No matter what you think of Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, she spoke a truth that her fellow Republicans need to hear on Sunday.
“The American people, they deserve better than having to choose between what I think are the really disastrous policies of Joe Biden – in a whole range of areas, really bad for our economy,” she said in a “60 Minutes” interview. “From a national security perspective, what’s happened, what he’s done in Afghanistan: very dangerous policies for the country. But the alternative cannot be a man who doesn’t believe in the rule of law, and who violated his oath of office.”
Pay special attention to this line: “The alternative cannot be a man who doesn’t believe in the rule of law, and who violated his oath of office.”
Cheney is, of course, referring to former President Donald Trump and his actions in office – and, in particular, during the January 6 riots at the US Capitol. Trump has spent virtually every day since the November 6, 2020, election insisting that the result was rigged – despite zero evidence (even in the sham Arizona audit!) of that claim.
On January 6, not only did Trump tell those gathered for the “Stop the Steal” rally that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” but he also waited for hours after it was clear that a violent insurrection was happening to make a half-hearted call for his supporters to disperse.
What’s remarkable is that even after that day – and his subsequent impeachment by the House – Trump has never backed down an inch in his ridiculous claims that the 2020 election was somehow stolen. Just this past weekend, Trump sent out a slew of statements from his Save America PAC in which he sought to undermine the election results. “The Fake News Media refuses to write the facts, thereby being complicit in the Crime of the Century,” he wrote in one. “They are so dishonest, but Patriots know the truth!”
The simple fact – that Cheney laid plain in her “60 Minutes” interview – is this: Donald Trump has and continues to actively undermine two fundamental pillars of our democracy: That the votes are counted fairly and that the loser acknowledges their defeat and participates in the peaceful transfer of power to the winner.
It is the willingness to follow those two principles that have long distinguished America from shakier democracies and even dictatorships.
After a 35-day recount of votes in Florida that left him just more than 500 votes from the White House, then-Vice President Al Gore nodded to just these pillars is his concession speech. “I accept the finality of the outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College” Gore said. “And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”
“And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.”
That is what someone says who believes that American democracy is more important than any personal goal. It’s also the opposite of what Trump has said and done since losing the election last November.
What’s remarkable about all of this is that Republicans have long positioned themselves as the party of the Constitution and the rule of law. Which makes their willingness to ignore Article II of the nation’s founding document – you know, the one that makes clear that the winner of the Electoral College is president – all the most stupefying.
Her fellow Republicans may not like to hear it, but Cheney is speaking the truth: Trump abandoned the rule of law in pursuit of his own personal pride and sense of victimhood. That many Republicans have followed him down that path speaks to their own willingness to abandon fundamental principles in pursuit of political power.