American conservatism frequently resembles a bad horror movie franchise. Despite common sense indicating that unsavory characters stopped deserving our attention long ago, they somehow keep coming back for decades.
You may have missed it in the coverage of the Democratic “blue wave” from this month’s midterms, but Rep. Liz Cheney (R) was re-elected to a second term representing Wyoming’s at-large congressional district by nearly 34 points on Election Day. She will be the chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus come January.
That position, which was once held by her father, is the third-highest role in GOP House leadership, behind only soon-to-be Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) and soon-to-be Minority Whip Steve Scalise (LA).
Cheney has risen quickly in Republican ranks since joining Congress last year. Like her father, the Wyoming congresswoman’s cunning political style makes her a force to be reckoned with in the GOP.
But in some ways, Cheney is even more extreme than her father.
Liz, the eldest of two daughters, was born in Wisconsin and raised in Wyoming. Her father was elected to Congress in 1978, when she was 12 years old.
After her father — who had already served as White House chief of staff under President Gerald Ford before becoming a congressman and quickly moving his way up House Republican leadership — was named Defense Secretary under President George H. W. Bush in 1989, she worked in the State Department.
In her father’s memoir that she co-wrote, Cheney claimed she woke the future vice president up on the first night of the extremely controversial 2000 election to tell him he had won. That account of events was contradicted by numerous other people who were present.
Republicans were back in the White House for the first time since Bush’s father, thanks in large part to Supreme Court justices who were appointed by Bush’s father, Nixon, and President Ronald Reagan (the predecessor and former boss of Bush’s father). Cheney got a role at the State Department that was “specially created” for her, while her husband served as the presidentially-appointed chief counsel at the Office of Management and Budget after being on the Bush-Cheney transition team.
Following Bush’s narrow win in 2004 — when a swing of just 59,000 of Ohio’s 5.6 million voters could have put then-Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in the White House — Cheney returned to the State Department, focusing mainly on the Middle East as her father helped destabilize the region and world with an illegal war that killed millions of people, including around 5,000 U.S. soldiers.
Cheney’s political prospects dimmed toward the end of her father’s administration.
In the 2008 Republican presidential primaries, she worked for not one, but two candidates — former Sen. Fred Thompson (TN) and former Gov. Mitt Romney (MA) — who failed to secure the GOP nomination.
But the former vice president’s daughter had no reason to fear, as the savior of fledgling conservative careers soon came calling: Fox News.
Cheney appeared on the right-wing network for a year and a half, including as a fill-in host for Sean Hannity, before announcing in 2013 that she would challenge incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY).
Her first campaign for public office did not go well.
Cheney moved to Wyoming just months before declaring her candidacy. She made national headlines following her claim that she was “Winston Churchill standing up to Hitler” and after the refusal of her only sibling — Mary Cheney, who is openly gay and has referred to their father as “Darth Vader” — to endorse her.
After numerous polls showed her trailing Enzi by huge margins, Cheney dropped out of the race in early January 2014, citing unspecified family health concerns.
Cheney didn’t wait too long to try her hand at running for public office again.
Four-term Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) announced her retirement in 2015, and Cheney declared her intention to run for her father’s former congressional seat.
During a tough 2016 Republican primary in which four candidates received over 15 percent of the vote share, Cheney eventually pulled away and beat state senator Leland Christensen, her closest challenger, by nearly 18 points.
She then easily dispatched businessman Ryan Greene (D) in the general election by 32 points on the day of Trump’s stunning upset win.
Upon joining Congress, Cheney immediately hitched her political star to Trump.
The Wyoming Republican supports the president’s agenda 96 percent of the time, more frequently than notorious Trump enablers Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
The only times Cheney has broken with the Republican president were over a “compromise” immigration bill, raising the debt limit for disaster funding, imposing sanctions on Russia, North Korea, and Iran, and a GOP appropriations bill.
Aside from those extremely rare instances, Cheney has been an enthusiastic supporter of Trump, backing bills to repeal Obamacare, make all abortions illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, fund the president’s proposed border wall, punish sanctuary cities, increase penalties for undocumented immigrants who re-enter the U.S., repeal Dodd-Frank financial regulations put in place after the Great Recession — which her father’s administration helped cause — and pass a $1.4 trillion tax break that overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy and large corporations.
Cheney has also opposed a carbon tax and the implementation of ozone regulations, praised ICE, supported making conceal-carry gun permits legal across state lines, and voted to repeal internet privacy protections and numerous environmental regulations.
She has been given ratings of 0 percent by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the NAACP, the League of Conservation Voters, and the National Education Association, 4 percent by the ACLU, and 93 percent by the NRA.
Whether Cheney can have a longer and more impactful political career than her father, who served as White House chief of staff, an incumbent president’s campaign manager, a congressman, House Republican chairman, House Minority Whip, Defense Secretary, and Vice President in a 24-year span, remains to be seen.
Though it will be difficult to surpass her father — who called Nelson Mandela a “terrorist” and voted against freeing him, helped mislead about intelligence to start the illegal Iraq War, defended torture in a possible admission of war crimes, advocated for the unlawful surveillance of U.S. citizens, ignored the conflict of interest of continuing to profit off a former business that was awarded no-bid government contracts in Iraq while he was vice president, and was referred to as “one of the six most rabid Republicans in the House” — the GOP has shifted so far to the right in the decade since he left public office that his extreme conservative ideology could be considered moderate by today’s standards.
But his daughter, who continues to receive donations from Halliburton and will soon become the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House, has been one of the most right-wing members of today’s Congress and biggest cheerleaders of Trumpism.
Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation is an important and historic moment for our nation. He will be a terrific Supreme Court Justice who is faithful to our Constitution and the rule of law. Grateful to @realDonaldTrump for nominating him and to US Senate for confirming him.
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) October 6, 2018
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) January 31, 2018
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) January 14, 2018
After she was re-elected, she told the Associated Press, “We’ve got to change the way that we operate and really in some ways be more aggressive.”