Liz Cheney's revenge
Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney lost her bid to be the state's 2022 Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in resounding fashion last Tuesday. The suburban Virginian (that's where she spends most of her time) forsook her ancestral home to embark on a crusade against the evil orange demon named Donald Trump. The end result of her efforts was a landslide defeat to a Trump-endorsed candidate.
Comparing herself to Abraham Lincoln, Cheney admitted that the battle was over, but the war isn't. In her speech, she noted that Lincoln had lost races for both the House and Senate. It appears, however, that she wasn't aware that the Great Emancipator actually won the 1858 popular vote against Democrat Stephen Douglas, instead of the anemic 29 percent she was able to muster.
Why didn't Lincoln win that Senate race? The state Legislature decided Senate seats at the time; the Democrat majority voted for Douglas 54-46. It seems that Democrat shenanigans have a long history. In 2022 Wyoming, Cheney tried her own sleight of hand, inviting Democrats to change party just for the primary. Although thousands might have switched, the desired result was not achieved.
So how can Liz Cheney continue her campaign against the former president? She's still a congresswoman and co-chair of the January 6 committee until 2023; there's plenty of time to cause mischief and damage to Mr. Trump. She admitted her holy quest in her concession speech: "I will do whatever it takes to deny Trump a return to the Oval Office."
The question is, can she move the needle against the former president? Not if you're watching only conservative news channels, but she is considered a martyr in any number of liberal outlets. The eulogies are everywhere on the net, making you wonder if all Republicans are that evil and stupid to not vote for her. There are, indeed, a number of ways that she can exact her revenge on Donald Trump, Republicans, and conservatives everywhere.
One is to declare herself a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2024. There are enough NeverTrumps around to get her on the debate stage in the early going. If this happens, have no doubt that she will vent her spleen in the most vitriolic way possible at Trump the candidate. These fireworks might be entertaining, but there's not a snowball's chance in Hell that she gets very far. Her goal would be to put Trump in so unfavorable a light that people might go for someone else. This might work.
The other option is to put together a third party, with Cheney as the candidate. Third-party candidates don't win elections, but they have managed to act as spoilers a number of times. A case in point would be Ross Perot, who managed 18.9 percent of the popular vote in 1992, costing incumbent George H.W. Bush a second term. Perot, however, came as a political outsider with no major history of vendetta against either Bush or Bill Clinton, the eventual winner. Cheney's history as a conservative won't win her Democrat votes, and her actions won't win her a lot of Republican votes. It might not take a lot in this age of close elections, however, to make a difference.
I wrote a while ago about the difficulties that third parties experience on the way to making it to the ballot of all 50 states. Certainly, we're a long way off from a third-party president. But as theatrical drama, there might be interest in a Cheney candidacy. A conspicuous attendee at Cheney's concession speech was James Goldston, the television producer who devoted his time to framing the January 6 committee as a watchable event. He was there, ostensibly, to identify future projects involving Cheney. I doubt the project is about Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons.
There might be money available for such a venture. She was able to raise a whopping $15 million for a House election. How much could she raise if Trump is an opponent? Maybe make a phone call to George Soros?
Money, as they say, isn't everything. There would have to be a nationwide organization behind her. Would Democrats throw their cash, time, and efforts into a Cheney candidacy when they can help re-elect Biden (or Harris or Buttigieg)? Would the Republicans who hold their nose and vote for Trump be seduced into joining her campaign? I doubt it. If it's between a shot at revenge and actually winning, winning, well, wins.
Maybe it's time for Cheney to move full-time to suburban Virginia, where she has a better shot at returning to the House than Wyoming. Then she might still be, as John McClane said to the terrorist in the movie Die Hard, "just a fly in the ointment, Hans. A monkey in the wrench. A pain in the ass."
Dr. Joe Alton is the N.Y. Times bestselling author of The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Help Is NOT on the Way and contributor to various magazines in the survival and preparedness genres.