The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The country needs more Liz Cheneys

Rep. Liz Cheney on Capitol Hill in June. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

“If the cost of standing up for the Constitution is losing the House seat,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) recently told the New York Times, “then that’s a price I’m willing to pay.” On Tuesday, her state’s voters came to collect.

Ms. Cheney’s defeat in Wyoming’s GOP congressional primary was predictable — and yet no less dispiriting. Polls had her trailing the eventual victor, Harriet Hageman, by a substantial margin. But no numerical analysis was necessary to see how far out of step Ms. Cheney had become with a Republican Party over which former president Donald Trump still holds so much power, even after his role in one of the nation’s darkest days: Jan. 6, 2021.

Where many Republicans (including her opponent) say the 2020 presidential election was rigged, Ms. Cheney refuses to participate in election denialism. Where nearly all of her House colleagues refused to join Democrats in their efforts to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection, Ms. Cheney has played a central role on the select committee seeking to hold to account those responsible. Her participation lent bipartisan legitimacy to the undertaking; her knowledge of her own party’s politics proved invaluable to understanding how that day’s horrible events came about.

And now, while candidates willing to spread the “big lie” are winning GOP primary races across the country, such as gubernatorial candidates Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Kari Lake in Arizona, Ms. Cheney has lost.

Gary Abernathy: Liz Cheney and other jilted lovers need to move on from the GOP

This outcome says as much about the GOP as it does about Ms. Cheney’s mettle. She did not lose because she surrendered her status as a card-carrying conservative. She’s an antiabortion foreign policy hawk with a career score of 74 percent from Heritage Action, a conservative advocacy group, and a 79 percent score this session. She voted with Mr. Trump 93 percent of the time during his tenure. She lost because she refused to bow to Mr. Trump — or, at least, to remain silent about his campaign to undermine U.S. democracy, as do many Republicans who understand that Mr. Trump is a grave threat. The difference between her and the House Republican leadership from which she was ousted is that she recognizes that ideology and party loyalty should not matter when facing a fundamental threat to democracy.

Now, as politicians seed doubt in the outcome of votes before they even happen and spew reckless rhetoric that endangers elected officials and everyday government employees, the nation needs a broad coalition united in defense of bedrock values such as free-and-fair elections and the peaceful transition of power. The country needs, regardless of their positions on tax hikes or deregulation or free trade, more Liz Cheneys in government. Now, it will have one less.

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Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the Editorial Board, based in the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.

Members of the Editorial Board and areas of focus: Deputy Editorial Page Editor Karen Tumulty; Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ruth Marcus; Associate Editorial Page Editor Jo-Ann Armao (education, D.C. affairs); Jonathan Capehart (national politics); Lee Hockstader (immigration; issues affecting Virginia and Maryland); David E. Hoffman (global public health); Charles Lane (foreign affairs, national security, international economics); Heather Long (economics); Molly Roberts (technology and society); and Stephen Stromberg (elections, the White House, Congress, legal affairs, energy, the environment, health care).

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