With the recent decision of Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican primary candidate and a daughter of former VP Dick Cheney, to abandon her long-shot bid against sitting GOP Senator Mike Enzi, many in watchers of political races are wondering just why she did.
The younger Cheney got herself in hot water over the summer when she repeatedly to the hardline social conservative position on gay marriage, drawing the ire of her sister Mary, a lesbian, and her partner on Facebook. Mary Cheney openly chastised her sister online for her alleged flip-flopping on the issue, and her partner, Heather Poe, took to Facebook criticizing her sister-in-law, wondering openly how Mrs. Cheney would feel if her marriage wasn’t respected in all places in America.
However, the gay marriage spat was simply a side-show obsessed over much more my the Washington punditocracy than actual Wyoming voters. The real issue and the reason for Cheney’s running was her reestablishing a beachhead for pro-war imperialist Republicans in the U.S. Senate, who have lost much influence in the post-Bush era with both the economic crisis and the ascendance of a more libertarian non-interventionist wing of the party.
While Senator Enzi himself is no one’s idea of a libertarian, he’s also no one’s idea of a lieutenant in the interventionist army of Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham. While Enzi voted for and strongly supported the 2003 Iraq War (as did most most Republicans), he has in recent years been carving out a more skeptical position on knee-jerk war mongering based on grandiose plans. (Enzi vowed in September to vote against air strikes in Syria).
Admittedly, however, Cheney had a wide array of forces aligned against her. As NPR’s Frank James points out, if you’re going to be a carpet-bagger, small, conservative western states are not a good bet. Also, the candidate did a poor job of trying to substitute other reasons for running, like the non-controversial jobs line as well as the president’s “war on coal,” which is an important Wyoming export, for her real ambition of re-creating the GOP of 2001-2009.
Unfortunately, the neoconservatives are not going to be going anywhere soon. They still control much of the conservative movement’s funding and grace the opinion pages of its most prestigious magazines and think-tanks with much of their sabre-rattling rhetoric–as well as still holding the commanding heights of FOX News.
That being said, Wyoming is the not the only place where neocon candidates go to die. In Michigan, the Republican establishment has had their knives out for Congressman and libertarian rock star Justin Amash, who won an insurgent campaign there in the tea party takeover of the House in 2010.
His Republican primary opponent there, Brian Ellis, has been in hot water recently over his criticism of Amash’s fidelity to constitutional principles. And while this writer is admittedly unsure about the specific foreign policy views of Mr. Ellis, one can reasonable extrapolate that the since the traditionally hawkish Republican donor base so enthusiastically backs him over the peace-loving Amash, he won’t be much of a barrier between Washington and bombs dropping over Tehran.
(And Amash’s recent impromptu radio debate with his Ellis proves that libertarian Republicans can hit back at their enemies just as the neocons can).
While the future what will become of a pro-trade/diplomacy in the future of America, one take at least take comfort in that Mrs. Cheney and some of her other would-be accolades will not be around in Congress to oppose it.