In defeat, Cheney chides Trump and invokes history

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What Cheney’s next chapter will be remains uncertain, but the Republican made one thing clear about her political future in the speech: Her fight to protect American democracy is just beginning, and she meant what she said about doing everything in her power to make sure Donald Trump never steps foot near the Oval Office again.

Cheney said she was well aware of the political risks she has taken in opposing Trump, noting that she won her previous primary with over 70 percent of the vote and would likely have won Tuesday night’s race had she chosen a different path.

“But it would’ve required that I go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election. It would’ve required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our Democratic system, and attack the foundations of our republic,” Cheney said. “That was a path I could not and would not take.”

Cheney took the stage around 8:15 p.m. Wyoming time as the sun began to set. Mountains surrounded the gathering, and hay bales held up four American flags. A red vintage Chevrolet 3100 was positioned to the side of the stage.

She thanked members of her campaign team, her husband and her five children, four of whom were in the audience, along with her parents, former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Second Lady Lynne Cheney.

During the speech, she made repeated references to American history, particularly the history of the Civil War. She quoted from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. And she recounted how Ulysses S. Grant refused to retreat and led the Union Army to victory in the Civil War.

“Lincoln and Grant, and all who fought in our nation’s tragic Civil War, including my own great great grandfathers, saved our union. Their courage saved freedom,” Cheney said. “And if we listen closely, they are speaking to us down the generations. We must not idly squander what so many have fought and died for.”

And perhaps coyly, she noted that Lincoln had lost elections to Congress before he went on to be elected president.

“Abraham Lincoln was defeated in elections for the Senate and the House before he won the most important election of all. Lincoln ultimately prevailed, he saved our union and he defined our obligation as Americans for all of history,” she said.

Cheney said no citizen is a “bystander,” and addressed the individual responsibility of Americans to seek the truth and protect the future of the country. This means understanding what happened on Jan. 6, Cheney said, and it means not supporting election deniers in November who will “corrupt” the country’s future.

“Our nation is young in the history of mankind, and yet we are the oldest democracy in the world. Our survival is not guaranteed. History has shown us, over and over again, how poisonous lies destroy free nations,” she said.

Trump had identified Cheney as a top takedown target after she became the highest-ranking Republican to vote to impeach him after Jan. 6. His wrath intensified with her high-profile role on the House select committee investigating the former president and his inner circle.

Cheney was punished swiftly, both in Wyoming and by her colleagues in Congress, who booted her from GOP leadership. But Cheney continued to use her platform on the national stage to oppose Trump — spurring speculation she’s eyeing a run for president, speculation she’s yet to dismiss.

Trump allies criticized Cheney for invoking Lincoln and the Civil War in her speech, but other members of her party praised her for putting her dedication to her country above politics. Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, said she deserves the “highest possible praise,” while former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele said Cheney is “the Phoenix,” and that the GOP isn’t ready for her.

Michigan’s Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel said Cheney will go down in history as an “American hero.”

The Wyoming Republican’s loss on Tuesday will likely only amplify her already outsizedrole on the Jan. 6 committee, which has vowed to continue its work through the end of this Congress in January. Cheney is set to continue in her vice chair seat on the House select panel as investigators prepare for more hearings next month.

She ended her speech by asking Americans to join her in the next phase of her fight.

“As we leave here, let us resolve that we will stand together — Republicans, Democrats and Independents — against those who would destroy our republic. They are angry, and they are determined,” Cheney said. “But they have not seen anything like the power of Americans united in defense of our Constitution and committed to the cause of freedom. There is no greater power on this Earth. And with God’s help, we will prevail.”

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