Aug 17, 2022

Liz Cheney loses.

Liz Cheney loses.

Plus, a look at the midterms as a whole.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

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Today's read: 12 minutes.

Tuesday's primary results and Liz Cheney's downfall. Plus, a question about what she does next.

Liz Cheney conceding her race in Wyoming. Image: Screenshot / Fox Now
Liz Cheney conceding her race in Wyoming. Image: Screenshot / Fox Now

Quick hits.

  1. The federal government announced new emergency water cuts in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico — declaring a first-ever tier 2 shortage for the Colorado River, which supplies water to seven states and Mexico. (The cuts)
  2. U.S. border patrol agents reported 182,000 arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border in July. It's the second month of declining numbers, but arrests are still on pace to exceed two million on the year for the first time ever. (The numbers)
  3. The FBI interviewed top White House lawyers about missing documents that were stored at Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence. (The interviews)
  4. Inflation in the United Kingdom topped 10%, underlining rising energy prices that are driving up costs across Europe. (The rise)
  5. The education department says it will cancel $3.9 billion in federal student debt for over 200,000 borrowers who attended ITT Technical Institute, which is now defunct. (The deal)

Our 'Quick Hits' section is created in partnership with Ground News, a website and app that rates the bias of news coverage and news outlets.


Today's topic.

Tuesday's primaries and Liz Cheney. Last night, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) lost her primary race to Trump-endorsed candidate Harriet Hageman. Cheney had trailed Hageman by more than 20 points in the polls, and the outcome of the race seemed assured for weeks. Cheney, who chaired the House Republican Conference from 2019 to 2021 (the third-highest ranking position in the House) has broken from the party in recent years by becoming a staunch opponent of former President Donald Trump. She voted for his impeachment and is now helping lead the January 6 House committee's investigation into Trump.

Hageman trounced Cheney, winning 66% of the vote to Cheney's 29%. Cheney vowed to continue to fight Trump's election lies and steer the GOP away from him, telling her supporters that the real work is just beginning. "I have said since January 6 that I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Donald Trump is never again near the Oval Office, and I mean it. This is a fight for all of us, together," she said.

In Alaska, the race to fill the seat left open by the death of Rep. Don Young is expected to head to ranked-choice tabulation after none of the candidates topped 50% of the vote. Sarah Palin, the former Governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate, is attempting a political comeback to fill the seat. She will face another Republican in November, businessman Nick Begich III, and Democratic state lawmaker Mary Peltola, whose surprisingly strong showing has raised speculation she could win the seat.

Meanwhile, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (43% of the vote) advanced to the general election against Trump-endorsed challenger Kelly Tshibaka (41% of the vote). Murkowski and Tshibaka will head to a four-way, ranked-choice general election in November.

Last week, the most watched races were in Wisconsin, where Tim Michels won his Republican primary to face off with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Michels, a wealthy businessman endorsed by Trump, defeated the Mike Pence-backed Rebecca Kleefisch. Michels has claimed the 2020 election was rigged and has expressed support for dismantling a bipartisan commission that runs Wisconsin elections.

Also in Wisconsin, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes won the Democratic primary to face Sen. Ron Johnson (R) in the general election. Derrick Van Orden, who attended the Stop the Steal rally on January 6, won Wisconsin's Republican primary to fill a vacant House seat and will face State Sen. Brad Pfaff (D) in November. And State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos narrowly defeated a Trump-backed challenger.

In Washington state, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R), who supported Trump's second impeachment, conceded defeat in her primary. In Minnesota, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a member of the progressive Squad, defeated a centrist challenger in the Democratic primary.

Florida, Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Louisiana are the final states to have primary elections in the coming weeks.

Below, we're going to take a look at some reactions to Liz Cheney's defeat and how the midterm primaries have gone.


What the left is saying.

  • The left said Trump's powerful influence over the party is now becoming clear.
  • Some say Republicans are risking their expected "red wave" by electing extreme candidates in primaries.
  • Others praise Liz Cheney for standing up to Trump no matter the cost.

In The New York Times, David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick said the full picture of Trump's influence is becoming clear.

"He has become the rare defeated president to wield enormous sway over his party, with the ability to end careers (like Cheney’s, perhaps) and to turn once-obscure candidates into winners," they wrote. “Trump even persuaded other top Republicans, like Representative Kevin McCarthy and Senator Ted Cruz, to endorse Cheney’s opponent. But Trump’s influence is not complete. The success rate of his endorsements in competitive elections hovers around 80 percent, and some incumbents (like Murkowski, perhaps) have proven strong enough to overcome his criticism of them. Trump’s biggest successes include races in which he has helped defeat incumbents who defied him, including four of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him over Jan. 6. Trump has also transformed some campaigns without an incumbent, allowing his endorsee to win a crowded field.

"Examples include J.D. Vance in the Ohio Senate primary; Mehmet Oz in the Pennsylvania Senate primary; and Kari Lake in the Arizona governor primary," they said. "Of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, four also did not run for re-election. Overall, only two still have a chance to remain in Congress next year. With all this said, Trump is not omnipotent. The races where his endorsed candidates have lost this year tend to fall into one of two categories: Either his chosen candidates were facing incumbents with a strong enough connection to voters to survive, or the Trump-backed candidates seemed too flawed to win."

In The Washington Post, Dana Milbank said the "red wave" is beginning to "look more like a ripple."

"Democrats just gained a small (0.5 percentage points) advantage over Republicans in what’s known as the 'generic ballot' — when voters are asked which party’s candidate they will support for Congress. Earlier this year, Democrats had trailed by as many as 2.7 points, according to the political website FiveThirtyEight," Milbank wrote. "Also, polls show Democratic voter “enthusiasm” pulling even in recent weeks with Republican levels, erasing an earlier gap. And the data are supported by anecdotal evidence: high Democratic turnout in contested primaries, a lopsided rejection of an antiabortion measure in Kansas, and Democratic candidates’ dramatic outperformance of Joe Biden’s 2020 showing in recent special elections in Minnesota and Nebraska.

"This is because voters are receiving repeated reminders of what made them so unhappy about the Trump era," he said. "Extremist candidates — some with ties to QAnon, the Oath Keepers or the events of Jan. 6 — are dominating Republican primaries. Scores of election deniers have become GOP nominees for governor, secretaries of state and other positions. The few truth-tellers have been banished; with Tuesday’s likely defeat of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), eight of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump will be leaving Congress. The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, enabled by three Trump appointees, has taken a fundamental right from Americans... On top of these unwelcome reminders of what MAGA means, easing inflation, falling gas prices and a string of legislative successes for President Biden’s agenda — all with unemployment at a 50-year low — have blunted the GOP argument that Biden and the Democratic Congress are ineffective."

In CNN, Jodi Enda said "don't shed any tears for Liz Cheney."

"In this, the Era of Trump, traditional political strengths have been supplanted by blind loyalty to the standard bearer," Enda said. "So it is that Wyoming's sole member of Congress has become a pariah in her own party, stripped of her House leadership position, expelled by her state's GOP, widely derided and essentially banished for having the audacity to fight for something conservatives like her used to hold dear: America's democracy. Because Cheney had the gall to take on Donald Trump and his insurrectionists, the former president has taken on Cheney by promoting her primary challenger. On Tuesday, if the polls are to be believed, Cheney will lose.

"But shed no tears for Liz Cheney. Her star has never shone more brightly. Cheney is the breakout star of this summer's blockbuster TV series: the hearings of the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. As the vice chair and one of only two Republicans with the mettle to serve on the committee, Cheney has been granted the lead in hearings that have methodically and dramatically revealed the role that Trump and his sidekicks played in the violent attempt to overturn the election of Joe Biden," Enda said. "Cheney's forthrightness evokes a time when patriotism (occasionally) trumped partisanship and officials (sometimes) worked across the aisle for the greater good."


What the right is saying.

  • Many on the right are celebrating Cheney's comeuppance for carrying Democrats' water and becoming a constant Trump critic.
  • Others fear what this means for the Republican party.
  • Some say Republicans should embrace making the election about Trump, and compare his record to Biden's.

In The Federalist, Tristan Justice said Wyoming Republicans threw Liz Cheney out of Congress.

"Cheney, a three-term incumbent, lost after the congresswoman was overwhelmingly kicked from her number three role in House leadership as chair of the Republican conference. The Wyoming lawmaker traded her influential perch in GOP leadership for a lead act spearheading the Democrats’ latest anti-Trump crusade in the form of the Select Committee on Jan. 6, on which Cheney is vice chair," Justice wrote. "Despite more than $15 million raised to protect her seat, however, Cheney failed to triumph in the state, which voted for Trump in 2020 by a wider margin than anywhere else in the country. Of the nine other members who supported Trump’s second impeachment, four retired, three lost their primaries, and only two prevailed. Now Cheney, the final member of the GOP impeachment caucus to face primary voters at the ballot box, will become the eighth to leave office. Her time as leader of the congressional neoconservatives who embrace an aggressive interventionist foreign policy has also come to an end.

"While Cheney relied almost entirely on out-of-state support to fund her desperate re-election campaign among voters she rarely visited, Hageman spent the prior 11 months traveling the state to build a grassroots coalition for a fraction of the cost," Justice said. "Cheney’s obsession with Trump not only antagonized members of her own party on Capitol Hill but also sank her in Wyoming, where residents scoffed at the Cheney-directed theatrics of the Soviet-style Jan. 6 Committee and the state party voted to no longer recognize her as a Republican. When The Federalist asked Wyoming voters at Cheyenne’s Frontier Days rodeo festival what they thought of the Jan. 6 investigation, voters called it a 'farce' and labeled Cheney a 'hypocrite' and a 'traitor.'... In turn, Cheney skipped events with constituents whom she called 'crazies' to mingle with reporters instead on her few trips to the Cowboy State. The late stages of her campaign took the form of a doomed candidate attempting to capitalize on the anti-Trump martyrdom for a future presidential run, with much of her campaign war chest left unspent at the conclusion of the contest."

In National Review, Jay Nordlinger mourned the end of more principled conservatives.

"One by one, the ten GOP impeachers have bowed out of politics or been defeated in primaries," he wrote. "I think of an Agatha Christie title: 'And Then There Were None.' That was a pretty gutsy thing to do: vote to impeach a president of your own party, after he won 70 percent of the vote in your state. I admire Liz Cheney... For months now, Republicans have claimed that the January 6 hearings are a ‘circus,’ a 'show trial,' and so on. I’m inclined to respond: They wish. The hearings have been conducted with sobriety, with gravity — which is not necessarily the norm in Congress. Many of the witnesses have been Republicans, and many of those have been alumni of the Trump administration. If the hearings are conveying false things, people can step forward and contradict those things. Under oath. Any takers?

"The 'team' Cheney is on, when it comes to January 6, is the team of finding out the truth and telling it straight," he said. "Cheney thinks that January 6 is very important, as she has explained repeatedly, and with remarkable patience. In the same vein, she thinks that the Trumpian lie about the election is very important. According to polls, a majority of Republicans believe the lie — believe that the Democrats, perhaps in cahoots with the Venezuelans and the Chinese, stole the election from Trump. This affects our politics, and infects our politics. It infects our society as a whole. It led to the attack — the physical assault — on the U.S. Congress. It poisons everything. Cheney thinks there needs to be an honest accounting of the past, yes. People ought to be held responsible. But she also believes the truth needs to be established for the sake of the future: to prevent future manipulation and future explosions of violence."

In his newsletter, Erick Erickson said if Republicans are going to "take the bait" on making the election about Trump, "at least play some political jiu-jitsu on the whole thing."

"Joe Biden’s approval rating is at 40% or worse. Inflation is still high. Gas is still high. Grocery bills are still high. One in two Americans cannot afford to fill their car up fully with gas. One in five Americans have to take stuff out of their grocery cart at checkout because they cannot afford the bill. Trump actually outpolls Joe Biden. Kamala Harris is a train wreck. Not a single media outlet in America has talked about the Democrats’ inflation measure, instead talking about their climate bill,” Erickson said. “If they want to talk about Trump, let’s talk about Trump. People’s 401K’s were not declining under Trump. They are going down under Biden. Gas prices were affordable under Trump. Now one out of every two Americans cannot fill up their tank. America was energy independent under Trump. Now Biden is begging rogue regimes to produce more oil for us. Americans did not have to worry about groceries under Trump. Now, if they can even find the groceries they want, they cannot afford them.

"Biden promised us a return to normalcy and instead he handed Afghanistan to the Taliban, American streets to criminals, and our retirement funds to bankruptcy. He promised to beat COVID and COVID beat him up repeatedly,” he wrote. “And even now, despite that, he’s firing American soldiers and sailors for not wanting to take a vaccine that won’t stop them from getting sick. He’ll put HIV+ soldiers on the front lines of active duty and fire healthy soldiers. If Joe Biden wants to make this about Donald Trump, let’s make it about their records. Are you better off now than you were under Donald Trump? The answer for Americans is no. Your gas prices are higher, your grocery bills are higher, your city’s crime rates are higher. The only thing lower is your retirement account.”


My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. It is meant to be one perspective amid many others. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, you can reply to this email and write in. If you're a paying subscriber, you can also leave a comment.

It's amazing how much politics can change in just a few short years.

In 2016, Harriet Hageman called Donald Trump a "racist and xenophobe," and said this of Liz Cheney: “I know Liz Cheney is a proven, courageous, constitutional conservative, someone who has the education, the background, and the experience to fight effectively for Wyoming on a national stage.”

Now, Hageman is riding a Trump endorsement to Congress and battering Cheney's record every chance she gets.

I think the two predominant ways of framing Cheney both have merit. On one hand, she took a stand against Trump's lies about 2020 (and I do think they are lies) that she knew would result in losing this election. She didn't back down after threats to her leadership position or after the entire Trump ecosystem of power brokers turned on her. As vice chair of the January 6 committee, she has overseen an investigation that supplanted my initial skepticism and actually brought a great deal of new information to light. Her position was a difficult one: She could have abandoned what she believed to win an election or stuck to her guns and lost, and she chose the difficult path, one many politicians forgo.

On the other hand, her Trump hatred has been borderline obsessive. In public appearances, rather than discuss inflation or abortion or gun rights, issues that matter a great deal to voters in Wyoming, she seems to incessantly bring everything back to Trump. She completely abandoned Republican party events in the state she was supposedly representing and derided her own constituents as "crazies." Every representative has to balance their own beliefs with those of their constituents who put them in Congress — and it's always about striking a balance between leading and representing. But in this cycle Cheney seemed particularly uninterested in what any of her constituents wanted, running campaign ads about Trump and prompting reporters to speculate on whether she even wanted to win.

While I understand why so many Wyoming voters wanted to oust Cheney, I’m worried by the results for a few important reasons. I wish national Republicans spent more time disassociating from the Matt Gaetzes and Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world than they do from Cheney. But I also wish we lived in a country where Cheney had been thrown out of office by the voters for being part of a political dynasty that helped bring chaos to the Middle East, rather than for crossing Trump.

The worst part of all of this is what I fear it portends for the Republican party. I often join conservatives in their criticism of the left's purity tests and virtue signaling, but the Wyoming political leaders who have ousted Cheney seem to be succumbing to a conservative version of the exact same impulses they constantly deride progressives for. Showing up to political conventions wearing guns and cowboy hats is now "conservative." One Wyoming delegate has suggested schoolchildren not be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance because the word "indivisible" tramples on the state's right to secede from the union.

And now, Liz Cheney, a Republican who voted with Trump 93% of the time (more frequently than Elise Stefanik, who took her leadership position), has staunchly opposed abortion rights, advocated for gun ownership, wanted to repeal Obamacare, voted against nearly all of Biden's signature legislation, and even opposed gay marriage in 2013 after her own sister had married a woman the year before, is suddenly... not conservative enough? If opposition to Trump is enough to get someone that conservative on social and economic issues ousted, then — truly — there are not going to be any conservatives who can survive without bending the knee.

To be clear: This isn't to say Republicans who buck Trump are somehow superior. I'm the first to say that Trump's presidency consisted of accomplishing many of the things he promised, and there are a lot of Republicans out there who support him for executing their vision for a stronger America, the media chaos or personality issues aside. But it is fair to say that the party appears hellbent on purging dissent from its ranks. All you have to know is that only two of the 10 House members who voted for impeachment still even have a shot to be in Congress. Shoot, you could take a look at my inbox, where I hear from Trump supporters every day who unsubscribe whenever I criticize him.

To me, though, what happens next will be even more interesting. Progressives who ran on burning down the system (the left-wing version of “draining the swamp”) know well the struggle of actually governing (see Chesa Boudin in San Francisco). The "insurgents" rooting out Trump's opposition from the party will have to produce results to stay there, and for many of them it's unclear what credentials they have aside from loyalty to Trump.

Has the wave of Trump-backed victories in the midterms suddenly hurt Republicans' odds to take over the House and Senate this fall, as some establishment Republicans fear? Perhaps. There's no doubt the data point to increasing Democratic momentum. But I think that surge is just as attributable to Biden’s recent flurry of legislative victories for his base, signs of receding inflation, and the Roe v. Wade decision, which may actually boost turnout for Democrats.

Whatever the driving factors, a few things seem certain: Trump has completely remade the Republican party. Refusing to support him appears to be a death sentence with Republican voters. And Democrats’ odds in November may be better than many people (including me) thought even just a few short months ago.



Your questions, answered.

Q: Do you think Liz Cheney will run for president? She seems to be implying she will. If so, do you think she has a shot?

— Jared, Casper, Wyoming

Tangle: No and no. I'd be pretty surprised if she ran, and she definitely doesn't have a shot to win a Republican nomination if she does. She can't even hold a seat in Wyoming! That being said, I agree her concession speech last night (and her rhetoric more broadly) seem to indicate some grand plan to help ensure Trump doesn't get elected in 2024.

It's worth asking what that looks like. Perhaps she is just alluding to her continuing role on the January 6 committee. Maybe she intends to repurpose her millions of dollars in campaign funds to anti-Trump ads across the country (something, surely, her donors would support). And it's possible, yes, that she intends to run as a spoiler. I could see a world where she runs third party or endorses another candidate and calls on "principled Republicans" casting a ballot for her in hopes of drawing votes away from Trump.

To me, that's the least likely option. But it's certainly possible.

Want to ask a question? You can reply to this email and write in (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.


A story that matters.

The FDA issued a new rule on Tuesday that will allow millions of Americans to buy over-the-counter hearing aids without a prescription. The rule will go into effect in mid-October and applies to certain air-conduction hearing aids for people with mild to moderate hearing impairment (hearing aids intended for pediatric use or severe impairment will still remain prescription devices). Some 30 million Americans could benefit from hearing aids, according to the FDA. Hearing loss has been associated with depression, dementia, and balance issues. The move has drawn bipartisan praise because it will reduce the cost of hearing aids. Reuters has the story.


Numbers.

  • 48%. The percentage of Democratic voters who said they are "extremely" or "very" enthusiastic about the midterms, in a June 17-20 survey, before Roe was overturned.
  • 56%. The percentage of Democratic voters who said they are "extremely" or "very" enthusiastic about the midterms, in a June 24-25 survey, after Roe was overturned.
  • 44.7-42.4. Republicans’ generic ballot lead over Democrats on June 17, 2022, according to FiveThirtyEight.
  • 43.9-43.4. Democrats’ generic ballot lead over Republicans on August 17, 2022, according to FiveThirtyEight.
  • 57-28. Harriet Hageman's polling lead over Liz Cheney heading into Tuesday's race.
  • 10%. The percentage of Wyoming voters who said they were undecided.
  • 66-29. Hageman's actual margin of victory in the race.

Have a nice day.

A 17-year-old engineer has designed a motor that could transform the electric car industry. Robert Sansone just won a $75,000 cash prize this year’s Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the largest international high school STEM competition. His invention was a prototype of a synchronous reluctance motor that uses copper wire and a steal rotor instead of rare earth magnets currently used in electric vehicles. Sansone said he wanted to solve for electric vehicles' sustainability problem, hoping to build an EV engine that doesn't rely on rare earth materials that are costly and environmentally dangerous to extract. How he did it is a ltitle above my head, but Smithsonian Magazine has a fascinating story about the invention (and the implications).


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