Trump loyalists want to punish Liz Cheney. So?

Whatever Liz Cheney is thinking, the reality may be closest to this. For all the hundreds of decisions a politician makes in a year, most consequential careers are defined by being right—or wrong—on a small handful of big questions. On these, the shrewd long-term position is often quite different than the short-term “safe” one. Many politicians who played it safe voting against civil rights in the 1960s spent the rest of their careers trying to rehabilitate their reputations. Hillary Clinton’s authorizing the Iraq War had her in the Democratic mainstream in 2002; Barack Obama’s opposition helped power him to the presidency just six years later.

If the GOP is in the midst of a reappraisal of Trump—not obvious yet but virtually inevitable eventually—Liz Cheney will look more formidable, and actually be more formidable, for having stood against most of her party now. Gaetz’s harassing of her now could turn out to be an in-kind contribution later.

In his 2008 interview with Raddatz, Dick Cheney defended his stubbornness with a reference to Abraham Lincoln. Think of how history would been different if he had “paid attention to polls” during the Civil War. That’s probably a misreading of Lincoln, who was keenly attuned to shifting politics and, far from refusing to shift his thinking, once said, “I claim not to have controlled events but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”

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