CNN ran a relatively mundane report yesterday about a crowded fundraiserfor Liz Cheney in McLean-- which raised her over half a million dollars. Liz Cheney is not a fascist or neo-Nazi. Liz Cheney is an arch conservative-- way more conservative than, say Adam Kinzinger, who is also a conservative but, lately, not an arch conservative. Kinzinger's ProgressivePunch overall vote score for the 2021-'22 session is 23.05%, 3rd "best" of any Republican in the House. Liz Cheney's is just 8.68%, not quite as good as Matt Gaetz (9.46%) but better than Arizona Nazi leader Andy Biggs (6.39%) and Marjorie Traitor Greene (5.38%). If the world is divided between Trumpists and anti-Trumpists, Liz Cheney is on our side. Look at the world from almost any other perspective and Liz Cheney is... like totally haram. Trump was never-- not in his most conservative moment-- half as conservative as Liz Cheney.
Cheney is about to be defeated for reelection in Wyoming-- and it won't be close. Wyoming is the reddest state in America, the most conservative state in America, the most Trump-supporting state in America, the most anti-vaccine state in America and, by any way you want to measure it, the stupidest state in America. Cheney is supposedly talking about running for president after Wyoming voters reject her, not because she isn't conservative enough, but because the state's low-IQ voters have fallen prey to the allure of fascism and don't possess enough collective or individual power of critical thought to distinguish between neo-Naziism and conservatism.
The last time a Republican presidential candidate won nationally without Wyoming was in 1896, soon after Wyoming was admitted to the Union and when the state chose populist Willian Jennings Bryan over corporate whore William McKinley, 10,861 to 10,072. If Liz Cheney runs against Señor Trumpanzee (or a Trump clone like Ron DeSantis) in 2024, Wyoming isn't going to back Cheney, not even as a favorite daughter. She's more a favorite daughter of McLean, an extension of K Street and the site of Monday's fundraiser.
CNN listed a large gaggle of Cheney supporters from yesteryear's GOP-- people who have nothing to do with the new Trumpist/fascist Republican Party: George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Dick and Lynne Cheney, former Virginia Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, former Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, former Dick Cheney aide Scooter Libby, former presidential candidate and ex-Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina, former Solicitor General Ted Olson and former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey.
CBS News also covered the McLean Cheney fundraiser, but from a different perspective that didn't mention Liz Cheney until 7 paragraphs in: "Senator Mitt Romney, of Utah, offered more than 200 Republican donors a stark message on the fragility of American democracy during private remarks on Monday night at a fundraiser in Northern Virginia... Romney told the crowd that he has a chart in his Senate office tracing the history of civilizations over the past 4,000 years. He said it is a reminder of how they can rise and collapse, and of how unusual American democracy is in global history. From the Mongol Empire to the Roman Empire, Romney said, autocracy is the chart's 'default setting,' with authoritarian leaders at every turn. 'We are really the only significant experiment in democracy, and preserving liberal democracy is an extraordinary challenge,' Romney said, according to the attendees, who gathered at the Hilton Hotel in McLean. Attendees described Romney, the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee, as delivering the remarks as a warning for the group, which included many longtime members of the Republican establishment, as the U.S. confronts Russia's invasion of Ukraine and as former President Donald Trump continues to exert power inside the Republican Party."
Abroad, he said, it faces threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is following an authoritarian playbook "rehearsed time and time again, over the many thousands of years of world history."
At home, Romney said, "what has kept us from falling in with the same kind of authoritarian leader as Vladimir Putin are the strengths of our institutions, the rule of law, our courts, Congress, and so forth."
"People of character and courage," Romney said, "have stood up for right at times when others want to look away. Such a person is Liz Cheney."
The crowd roared its approval, attendees said.
Cheney's father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and mother, Lynne Cheney, were spotted by CBS News as they exited the fundraiser. Attendees said Cheney's parents did not make formal remarks at the fundraiser but did socialize with guests at the opening reception.
The fundraiser was organized by veteran Republican power brokers Bobbie and Bill Kilberg, who have decades of links to past Republican presidents.
In an interview late Monday, Bill Kilberg said the event went "exceedingly well," not only in terms of the fundraising total, but for rallying Republicans who are increasingly worried about their party and nation.
"I think people are really hungry for a sensible, rational alternative in our political dialogue," Bill Kilberg said. "They're not happy with the direction of the Republican Party and they're not particularly happy with the direction of the Democratic Party."
"They saw two, sensible, intelligent, rational conservatives, and they were excited. It's been a long time since we had that opportunity."
"Romney got a standing ovation," he added, when he praised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and when he spoke about American democracy. "He said we have to appreciate how fragile this system is."
Matt Lewis, writing this morning for the Daily Beast, didn't mention the fundraiser or Liz Cheney but he did talk about how Trump shredded the old Republican Party establishment in 2016. He noted that Trump captured the nomination and then the presidency as part of "a reaction to the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent years of quagmire. As an upstart GOP primary candidate, Trump said George W. Bush’s war of choice was the 'worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country.' Trump took advantage of GOP voter disillusionment, then weaponized his distance from the Republican establishment to make the case for America to retreat from its global leadership role, and only consider 'America First.' It was this message that helped Trump handily dispatch the 'mainstream' GOP’s original consensus choice: Bush's own brother, Jeb. That was in 2016. But that is no longer the world we live in."
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there’s no going back to “America First” as it was. That’s not to say the public is clamoring for a war with Russia. But the Trumpian worldview that embraced Vladimir Putin and threatened to abandon NATO has, for now, been repudiated. Republicans with their ears closest to the ground already know this.
J.D. Vance, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, last month tried to channel Trump’s nativist populism, saying that he didn’t want U.S. troops to fight and die over Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “I gotta be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine,” Vance said, to make the point perfectly clear.
But following a recent Vance campaign event, attendees told NBC News that “images of death and destruction on TV” had helped form their opinions about whether or not the U.S. should support a besieged Ukraine. “Many were also unequivocally supportive of sanctions and the oil ban, expressing a need for empathy and generosity,” NBC News reported.
To paraphrase Mike Tyson, every “America First” isolationist has a plan-- until they watch some kid get hit in the mouth on TV.
Ohio’s primary is May 3, a mere three weeks away. While it’s true that his campaign was already struggling, Vance has somewhat backtracked on his comments, a clear confirmation that he was not reading the room.
Vance isn’t alone. In North Carolina, Trump-backed candidate Rep. Ted Budd is on defense after praising Putin. “As Ukrainians bled and died,” former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory said in a video bashing his primary opponent, “Congressman Budd excused their killer.”
Budd is now trying to dig himself out of this mess by explaining that Putin is “intelligent” but “evil.” This clarification reflects a changing political reality on the right, as it pertains to Putin. As National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar colorfully put it, “Putin is less popular than syphilis.”
This feedback is not merely anecdotal. According to a Quinnipiac poll released last week, a majority of Americans-- including 74 percent of Republicans-- think Joe Biden “has not been tough enough” when it comes to punishing Russia for the invasion. Meanwhile, 64 percent of Americans-- including 61 percent of Republicans-- hold a favorable view of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. .
Of course, public opinion matters most to people facing competitive races on upcoming ballots. The most loathsome Republicans-- Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar (who spoke at the white nationalist America First Political Action Conference, where the audience cheered on Putin) and Madison Cawthorn (who called Zelensky a “thug”)-- are ensconced in safe districts, and their national infamy hasn’t hurt them at the local level to date.
But make no mistake, the events of the last few weeks have brought implications that transcend even American politics.
“The invasion has already done huge damage to populists all over the world, who prior to the attack uniformly expressed sympathy for Putin,” wrote Francis Fukuyama. “That includes Matteo Salvini, Jair Bolsonaro, Éric Zemmour, Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orbán, and of course Donald Trump.”
Trump can never be counted out. But losing re-election, inciting a riot, and then finding himself on the wrong side of an emerging foreign policy shift hardly feels like the makings of a brilliant political comeback.
A field of anti-Trump Republicans is already lining up to run against him in 2024, according to the Associated Press. Should most of Trump’s endorsed 2022 candidates lose-- a possibility even before Russia crossed Ukraine’s border-- it would only chum the waters more.
...Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is one of the biggest international crises and upending of the world order in decades. This means that Trump can’t run again in 2024 by playing his greatest hits. He won’t get much mileage out of attacking George W. Bush and the GOP establishment’s “forever wars.” And praise for Putin-- and suggesting that he can be managed or (even more ridiculous) turned into an ally-- simply won’t resonate.