Prominent Republican elections blog Red Racing Horses (RRH) recently scolded Rep. Liz Cheney, who faces primary voters next week, saying, “Sticking to your guns and voting your conscience is one thing. Torpedoing your career by trying to change the minds of the vast majority of your party’s primary voters almost single-handedly, (by joining the January 6th Commission) is another.” Citing polls showing Cheney losing handily to her former supporter-turned-election conspiracy theorist, Harriet Hageman, the post continues, “I’m not sure that Dick (Cheney) ever taught Liz about the aphorism ‘live to fight another day.” This insightful comment perfectly encapsulates the best-case argument against Cheney.
It’s also dead wrong.
The recommendation “live to fight another day,” raises the question: Fight … for what? She could serve in Congress for decades longer and never do as much to preserve our constitutional order as she has serving as the key Republican on the January 6 committee.
A decade ago, as a junior congressional staffer, I had a front-row seat to representatives learning this lesson. After the Tea Party wave of 2010 brought in nearly 100 freshman members of Congress, there was excitement, but also frustration. I was privy to a conversation involving two members of Congress lamenting that they had so little influence. “I came to Congress to do something, and it’s like I have no say,” said one. “You are irrelevant to this process,” said the other, resigned.
These representatives learned that, particularly in a democracy, no one person usually has much power over the waves of politics. Being merely one of 435 members of the House gives one very little ability to influence the direction of the political draft. The ability of any individual to make a significant, meaningful difference is both difficult and rare, even for those who hold federal office.