In my 2004 book, What Do You Stand For? I asked a cross-section of more than 100 individuals to answer a questionnaire:
What do you stand for, what principles have you lived by?
Describe a “moment of principle” in which your convictions were tested or a story in which you were inspired by another.
Last night, on the floor of the House – the people’s house – Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney answered both parts.
Absent any of the theatrics used by many of her male counterparts, Cheney resolutely spoke of what she described as “a threat America has never seen before.”
The daughter of former vice-president Dick Cheney, the younger Cheney was unequivocal. “We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen. And America has not failed.
“A former President, who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.”
As the third most powerful member of House Republicans, Cheney has not shied away from calling out Trump’s lies in the past. However, with ceaseless pressure on Republicans from Trump, those who took an oath to the Constitution are more interested in maintaining their jobs than doing the right thing. Liz Cheney stands virtually alone in her public steadfastness that Donald Trump is the founder and CEO of “The Big Lie” — that the 2010 election was stolen due to massive voter fraud.
“Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy,” Cheney said. “This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.
“I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former President’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”
Last December, in one last gasp of legal argle-bargle, Pennsylvania’s Republicans took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In what has to be the shortest response to a petition before the court, Justice Alito wrote:
“The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the court is denied.”
Translation: No meaningful evidence has demonstrated that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Not a single Trump appointee to the Supreme Court voted in his favor.
Pennsylvania’s Federal Appeals Court Judge Stephanos Bibas, another Trump appointee, summed up his decision in clearer language. “…calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.
“Voters, not lawyers, choose the president,” Judge Bibas wrote. “Ballots, not briefs, decide elections.”
And because the principled Cheney publicly echoed what every judge in 50 challenges determined, she will be relieved of her leadership role in the House because one resident in Florida deems it so.
Cheney’s House speech echoed that of another stalwart Republican, Senator Margaret Chase Smith.
In calling out Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt, Chase Smith told her Senate colleagues, “I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American. I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny, fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.”
In language just as clear and compelling, Cheney said “I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law. The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process. Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution.”
Liz Cheney may represent Wyoming’s constituents, but she also carries with her a duty to the Constitution and all that that means. American history will remember her moment of principle. Those who remained subservient to Trump will be forgotten. Those who knew better and remained silent will be remembered as cowards to their conscience.