Should Liz Cheney be your hero?

Like me, Leslie Cannold is deeply grateful for Liz Chaney right now — you know, the way she’s speaking truth to fruitcakery.

Liz Cheney is my hero. On positions of policy, I disagree with her almost 100% of the time, but I see her as one of the first moral heroes of this millennia. A highly principled woman willing and able to set aside every one of her personal interests to do what’s right for her country.

She contrasts this with Democrat sympathisers who claim to see through Cheney’s apparently principled stand — those whose arguments amount to the assertion that “Cheney’s stance has nothing to do with principle, but rather vengeance (against Trump) served cold”.

However being asked to choose between light and dark seems a bit stark to me. Having observed politics from nearer and further for quite a few decades now, I’d never assume anyone had 100% pure motives. Ted Cruz stood up for principle — the principle of not lying every time you open your mouth in politics. Why? Because he was opposing Donald Trump who couldn’t open his mouth without lying. But Ted came to Jesus and it turned out he wasn’t a person of principle any more.

My operating assumption is that Liz Cheney has got herself into a situation in which Trump is an enemy and, having made her bed, she’s lying in it. That’s not me saying that all politicians are ‘cynical’. Rather the opposite. It’s saying that politics is a profession in which one is endlessly trading off ends and means, endlessly trying to promote one’s own career and do something worthwhile. And in that world, a great deal of the time the ends justify the means. And the art of politics is ultimately understanding where the ends don’t justify the means.

In all the democratic cultures I know, people tend to chat about politics as if it’s pretty clear who’s a goodie and who’s a baddie. They criticise those politicians they don’t like as if all politicians should be candid and strictly principled in all they say and do. Then of course when those on their own side do the same, they immediately make excuses — of course they have to cut corners given how ruthless their opponents are etc etc.

By this means almost everyone’s political chit-chat participates in a kind of moral panto. It’s one of the many ways in which political culture gets engulfed in wishful thinking. Indeed, as I’ve said before, I think we need a whole new ‘alt-political discourse’ to rise above the moral panto of wishful thinking into which the current political discourse has descended.

I don’t want to get too high on my horse about Cannold here as short pieces must compress what is said, but it really did stick in my craw to be told that her analysis was that of “an ethicist”. If that’s what ethicists have to tell us — that we have to choose between naivete and everyone’s-in-it-for-themselves-cynicism — then so much the worse for ethicism. I prefer ethics which is all about that land bounded by the two extremes of panto. It’s all about how we try to feel good about our own conduct in a murky world — a world in which vice always comes disguised as virtue.

Still, Liz Cheney got into politics to trade off ends and means and then got herself into the situation she’s in, and she’s digging in and fighting. She’s fighting for us all. That’s good enough for hero status for me.

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13 days ago

She’s my hero because in a land of guns, high inequality, and poor mental health services, being within the bounds of normal for a Republican is probably quite dangerous.

David Walker
13 days ago

In Cheney’s defence, she’s a markedly different case from Cruz. Cruz briefly found principles because he was running against Trump, as you say.
If Cheney had an ulterior motive for publicly opposing Trump – rather than just muttering privately, like many other Republicans – then it hasn’t been pointed out to me yet. (Feel free to do that below.) If she’d decided to shut up, all signs say she’d still be in Republican congressional leadership. As far as I can currently tell, she decided to publicly oppose Trump in the knowledge it might end her Republican political career – which, all the polls now suggest, it will.
Occasionally it makes most sense to believe that people really are taking the more principled position because they have more principles. I think this is Cannold’s point, it seems a valuable point to make, and she makes it pretty well.

R. N. England
R. N. England
12 days ago

Cheney is an agent of the Washington swamp, about the only useful concept that Trump ever pushed, and which is an even greater threat to humanity than Trump.
The US has more than its share of good people, but they are repelled by its adversarial political system which selects only aggressive behaviour, at home or abroad. Australia’s system is modelled on it.

Not Trampis
11 days ago

She is a hero because she stood up for her conservative principles where most others discarded theirs.
We need more true conservatives

9 days ago

One of the more valuable shorthands in some circles was given to us by Larry Niven: “on the one hand foo, on the other hand bah, but on the gripping hand {something else}”. It’s not the post-modern everything in shades of grey, more a reminder that there’s often more than two clearly opposed positions on a given issue.
I have nothing useful to say on the nominal topic :)

Antonios Sarhanis
8 days ago

I haven’t been following the Jan 6th commission closely but I think it’s going to end up a massive tactical mistake.
There’s that great line from Omar in The Wire: when you come at the king, you best not miss. And it appears this Jan 6th Commission is going to miss and it’ll make Trump appear to be in the right.
By the end of it, I don’t think anything is going to stick. No charges, no impeachment, nothing. He will be “exonerated” of any wrongdoing by a politically motivated committee of investigators. This is the worst possible outcome. He will come off as a “winner”.
Of course, if something does stick, that’s a different story. But it appears nothing will from my vantage point.