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Budowsky: Liz Cheney’s momentous midterm moment

Having spent the last few months quoting polls that warned analysts away from predicting gigantic Republican waves in the midterm elections, and with Democratic prospects brightening and President Biden gaining stronger standing with the public, my advice today is to ignore anyone who claims to know who will win the midterm elections. 

My view is that there are probably 10 Senate races that could be won by either party. Without confidence, I give Democrats a slight edge in the Senate and Republicans a slight edge in the House. 

Democrats who could help the party’s cause, including former first lady Michelle Obama and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, should assume Democrats could suffer a close but disastrous defeat in the midterms and go the distance — now — by taking every possible step to help Democrats today. 

Among the major variables that could affect the outcome in the closing weeks of the campaign, few are more important than the potential role of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). 

Cheney has made it publicly clear that she will oppose Republican candidates who are 2020 election deniers, who she correctly believes pose dangers to American democracy. 

What alarms Cheney, as much as it alarms responsible Republicans as well as independents and Democrats, is that Trumpist representatives, senators, governors and secretaries of state could dominate state and national governments — with the power to enforce their anti-democratic policies and practices in the 2024 presidential election and beyond. 

To the degree that Cheney launches full-blown political action to prevent this from endangering our democracy, she could have a momentous and potentially decisive impact in the midterm elections. 

Shortly after she was defeated in her primary last month, Cheney chatted with Biden. “We had a very, very good talk,” she said afterwards, “a talk about putting the country in front of partisanship.” 

Biden, for his part, has often sought bipartisanship. And in recent days, while he has been harshly critical of “MAGA Republicans,” he has offered praise and olive branches to Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who reject those who undermine democracy. 

There is a real possibility of a midterm coalition that includes Democrats, independents, principled conservatives and moderate Republicans to win this one midterm election, on this one day.   

If this occurs, it might be possible for a Democratic president and Congress to seek at least some period of post-midterm bipartisanship that could be proposed in the closing days of the campaign, appealing to a grateful nation fed up with endless gridlock and partisanship. 

Words cannot fully describe the degree of my admiration for the political courage Liz Cheney has shown, and continues to show, in her determination to defend American democracy. As a longtime Kennedy Democrat, I was thrilled that she was awarded the Profile in Courage award at the JFK Library in Boston. 

Countless members of Congress spend a career aspiring to the leadership position she rose to in the House, which she risked and ultimately lost by taking a stand for democracy in way that would have made Abe Lincoln proud. 

Her leadership role on the House committee investigating the horrific and anti-democratic attacks against the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 is profoundly important. Her passion in seeking to return the GOP and modern conservatism to its honorable roots and principles, even though it’s a philosophy I disagree with, represents the height of patriotism and Americanism. 

My guess is that sometime in the future, historians, political analysts and most Republicans, as well as Democrats, will view Cheney’s courageous leadership as historic and wise.  

For now, watch the unfolding story of Cheney’s momentous midterm moment, and the great good it could do for American democracy in 2022 and beyond. 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives.  

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