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Does Liz Cheney's loss signal the end of the GOP's 'old guard'?

·4 min read
Liz Cheney.
Liz Cheney. Illustrated | Getty Images, AP Images

As was expected, vulnerable Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) lost her bid for re-election on Tuesday night, having conceded to former President Donald Trump-backed challenger attorney Harriet Hageman. Cheney, who handily won the GOP primary just two years ago, noted in post-election remarks that winning again "would have required I go along with President Trump's lie about the 2020 election" — "a path I could not and would not take." Despite the congressional ouster, however, don't expect Cheney to disappear from view just yet (for one thing, she's already confirmed she's mulling a 2024 presidential bid). Below, pundits and thought leaders tackle the Wyoming Republican's long-projected loss, as well as its present significance and implications for the future.

Her defeat proves the Republican party still belongs to Trump

With Cheney gone, just two of the 10 House Republicans who voted for Trump's second impeachment could return to Congress next year; four are retiring, and four others (Cheney included) lost their re-election bid to a Trump-backed challenger.

Ultimately, such a "wholesale ejection" of "anti-Trump forces is evidence that the Republican Party still belongs to the former president," even two years after he left office, Seth Moskowitz argues for Newsweek. And Unless the GOP learns from members like Cheney, as well as Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.) — who Moskowitz describes as maintaining an excellent "balancing act on nearly all Trump-related issues" — "the Republican Party will continue relentlessly down the path it took Tuesday with Cheney: ejecting anti-Trump Republicans one by one until there is no internal resistance to the former president whatsoever."

Both she and her focus aren't going anywhere

At least on the national stage, expect former Rep. Liz Cheney to stick around — in perhaps both the media and political world, opinion columnist Joe Concha mused for The Hill. But we'll see whether she readjusts her messaging to take aim at any of America's other major problems (like inflation, abortion, climate), or if she stays in her simple, and relatively unhelpful, lane of sure-to-be continued rebukes of Donald Trump. Concha estimates more of the latter: "It is not difficult to see a scenario in which Cheney is either on cable news multiple times per day talking about the dangers of Donald Trump or running a presidential campaign, one based not on fixing the country's multiple crises … but solely on Trump," Concha writes. At the very least, "both paths" suggest America should be prepared to see more of what they've already seen this summer: "Liz Cheney. Lots of Liz Cheney. And the subject she'll mostly be talking about: Donald Trump. Lots of Donald Trump."

We need more like her

Cheney, an "antiabortion foreign policy hawk" who voted with Trump "93 percent of the time," never "surrendered her status as a card-carrying conservative," posited The Washington Post Editorial Board — and that's not why she lost to Hageman. She was defeated because she "refused to bow" to the former president, and also recognized — unlike those in House Republican leadership — "that ideology and party loyalty should not matter when facing a fundamental threat to democracy." Going forward, especially as politicians "spew reckless rhetoric" regarding the U.S. electoral system, "the country needs … more Liz Cheneys" in power, "regardless of their positions on tax hikes or deregulation or free trade," the board continues. "Now, it will have one less."

Writing for The Boston Globe, columnist Scot Lehigh issued a similar take: Cheney "should have been the ideal conservative messenger" in the fight against Trump; Instead, her loss proves that "for a significant subset of America, demagoguery trumps truth."

'Traditional Republicans' are not lost

Despite what Cheney's defeat suggests, the "old guard" of the American right is still kicking, Stephanie Muravchik and Jon Shields, authors of a forthcoming book about Cheney and the GOP, argue in The New York Times. Though the "identitarians" of the present party — "consumed with demonstrating that they are authentic conservative Republicans," and, in that sense, "succumbing to the same impulses they associate with their liberal opponents'' — keep "gaining momentum," results still matter. And fortunately, the GOP establishment "isn't dead, even in Wyoming. In fact, it's far more entrenched than Ms. Cheney's defeat might suggest," the pair write.

Cheney ultimately "fought valiantly" for her party and was "celebrated by traditional Republicans" for doing so. "They don't believe her cause is lost," Muravchik and Shields conclude: "and neither should we."

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