by Keaton Weiss
Arming Saudi Arabia; drilling on protected lands; draconian, inhumane border enforcement; blocking a path to citizenship for DACA recipients; cutting taxes for the rich; banning trans people from the military; defunding health centers that perform abortions; preventing the government from negotiating for lower prescription drug prices; opposing sensible gun laws; opposing a $15 minimum wage; opposing restoration of the Voting Rights Act. These are just some of many issues in which Liz Cheney and Donald Trump are in full agreement.
And where they differ, Cheney’s positions are usually worse than Trump’s. She spoke out against Trump’s withdrawal of troops from Syria in 2019, she voted to override Trump’s rightful veto of 2020’s $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act, and she voted down Trump’s plan to increase coronavirus stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000 in the most recent Lame Duck session.
Democratic mega-donors like Jeffrey Katzenberg seem at least somewhat aware of this, which is why they qualify their gushing praise of Liz Cheney with caveats like “We agree on little, if anything.” But – ah – there’s always a but. “But,” Katzenberg continues, “She has done something that very, very few people in history have done, which is she’s put her country over party and politics to stand in defense of our Constitution.”
He’s of course referring to Cheney’s indignation at the January 6th riot and her insistence of Trump’s culpability in the event which have made her a rockstar in liberal media. Even Robert Reich, a more progressive Democrat who should certainly know better, penned a ludicrous essay floating her for President in 2024. His rationale is essentially the same as Katzenberg’s, which is essentially the same as Jonathan Chait’s, which is essentially the same as blue-checked celebrities like Rob Reiner, Stephen King, George Takei, and countless others in the liberal hive mind.
Cheney is a firm conservative and I have opposed many of her positions. But we are at an inflection point in this nation over a set of principles that transcend any particular positions or policies. If we cannot agree on the sanctity of the Constitution and the rule of law, we are no longer capable of self government.
The real battle in 2024 will not be between Democrats and Republicans. It will be between forces supporting democracy in America and those supporting authoritarianism. Trump is the de facto leader of the forces supporting authoritarianism. Liz Cheney has become the de facto leader of the forces supporting democracy.
Aside from being a reflection of his own privilege, Reich’s contention that Cheney’s supposed “support” for democracy “transcend[s] any particular positions or policies” is shockingly narrow-minded in its conception of democracy itself. His “democracy” refers only to the dog and pony shows we call “free and fair elections” in which votes are cast, counted, and certified, and a winner is decided. If the practice of democracy were as simple and as limited as that, Reich might have something approaching a reasonable point. But democracy is more than just the electing and swearing-in of political leaders. Democracy is more broadly and relevantly defined as control of a group, organization, institution, or society, by a majority of its members.
By this definition, Liz Cheney is no supporter of democracy at all. By this definition, a society in which women are denied basic bodily autonomy cannot be democratic. A society whose labor force is relegated to serfdom – and who depend on their employers for access to medical care – cannot be democratic. A society whose members support by a 90-10 margin background checks on gun purchases, but are denied this policy preference because their government has been bought off by arms dealers, cannot be democratic. A society which restricts access to voting itself – obviously – is not and cannot be democratic.
And so there is no way to parse one’s “particular positions or policies” from their support for democracy itself. Two people cannot differ on matters of civil rights, economic rights, labor rights, climate rights, and immigrants’ rights, but agree on the importance of maintaining a democratic system. It’s absurd on its face. Liz Cheney is egregiously wrong on all of these issues, and therefore cannot be credibly lauded as a champion of democracy under any circumstances.
Her January 6th posturing might be nothing more than an elaborately staged audition tape for The Lincoln Project, but assuming it is motivated by some sincere political conviction, Cheney’s real commitment is to the charade of electoral processes which produce peaceful transfers of power between puppets of the capitalist-militarist state.
Proclaiming the “sanctity” of such pageantry is essential to maintaining the illusion of American democracy. (Oddly enough, it was Al Gore’s servile deference to this ideal that allowed Liz’s father and his gang of marauding war criminals to successfully steal a Presidential election from the rightful winner.) But post-2016, liberal politics itself has been reduced to just that: pageantry. Anti-Trump sentiment is all that matters to today’s liberals. Whether such opposition is voiced from the Left or the Right is mostly irrelevant.
Perhaps somewhere in their conscience, liberals long for a world in which policy differences between Democrats and Republicans are of little to no consequence. After all, this was the world they lived in for most of their lives, and for the most part it served them well enough. This would explain their fondness for moments like George W. Bush and Michelle Obama’s candy exchange at John McCain’s funeral, and their embrace of Never Trump Republicans like Jennifer Rubin, Steve Schmidt, David Frum, and Bill Kristol. In this context, their veneration of Liz Cheney makes perfect sense.
To the rest of us, it’s their latest and greatest in a string of embarrassing post-Trump psychotic breaks. The zeitgeist turned against the liberal class for a reason: because most Americans in most places don’t pine for the good old days when politics was a low-stakes parlor game for an insular elite class who more or less agreed on the major issues of the day. Most Americans have come to an understanding – even if more intuitive than intellectual – that such a politics yields nothing desirable for them. This is how Liz Cheney became a pariah within her own party, and why a Democratic Party that sings her praises is destined to fail.
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