Representative Cheney calls for order
Republican Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, speaks to the press at the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, on May 12, 2021. Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty ImagesLiz Cheney worships the order. Donald Trump hates him. Simple, yes, but that sums up the difference between the American MP elected but exiled and the former president exiled but elected in her mind. Countless critics have detailed Trump’s disruptive effects on national life, but Cheney’s call for order deserves attention. It offers a coherent and conservative alternative to Trumpist populism. As an expert on American political discourse, I think it is important to assess its persuasiveness as well as its deep roots in the conservative tradition. Liz Cheney is the daughter of two prominent Conservative members of the GOP, former Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney, former President of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She was seen here with them the morning after the November 7, 2000 election. David Hume Kennerly / Getty Images Point of No Return Like many of her Conservative ancestors, Representative Cheney believes people have a basic need for order. In the absence of a clear set of unbreakable rules, society will collapse. The value of order is most evident to those who have seen it disappear or who live in a world without rules. She began her May 11, 2021 address in the House with examples of such people, times when she witnessed the fragility of freedom. Kenyan soldiers chasing voters from the ballot box. A Russian mayor telling him about his democratic dreams, before being poisoned years later by “Vladimir Putin’s thugs”. A young Polish woman revealing her fear that people will forget the price of freedom. Examples have a strong psychological power on people because they are concrete and specific. Think about those ads that feature the faces of very real animals in pain, which might even look like your own beagle. In his speech, Cheney prepares the audience to see the world through the eyes of the characters in these stories, to feel what it means to lose the rules of democracy. Each is just an instance, but together they form a model. When there is no order, she says, the powerful trample the ordinary and the rule of law protects no one. We all become prey. If the public identifies with these people, it gives more force to Cheney’s next argument. Americans, she said, now face the same threat. In a Washington Post essay in early May, she notes that former President Trump “repeated his claims that the 2020 election was fraud and theft.” He does so, she says, knowing full well that those words “provoked violence on January 6”. He does so knowing full well that “the electoral college has spoken.” He does so knowing that “more than 60” judges have rejected his claims, including several he has appointed. Here, Cheney expresses his commitment to order by building on institutions. Institutions like the electoral college and the courts maintain order. “This,” she writes, “is the rule of law; it is our constitutional system for resolving allegations of electoral fraud. The alternative is the January 6 anarchy. The consequences of Trump’s incitement to chaos on January 6, she says, are clear. In the essay and the speech, she turns to metaphors of the national fabric or “constitutional structure”. Mixing the two, she says Trump is seeking to “unravel” this structure. If he wins, America will be defeated. Whatever anyone thought of him earlier, he crossed a line here. She says we are “at a crossroads”. Experts generally call this strategy a “place of the irreparable”. It is the point of no return, the place that makes America like all the other countries she has mentioned. If we slip here, we can never go back. And that, she claims, would be a disaster because it’s not just about America. It is about the fate of democracy in the world. Attacking Trump from the Right In their respect for order, the Conservatives have traditionally recognized that “myths matter.” Stories of greatness sanctify the nation and its people, doing more of both than the ordinary business of life. On the floor of the House, Cheney summoned Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, men who helped the West win the Cold War because they understood what she described as the “miracle of America ”. “Miracle,” she wrote in the Post, is the word President Reagan used in his first inaugural address to describe the peaceful transfer of power. His claim that “America is exceptional” because of its “peaceful transfer of power” may seem to liberals an inaccurate narrative of history, but for many Americans it is a powerful expression of patriotism, an assurance. that rioting thugs do not have a monopoly on the love of the country. Cheney was ousted from the House GOP leadership because of her insistence that President Trump was responsible for the Capitol uprising; here, Trump supporters during the Jan.6 Capitol breach. AP Photo / John Minchillo As the nation faces a new cold war with China, she argues, not to mention “the ridiculous awakening of our political rivals, irrational border policies and rampant spending that threatens a back to disaster. inflation of the ’70s, America cannot falter. In this narrative of conservative tradition, the Constitution works because presidents and people put aside their individual wishes for the good of the community. Disciplined individuals create orderly families that build strong nations. When necessary, true patriots relinquish power and run for office on another day. Social order and political peace can then continue uninterrupted for the next generation due to a self-control that Donald Trump clearly lacks. Liz Cheney makes the kind of argument that Trump’s former rivals lacked. She attacks him from the right. She describes it as a threat to the rule of law. It shows that he embraces rather than rejects “American carnage”. With her authority as a descendant of former Vice President Richard Cheney, and conservative tradition more generally, she exiles Trump from her ranks. Yet many Trump voters have no stake. The current order and its institutions did not benefit them, they believe, and they elected Trump precisely because they wanted to break the establishment. If they define the Republican future as they have the past, Cheney will fail. Times are changing, however, and as the pandemic subsides, the economy grows, and normalcy returns, people can grow weary of Trump’s act. If Republicans wish to go back to their traditional tenets, Liz Cheney has given them the chance to do so. [The Conversation’s Politics + Society editors pick need-to-know stories. Sign up for Politics Weekly.]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: John M. Murphy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Read more: Can Joe Biden win the transition? A Field Guide to Trump’s Dangerous Rhetoric John M. Murphy does not work for, consult with, own or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has not disclosed any relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.