Liz Cheney’s run for senate is all about style over substance.
In case you missed it Liz Cheney is running for Senate in her ancestral home state of Wyoming against three term Republican incumbent Mike Enzi. While Liz has been showing signs of running for a while, the move caught much of the media and Enzi himself by surprise. In fact, Enzi has gone so far as to claim that Liz promised not to run by saying, “She said that if I ran, she wasn’t going to run, but obviously that wasn’t correct.” Cheney then promptly dismissed this charge in a very Cheney manner stating at her press conference that the 61 year old Enzi doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about, “I think Senator Enzi may be confused.” Perhaps political skullduggery just runs in the family.
On the surface the the three term Republican incumbent doesn’t look like someone who’d merit a primary challenge. Enzi has consistently been ranked as one of the most conservative member of the Senate and currently hold a 92.73 life time rating, out of 100, from The American Conservative Union. Considering Wyoming is one of the most conservative states in the country Enzi should be relatively safe. But today we are living in the age of the RINO, or Republican In Name Only, where angry Tea Party activists or other actors inside the GOP can label prominent Republicans as RINO turncloaks and run them out of office on a rail.
Ironically the RINO factor has been helping Democrats as of late. Had Republican primary voters gone for more mainstream and experienced candidates in the last two election cycles instead of people like Christine O’Donnell or Todd Akin, Republicans would had a much better chance and winning the majority back in the Senate. Instead the demand for purity, even in blue states like Delaware, cost them big time.
This brings us back to Liz Cheney. Politicians’ motives for high office are of course their own. Personal ambition can be a major factor as well as a desire to shape the nature of American society or a strong personal belief with regards to specific issues. And to be sure running for Senate even in a small population state like Wyoming is no cake walk. It involves raising lots of money, mainly by siting in a room and calling rich people and asking them for a large check, as well talking to a lot of people you’ve never met and acting like you like them a lot. So while there are probably lots of reasons why Liz Cheney is running for office, the fact that she is primary challenging a conservative Senator in classic RINO fashion for not being conservative enough shows a campaign that is all style and no substance.
Looking at her website I see typical stuff like, “…she [Liz Cheney] has emphasized the importance of reversing the Obama administration’s policies and getting our nation back on track.” But doesn’t every Republican politician out there current believe in “getting our nation back on track” by “reversing the Obama administration’s policies?” Surely Enzi does. If I was a Wyoming Republican primary voter I would probably ask about what specifically has Enzi done that you disagree with and what specifically would you do instead? But Cheney isn’t addressing these sorts of questions, instead during her campaign kick off speech the most specific we got was that she is against “cutting deals.” Maybe she will flesh that out between now and Election Day 2014, but for now we really get nothing.
This focus on symbolic issues rather than concrete policy disagreements is a major problem for the Republican Party right now. Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein has taken to calling it “the policy gap.” In short, Republican politicians increasingly turn what could be effective critiques of Democratic policies into symbolic arguments that sometimes boil down into the use of certain words. Like is the US “exceptional” or not. Liz Cheney has just taken this gap and applied it to her own party. This might work for Cheney in realizing her goal of getting elected to the Senate, but the trend of style over substance doesn’t look good in the long term of the GOP or America.
AP Photo by M. Spencer Green