A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by the Monitor's politics editors.

For Democrats, the Cheneys are unlikely heroes

Both the former vice president and his daughter, Rep. Liz Cheney – a rising GOP star – played key roles in pushing back on President Trump’s effort to undo President-elect Biden’s victory.

Erin Scott/Reuters
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) speaks during a news conference with other House Republicans at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Dec. 10, 2020.

Dear reader:
 
 As I write, the Democrats appear set to capture the Senate, a quixotic effort in Congress to undo Joe Biden’s presidential victory has launched, and the National Guard is in the streets of Washington.
 
 But there’s another story that deserves attention: the Cheney family’s role in this historic time. It was former Vice President Dick Cheney, usually a villain to the left, who organized Sunday’s unprecedented op-ed signed by all 10 living former Defense secretaries – a warning not to involve the military in resolving election disputes.
 
 Such a move, they wrote, “would take us into dangerous, unlawful, and unconstitutional territory.”
 
 Meanwhile, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 Republican in the House and the former vice president’s elder daughter, issued her own statement Sunday – a 21-page memo to GOP colleagues asserting that Congress has “no appropriate basis” to object to Biden electors.
 
 “Such objections,” Representative Cheney wrote, “set an exceptionally dangerous precedent, threatening to steal states’ explicit constitutional responsibility for choosing the President and bestowing it instead on Congress.”
 
 Both Cheneys are political conservatives, and in pushing back against President Trump’s extraordinary efforts to undo the Nov. 3 election, they revealed themselves also to be institutional conservatives – that is, standing up for the institutions of government and their roles, as laid out in the Constitution. For Ms. Cheney, in particular – chair of the House Republican conference and rising star in the party – the long-brewing feud with Mr. Trump likely foreshadows the coming battle over the GOP’s future.
 
 The Cheneys’ story also has a poignant dimension. According to The Economist, Mr. Cheney had long harbored misgivings over Mr. Trump, but remained silent in deference to his daughter’s political career.
 
 The former vice president – and former Defense secretary – was reportedly “tipped over the edge” by a Dec. 26 column in The Washington Post. Senior government officials were increasingly concerned that Mr. Trump would deploy the military in an effort to cling to power, the well-connected columnist David Ignatius wrote.
 
 Mr. Cheney’s old boss, former President George W. Bush, has also played things low key of late. But it’s clear where he stands.
 
 “President and Mrs. Bush look forward to returning to the Capitol for the swearing in of President Biden and Vice President Harris,” Mr. Bush’s spokesman tweeted Tuesday.
 
 It will be the eighth inauguration the Bushes have attended, the spokesman noted, ending with a flourish: “Witnessing the peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of our democracy that never gets old.”
 
 Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

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