MORRISTOWN – When Liz Cheney stepped on the stage of the Mayo Performing Arts Center Monday night, most in the jam-packed crowd of 1,300 stood and applauded.
Politics is ever changing. It’s also quite ironic.
Cheney, the daughter of a man who was – and who continues to be – vilified by Democrats is now a hero to many of them.
But it’s a bit more than that.
Cheney, who lost her seat in the House because of her anti-Trump stance, is now respected by not only the left, but also by many Republicans who are through with what Cheney, quite accurately, called a “personality cult” surrounding Donald Trump.
She’s become so much admired of late that some have suggested she should run for president herself, or even try to become Speaker of the House.
None of that was specifically raised Monday as Cheney spoke and answered questions from a moderator as part of the Drew University Forum or lecture series. But her goal was clear:
Do what’s necessary to prevent Trump from becoming president again.
Easier said than done. A cult by definition holds onto its followers no matter what.
And as we are seeing now, Trump’s lead in the polls on his way to the Republican nomination is huge. so much so that he doesn’t even need to perform such mundane campaign tasks as show up to debates.
Still, Cheney said it’s not a given that Trump will win the nomination, but that, “It’s looking more like that every day.”
Who does she want to be president?
Cheney declined to say, ruefully adding that an endorsement by her would hurt that very candidate.
As an aside, it’s worth noting that one of those in the race is Chris Christie, who lives just a few miles west of the venue where Cheney spoke. Christie has more or less built his campaign on condemning Trump, but Cheney didn’t mention him.
But she did say, “We should not be electing anyone not willing to say Donald Trump lost the election in 2020.”
In more general terms, Cheney spoke of what she suggested should be undeniable bipartisan principles.
Chief among them is respecting democracy. She noted that in the history of the republic every president has accepted the peaceful transition of power “until Donald Trump.”
Cheney’s main regret is not so much that Trump disrespected the democratic system, but that so many Republicans went along with him.
Cheney did not, and she also served on the House committee investigating the Jan 6. insurrection, thereby becoming a pariah among Republicans two times over.
She acknowledged losing friends over her stance – and also respect for some of her fellow Republicans.
So where does the Republican party go from here?
Cheney, who quite obviously has been a Republican all her life, was not overly optimistic.
“I don’t know if the Republican Party itself can be salvaged,” she said. Cheney said the first task for the GOP is to strongly condemn violence.
History is always around in politics and as Cheney said, many Republicans today say they treasure and honor the memory of Ronald Reagan.
There’s a caveat here.
“Ronald Reagan would not be a member of the Trump Republican Party,” she said.
Anyone who actually remembers Reagan would agree with that statement 100 percent. Just think of Reagan’s ‘Morning in America” optimism compared to Trump’s comments about “American carnage.”
Cheney got another near standing ovation when she ended her remarks.
But just before that happened, she urged members of the audience to run for office themselves, saying, “Really, it’s not that bad.”
Cheney also had some blunt advice for voters going forward:
“Don’t vote for idiots.”