Why Republicans Are So Annoyed By The Liz Cheney Candidacy

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Here’s why I’m experiencing a little schadenfreude over the news that Liz Cheney’s gonna run for Senate. And it has almost nothing to do with her dad, or the possibility that she’ll win her primary and give Democrats an opening to run nationwide against the return of Cheney.

Liz Cheney is the über-Republican. She personifies the fusionist nature of her party better than anyone I can think of. She spouts the kind of extreme rhetoric you might expect to hear from paranoid, socially conservative base voters and certain back-bench members of the House GOP, but her politics are textbook Beltway hawkish conservatism — axe social insurance programs, cut taxes, deregulate industries, swagger in foreign affairs, etc.The standard-bearers of that latter ethos often try to dissociate themselves and the national party from figures like Michele Bachmann and Steve King — people whose differences with the pro-donor wing of the party are both rhetorical and substantive.

The party’s differences with Liz Cheney, by contrast, are purely stylistic. Senator Cheney probably wouldn’t spend too much of her time trying to de-fluoridate the water supply, and would be a great ally to the conservative economic and fiscal mainstream. She’d actually be a triumph of political engineering if there were a huge constituency for draping policies that benefit the rich in déclassé rhetorical extremism. But that constituency is very small and unpopular, almost by definition. And simply by engaging in a particular approach to politics the party wants to inch away from — slowly, gently, without alienating its base — she’ll make the task of dialing it down a notch very difficult.

Which is a big reason, I think, why professional Republicans are scared of her candidacy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM’s senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he’s led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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