They stood up for America and our constitutional democracy when their own Republican Party wouldn’t.
It is eerie how much they share in common. These two principled Republican women, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming and the late Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, put their political futures on the line by standing up to a Republican Party gone rogue. Yes, it was then, and is now, the Republican Party that had, and that has, gone rogue, and not the few principled members who drew a proverbial line in the sand. As a former life-long Republican, it has been painful to watch a once great political party descend into such sycophantic allegiance to a self-absorbed pretender.
As is so often the case, it was the women (along with pathetically few male colleagues) who stood their ground in the face of risk and ridicule. They declared that an assault against our constitutional democracy could not go unchallenged. They understood that cowardly or venal acquiescence to a historic calumny had to be challenged.
Liz Cheney has drawn a line in the sand over the political savaging of an American presidential election, and it was Margaret Chase Smith who, seventy-one years ago, said NO! to the savaging of innocent fellow Americans by Republican Senator, Joseph McCarthy. Both women knew political warfare had run amuck. Both women showed political courage when nearly all of their male colleagues quaked in fear of angering a rogue; a rogue who had then, and another who has now seized the momentum of their Party; a Party that, itself, had and has gone rogue. Most of all, these women exhibited spine among the spineless.
Margaret Chase Smith first ran for Congress in 1940 to fill the seat of her ailing husband. The popular and hard-working lady from Maine won election after election by wide margins for thirty-three years. She was a loyal, moderate Republican who consistently put judgment and conscience above partisanship. While more Republicans eventually turned on the infamous Joseph McCarthy in 1954, it was a fearless freshman, Margaret Chase Smith, who, four years earlier, stood before them in the well of the Senate chamber and delivered her historic Declaration of Conscience. “…The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and the guilty whitewashed,” Margaret Chase Smith said. She was, of course, also speaking of the political fecklessness of so many of her colleagues.
It took four years for the U.S. Senate to condemn McCarthy, and even then, half the Republicans in the Senate could not bring themselves to vote against him. In that dark era, Margaret Chase Smith was willing to stand alone and call out Joseph McCarthy at great personal political risk. She famously challenged her colleagues when, she declared, “I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny—fear, ignorance, bigotry, and smear.”
There should be a chorus of Republicans echoing those sentiments today, but there are pitifully few. Enter Liz Cheney, who, almost alone in the House of Representatives, has faced down her own fellow Republicans.
“I think it’s clear to all of the people…that our oath to the Constitution, our duty, our dedication to the rule of law, the peaceful transfer of power has to come above any concern about partisanship or about politics,” she said addressing a cowed and cowardly Republican caucus.
Liz Cheney knows she represents voters in the reddest of red states. She knows there is probably no state in the union in which Donald Trump could saunter to victory as effortlessly as in Wyoming, but Liz Cheney has shown herself to be more principled than partisan. She is as Republican as a real Republican can be. She is pure Republican aristocracy, but she is an American patriot first. Following the Capitol insurrection on January 6th, Liz Cheney voted for the impeachment of then-President Donald Trump (she voted against impeachment in his first Senate trial). Her Republicans colleagues, in retribution, have now booted her from leadership.
Ironically, Cheney has an off-the-charts Republican voting record. She even voted for Donald Trump twice, both in 2016 and 2020. She supported, however reluctantly, her Party’s standard-bearer until he turned his petulance and wrath against the Constitution and, therefore, against his Party and his country. She understood where real Republicans had to draw the line. And like patriots before her, she has been willing to put her political future on the line by choosing fidelity to the Constitution over fidelity to a rogue party leader.
Both of these women, especially on this July 4th, are worthy of the gratitude of the nation and, in particular, of those members of the Grand Ole Party who still might have some inkling of what once made their old party grand.
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