Run, Liz, Run!

[ Posted Thursday, July 18th, 2013 – 17:46 UTC ]

The news that Liz Cheney is going to run for a Senate seat in Wyoming has certainly provoked a number of interesting reactions from the inside-the-Beltway set. From the Right, there has been consternation over Cheney primarying a sitting Republican, which mostly focuses on the unseemliness of it all. From the Left, there has been a mixture that I would call "horrified fascination" over the prospects of Dick Cheney's daughter sitting in the upper chamber of Congress (that's the horror part), tempered by the unrestrained glee of watching an internal Republican knife-fight. One thing's for certain, this will be one of the closest-watched primary races in the country next year.

My reaction, however, is a bit different. I actually support Liz Cheney's ambitions, for a rather bizarre reason I'll get to at the end. This may surprise some, because there are so many valid reasons for me to decry Liz Cheney running for public office. Let's run through these first, before I get to why I support her right to run.

The first reason Liz Cheney's candidacy isn't a good thing for American democracy is that she's the daughter of a powerful politician, and America doesn't really give much credence to the concept of "dynasties" in public life. At least, that's what we all would like to believe, but there are more family ties in our politics than most of us are comfortable acknowledging. Even just on the Left, the list is a long one of children or other relatives of politicians who have gone on to make their own political careers: Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Jerry Brown in California, the Daley dynasty in Chicago, and anyone named Kennedy all spring immediately to mind. So while America likes to pretend that famous political last names never matter, it's obvious that this isn't really true. So why shouldn't Liz Cheney run? She's her father's biggest apologist and defender, but then if your dad was in politics, you'd probably defend him too, right?

The second reason to denounce Cheney's candidacy is the carpetbagger charge. She lived, up until very recently, in Virginia. But she moved to Wyoming and has apparently established residency. If one were cynical, one might point out that running for office in Wyoming is one whale of a lot cheaper than doing so in Virginia -- you could probably run the entire media campaign in Wyoming for the price of a single state-wide television buy in Virginia, after all. But, again, if carpetbaggery were a universal bar to getting elected to high office then New York never would have sent Hillary Clinton to the Senate. As always in these cases, the sole decision of whether the carpetbagger charge sticks or not will be made by the people of Wyoming, and nobody else. Cheney does have a claim to family ties to Wyoming, after all (her father used to represent the state), so it'll be for the locals to decide whether this is valid enough to elect her to represent them or not.

The third big knock on Cheney's candidacy comes from the Right, and could be called either "a stab in the back" or perhaps "not being loyal to your friends." Senator Mike Enzi is a pretty staunchly conservative Republican, and so therefore should be supported and not challenged by a member of his own party, this thinking goes. Especially since (depending on which story you believe) Liz Cheney and Enzi are friends and she told him she wouldn't challenge him if he decided to seek re-election. Having a big intraparty fight in a state where it is unnecessary is stirring the pot for no reason, the pearl-clutchers in the Republican Party establishment proclaim.

Well, you know what? That's too bad. This is why we have primaries in the first place -- because no person is "entitled" to any office -- no matter how long they've been there. Anybody is vulnerable to challengers from both the opposition party and from within their own ranks. That's democracy, folks. If she did break a personal promise to Enzi, well then, I guess she won't be getting his vote. He can choose to make it an issue in the campaign, but my guess is it'll sound like pretty sour grapes to the voters. She may have blindsided Enzi, but she did so with plenty of time for the two to launch a spirited campaign, so it all seems pretty above-board to me. Even if she fails in her bid, she might even be able to launch an independent run for the office in the general election (so could Enzi, for that matter, if he gets beat in the primary -- although I must admit I haven't checked Wyoming election law to see if this is allowed). The chance of a Democrat prevailing even in a three-person race is pretty small, after all (we are talking about Wyoming -- one of the reddest states in the country).

But all of these arguments don't really even matter to me. Sure, I'll be watching the race with fascination. I would be joyful indeed if she won the primary and then a Democrat beat her by painting her as a belligerent extremist in the general election, but I'm not exactly holding my breath for another Christine O'Donnell situation to play out, if you know what I mean.

No, my reason for heartily supporting Liz Cheney's right to run is a purely subjective one. I think it's great that a political commentator is actually running for office. Because it's really the true test of the validity of their opinions. I cheered for Al Franken when he ran for his Senate seat, for much the same reason. Franken had made a nice niche for himself on the radio as a political pundit, and he had the courage of his convictions to throw his hat into the ring. He was subject to the same carpetbagger charge as well, now that I think about it.

So it's not an ideological response at all. I guess I just admire people who put their political beliefs on the line by running for office rather than just eternally sniping at sitting politicians from the sidelines. I say this with the full knowledge that I could never do such a thing. There are many reasons why I say this, from skeletons in my own personal closet to knowing the limits of my own fan base. Liz Cheney and Al Franken are a lot more well-known and a lot more famous, to put this another way. Also, there's the fact that I live in what is quite possibly the most expensive state in the country to mount a campaign in (Florida, New York, or Texas might be pricier; I'll admit I haven't checked).

So without a trace of irony or snark, I applaud Liz Cheney for running for the Senate. Run, Liz, run! You go, girl! I say this fully cognizant that if Cheney does actually win, I will hate it as much as conservatives hated seeing Hillary Clinton in the Senate. I don't think there's a single issue Cheney and I agree on (maybe gay marriage?... haven't checked...), and I think her brand of foreign policy would make John McCain and Lindsey Graham look like milquetoast weenies. In short, I think she'd be one of the most odious members of the Senate from my admittedly partisan outlook. I find most things she says repugnant, and many of them downright dangerous. I would likely rant and rave about her on a regular basis right here in these columns.

But I simply cannot help but admire her for running. Because while I'll be writing columns, she'll be testing the strength and depth of her convictions with actual voters. She may fail miserably, or she may wildly succeed. But either way, making the jump from commentating to politics is a thing to be respected, at least from my point of view.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


6 Comments on “Run, Liz, Run!”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    To LizM -

    I must admit, while writing today's title, I couldn't help but think: "I wonder what LizM will think of this headline?"



  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I thought it was about me! Finally, I thought, a column about ME!!



  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    That was an excellent piece and it will be a very interesting race - and political career, if she wins - to watch!

  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    LizM -

    I imagine you'll follow her career with the same sort of fascination I have for the career of Chris Christie.



  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ... except I won't have as much fun ...:)

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