Liz Cheney v. Mr. Trump’s BDE: Part II

[If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is below), I would start there.]

As many have observed in recent days, if U.S. WY Rep. Liz Cheney elects to launch a campaign for the 2024 Republican Party presidential nomination, she will bring formidable assets to what I would see as a political guerilla effort – her goal being to politically weaken former President Donald Trump for the November 2024 general presidential election, not to defeat him for the Republican nomination.  She has strong name recognition and positive renown among many of our citizens (if not the Trumplicans), a strong campaign financial position coupled with enviable fund raising opportunities which will enable her to persevere despite what will almost certainly be disappointing objective results on the primary circuit, her pick of the best Republican strategists repulsed by the Trumplican movement, and a lot of sympathetic media.  While these are vital to her effort, all are but tactical tools to fulfill her strategy.  Unlike virtually every other presidential campaign I’ve ever heard of — in which the candidate dreams, no matter how quixotically, of achieving the White House, and thus seeks to pick up delegates in all states — Ms. Cheney’s aim from the outset will be to sow enough doubt about Mr. Trump in the states that will decide the 2024 November presidential election (judging by 2020, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Nevada, Florida, Minnesota, and New Hampshire) to deny Mr. Trump the presidency.  As such, I would submit that the important figure in her recent Wyoming Republican primary loss was not her opponent’s total, or the margin by which she lost, but rather the 28% that voted for her.  (I think it’s tenable to pose that the cross-over Democratic votes she received substituted to some extent for the votes of Republican Cheney supporters who didn’t participate because they knew she was going to be soundly defeated.)  A recent NBC News poll found that 57% of Americans want the investigations into Mr. Trump to continue, a seemingly reasonable indicator that he has significant political weakness with the general electorate (although it would obviously be more meaningful to have snapshots of the voters’ attitudes toward the investigations in the respective pivotal Electoral College states).  In order to condition her supporters to what will be disappointing primary vote totals by traditional political standards, from the outset of her campaign she must consistently message that she does not expect to out-poll Mr. Trump in any primary.  If through her campaign she can persuade perhaps 15% of self-described Republicans (about half of the sample size of her primary support) and a good share of the conservative Independents in swing states that they cannot support Mr. Trump in the 2024 November election, I don’t think he can reclaim the presidency if the Democrats run a suitable candidate (this latter caveat the subject of a previous post).

Some suggest that it will be difficult for Ms. Cheney to mount a nationwide campaign because those state Republican organizations under Mr. Trump’s control will seek to keep her off their primary ballots.  This would only matter if she was in it to win it.  I’ll hazard that her guerilla effort gains more than it loses where she’s kept off the ballot and can straightforwardly claim that a state’s Republican apparatus has been “rigged” against her.

Some suggest that the National Republican Committee will go to any lengths to keep Ms. Cheney out of any debates with Mr. Trump.  While such a shutout is the only logical course for Mr. Trump to take — I think most observers would expect Ms. Cheney to score heavily — if he doesn’t debate, such a maneuver will nonetheless put him in a box he won’t like:  he won’t be able to escape the impression that he’s afraid to debate … a woman.  Recently, Arizona Republican Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake actually lauded Mr. Trump’s “BDE.” (For those of you scoring at home, that’s “Big Dick Energy.”  Yes, really.)  What Ms. Cheney could do with an “Empty Chair” debate format in lieu of an exchange with Mr. Trump is tantalizing.  She could repeatedly point out that Mr. Trump was scared to face … a girl.  Right in front of our eyes, his BDE would … shrivel.  (I know, I know; I just couldn’t help myself.)  

Two final notes.  First, it is ironic that if Rep. Cheney actually won the Republican nomination – seemingly more than theoretically possible if she was facing not Mr. Trump himself but a field of Trump Wannabes, who would split the pro-Trump vote in the early primaries, perhaps enabling her to seize the nomination in a reverse of the strategy Mr. Trump himself used in 2016 – I think she’d have a much easier path to the presidency than Mr. Trump has.  Traditional Republicans are tribal – they’ve shown themselves in the Trump Era to be willing to vote for anyone bearing the Republican mantle — and in the 2024 November election Ms. Cheney could probably compensate for the loss of Trumplican cultists with the votes of Independents and moderate Democrats grateful that she deposed Mr. Trump.

Second, as Mr. Trump continues to incite violence in a transparent attempt to avoid what now appears impending prosecution for a myriad of crimes, I wonder whether he realizes that if Ms. Cheney runs against him, and any of his supporters attempt to visit violence upon her, he will not be able to escape responsibility for the shock that would register in the minds of a determinative majority of Americans.  Even if he is able to stay out of jail, I think he would be finished politically, no matter whom the Democrats nominate for president.  Since he has no moral compass, hopefully he’ll realize that for his own good, he should immediately strongly speak out against violence toward Ms. Cheney if she mounts a presidential campaign against him.  I hope he will.  Since he’s emotionally a bad-seed preschooler, I realize he won’t.

When President Biden, a genuinely good man, assumed the presidency in January, 2021, I hoped that by his manner he could reintroduce some sanity and comity across most of our political spectrum.  Mr. Trump’s persistence in his Big Lie, the zealous gullibility of his supporters, and the traitorous discord sown over the last two years by Mr. Trump, his minions, and alt-right propagandists such as Fox News, have dashed such hopes.  Hoping for a gradual resolution of the toxicity inflamed by Mr. Trump hasn’t worked.  Now, the battle needs to be directly joined.  I see no one but Liz Cheney that can inject an antitoxin that will cleave the Republican Party and protect our republic.  She will obviously bide her time until 2023, to avoid providing Mr. Trump’s cohort the opportunity to cast an overt political taint on the work of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, for which she serves as Vice Chair.  I hope she will run, but she’s not my wife or daughter.  Given the physical dangers she will face if she mounts a campaign, I would fully understand if her husband, children, and parents hope that she doesn’t.

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