The Libs Who Hate Liz
Who needs allies when we can hunt heretics instead?
But let’s start this morning with a refresher course on courage and political priorities. When Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger broke with their party on Trump, they risked more than simply their positions in Congress. Yesterday, Kinzinger released some of the voicemails he’s gotten — and they are not for the faint of heart.
In the first call, a man said he hoped the congressman naturally dies "as quickly as f------ possible."
"You backstabbing son of a b----," another call said. "You go against Trump y'all know y'all mother------- are sitting up there lying. Like a damn dog."
Several callers warned they knew where Kinzinger lived, including one in which a man said he would "go protest" in front of the lawmaker's house.
"We know where your family is and we're going to get you," said the caller, who then cursed at Kinzinger and said he would "get your wife" and "get your kids."…
A woman said on one call that she prayed "if it be God's will, that you suffer," and a man on another call said he hoped someone kills "your nasty mom and your nasty wife."
But neither Kinzinger nor Cheney are flinching; and there are indications that the example of Cassidy Hutchinson may actually shame some of the alleged grownups in the White House to come forward.
Over the weekend, Cheney raised the possibility of multiple criminal referrals for the former president.
“The Justice Department doesn’t have to wait for the committee to make a criminal referral,” Cheney said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And there could be more than one criminal referral.”
Cheney emphasized that the committee’s aims were not political, but also that the Justice Department should not refrain from prosecuting Trump out of concerns about political optics if the evidence warrants criminal prosecution.
“I think it’s a much graver constitutional threat if a president can engage in these kinds of activities, and the majority of the president’s party looks away, or we as a country decide we’re not actually going to take our constitutional obligations seriously,” Cheney said.
Her comments enraged Trump, who targeted the Wyoming Republican in an Independence Day morning tantrum.
“Warmongering and despicable human being Liz Cheney, who is hated by the great people of Wyoming (down 35!), keeps saying, over and over again, that HER Fake Unselect Committee may recommend CRIMINAL CHARGES against a President of the United States who got more votes than any sitting President in history,” Trump said on Truth Social.
But here we had an odd alignment of the stars, as folks on Resistance Twitter decided that this was a good time to join Trump in a chorus of Cheney denunciation.
Author and prolific Twitter influencer Don Winslow launched a scorched earth attack on Cheney, denouncing her in a long string of posts to his 884.5K followers. And he’s not alone. His attacks have been retweeted thousands of times, amplifying the popular theme among progressives who insist that both Kinzinger and Cheney are unredeemable right-wingers who should never be treated like heroes.
The usual caveat is, of course, in order: Twitter is not real life, but the whole incident seems an interesting commentary on the problem of ideological alliances.
Here is a very small taste of what progressive Twitter unleashed on the conservative Trump critic:
She’s not just wrong, he insists… she’s psychotic.
Winslow also makes sure to point at the Cheney is worse than Elise Stefanik.
I could go on and on and on, because Winslow certainly does. The word “obsessively” inevitably comes to mind. He’s even made a film showing that Cheney is just like Trump….
So we come to this strange political moment: Liz Cheney has thrown herself on a political grenade to help save democracy. Don Winslow has thrown himself on Twitter. And his Twitter followers have picked up the theme:
Winslow’s rage was triggered by a 3-year-old video that dates from her time in GOP leadership (before her defenestration from GOP leadership). Winslow provides no context, but she was commenting on the controversy surrounding some politically inept comments by former Virginian Governor Ralph Northam about an abortion bill pending in the legislature. The whole episode is a case study in how the rhetoric about abortion can easily run off the rails. At the time, Vox tried to explain:
Gov. Northam, a Democrat, was asked about the bill in a radio interview on Wednesday, and his response only added to the controversy. Appearing to discuss what would happen if a child was born after a failed attempt at abortion, he said, “the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Some took Northam’s comments as an endorsement of infanticide. “In just a few years pro-abortion zealots went from ‘safe, legal, and rare’ to ‘keep the newborns comfortable while the doctor debates infanticide,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) in a statement on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Gov. Northam told Vox his comments were “absolutely not” a reference to infanticide, and that they “focused on the tragic and extremely rare case in which a woman with a nonviable pregnancy or severe fetal abnormalities went into labor.”
I don’t intend to relitigate the issue, except to note that it was widely debated at the time, and Cheney weighed in. No one covered themselves with the glory, but Winslow is en fuego in insisting that this controversy — from 2019 — must, absolutely must, be at the center of our political debate right now. And he is demanding in tweetaftertweetaftertweet that everyone in the media confront Cheney with the issue, rather than let themselves be distracted by her role in this whole Trump coup thing.
If this anti-Cheney rage sounds familiar… it is. I’ve written about Democratic lawyer Marc Elias’s obsessive jihad against Republicans who had broken with Trump:
ICYMI, Marc Elias’s idée fixe is dragging the media for being nice to Republicans like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. In tweet after tweet after tweet after tweet, he ignores the other 200+ GOP members of Congress, while dragging the handful of Republicans who have been the most outspoken about the attacks on January 6.
Since the end of July, I can find only two Elias tweets that mention Kevin McCarthy (one of them is actually an attack on Kinzinger). He’s mentioned Mitch McConnell in his own tweets a grand total of two times during 2021.
And the the only time I can find that he’s even mentioned Marjorie Taylor Greene or Lauren Boebert was this tweet from early December, when he explains that Kinzinger and Mitt Romney are worse than the actual crackpots.
This seems, um, skewed… and more than a little counterproductive, especially in the context of the ongoing attack on democratic norms.
But let’s discuss the bigger question of alliances.
Let’s stipulate that both Kinzinger and Cheney are conservatives. They are pro-life conservatives. Both Kinzinger and Cheney are Republicans. Both frequently voted with Trump. They disagree with progressives on spending, policing, energy policy, and a whole lot of other things. This is known.
If you scour the record, you will find times when both of them engaged in highly partisan rhetoric, because they have been partisans. Cheney was in the GOP leadership, so there are lots of videos that would likely trigger Winslow and his fans.
This is also known, but this is the nature of temporary, emergency alliances.
If we are, indeed, facing an existential threat to democracy, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But Winslow — and Democratic lawyer Marc Elias — have taken a different tack: the enemy of my enemy is also my enemy if they don’t agree with me on other issues.
In other words, we will treat Donald Trump’s crimes as a unique, existential threat. Until, we don’t.
Who needs allies when we can hunt heretics instead?
Exit take: This should remind us that there is a real difference between being a champion of small-d democracy and being an ideological warrior (Winslow) or a partisan legal hack (Elias.)
Also: Priorities, people.
1. Can Democrats Find Their Fear and Rage?
A raped and pregnant 10-year-old crossing state lines for an abortion. A coup against our government led by a president eager to send a mob he knew was armed to threaten the vice president and members of Congress. A Supreme Court that rules against the majority of the country on guns, abortion, and climate change and may side with Republicans next year who want partisans to decide our elections. The attorney general of Texas admitting he would welcome the return of anti-sodomy laws.
After years of tumultuous change and accelerating division, these past days and weeks have made perfectly clear—even to those who had tried tuning it all out when Donald Trump lost the 2020 election—just what Republicans do with power.
2. What the ‘National Conservatives’ Get Wrong About Liberalism
National conservatives propose a vision of nationalism—what Yoram Hazony calls an “order of national states”—that proves incoherent upon close examination. This becomes especially clear when reading Hazony’s The Virtue of Nationalism, which can be taken for a kind of national conservative manifesto. Hazony’s theory of nationalism relies heavily on a false dichotomy between imperialism and nationalism. This dichotomy generates all sorts of inaccurate historical claims, and it collapses completely when one considers the situation in Ukraine.