAGA activists seeking to curtail voting access and trying to stack the deck so that elections are conducted under the auspices of Republican partisans.
A true defender of democracy would say something along these lines: “There is no justification for legislation in the name of ‘voting security,’ since there was no significant fraud in 2020. We had the cleanest election with the highest turnout in history. If anything, we should be cementing the rules in place in 2020.” That person might take exception to parts of H.R. 1, but embrace efforts to guarantee the same access voters enjoyed in 2020 and also support H.R. 4, which would restore the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
In contrast to Cheney, former Homeland Security official Miles Taylor tells me that opposition to voter suppression bills is “central policy” in the document titled “A Call for American Renewal” that 150 Republican signatories, including Taylor, issued on Thursday. (Although there may be differences of opinion on the particulars of H.R. 1 among the group’s members.)
It’s true that Cheney has just begun her fight and has already done more to oppose the anti-democratic bent of MAGA Republicans than any other elected Republican official. But she will need to consider the consequences of electing a GOP majority and perpetuating a voter suppression crusade that undermines democracy. Consistency would require, for example, that she campaign against any House member who signed on to the noxious brief seeking to disenfranchise millions of voters and against any House or Senate member who voted to overthrow the results of 2020 — both in Republican primaries and the general election. Likewise, she also should require candidates she backs to refuse to vote for McCarthy as speaker.
Put differently, stopping the assault on democracy must take precedence over returning Republicans to majority. If Cheney does not understand that giving McCarthy the speakership and enabling voter suppression laws increase the risk of MAGA authoritarianism, she is not the savior of democracy some would like her to become.