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The Morning Dispatch: Down Goes Cheney
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The Morning Dispatch: Down Goes Cheney

Plus: Alaska voters head to the polls, but the full results won't be known for weeks.

Happy Wednesday! Every day we stray further from God’s light: “YouTuber decides to fix snakes, constructs robotic legs for them to wear.”

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Wyoming and Alaska held primary elections on Tuesday. Some highlights:

    • Rep. Liz Cheney lost resoundingly to her Trump-backed primary challenger, attorney Harriet Hageman. Winning reelection “would have required that I enable [Donald Trump’s] ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic,” Cheney said in her concession speech. “That was a path I could not and would not take.” After retirements and primaries, just two of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump in 2021 will be on the ballot in November.

    • Chuck Gray—the Trump-backed candidate for secretary of state in Wyoming—beat out Tara Nethercott in the state’s Republican primary after campaigning on Trump’s claims of a stolen 2020 election.

    • Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska led Kelly Tshibaka, her Trump-backed primary challenger, by fewer than 300 votes as of 2 a.m. ET, with about 40 percent of the vote yet to be counted. The final result might not be known for a while, but because of Alaska’s unique primary system, both candidates will advance to a ranked-choice general election in November.

    • Mary Peltola—a former Democratic state lawmaker—was leading former Republican Gov. Sarah Palin and Republican Nick Begich III in the first round of balloting for Alaska’s special election to serve the final five months of the late Rep. Don Young’s term.  The ranked-choice tabulation, however, is not expected to be released until the end of August.

  • President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law on Tuesday, enacting the legislation that includes more than $400 billion in healthcare and green energy subsidies, as well as additional funding for the Internal Revenue Service. Democrats claim new corporate taxes and stricter IRS enforcement will generate enough revenue to pay for the bill’s provisions and reduce the deficit, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has not yet released an updated estimate following a few last-minute changes to the act.

  • A Russian ammunitions depot in Crimea was rocked by explosions on Tuesday, with Ukrainian government officials telling media outlets their forces were behind the sabotage. The attack came days after a similar strike on a Russian airfield in Crimea, and appears to be a part of Ukraine’s long-anticipated counteroffensive.

  • Axios reported Tuesday that, in an effort to assure lawmakers concerned about influence by the Chinese Communist Party, Oracle has begun vetting TikTok’s algorithms and content moderation models for signs of CCP manipulation. TikTok—which is owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance—claimed in June that 100 percent of U.S. user traffic is now being routed through Oracle’s servers, and that it “expect[s] to delete U.S. users’ private data from our own data centers.”

  • The Food and Drug Administration issued a rule on Tuesday that will allow adults with mild or moderate hearing loss to buy hearing aids over-the-counter beginning as soon as October. Advocates believe the rule will increase competition, resulting in improved products, lower costs, and increased access to hearing aids.

  • The Education Department announced Tuesday it is canceling about $3.9 billion in federal student loan debt for approximately 208,000 borrowers who took out money to attend ITT Technical Institute between 2005 and 2015, when the for-profit technical school was shut down. “For years, ITT’s leaders intentionally misled students about the quality of their programs in order to profit off federal student loan programs, with no regard for the hardship this would cause,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said.

  • The Justice Department announced Tuesday the FBI arrested former Democratic Rep. TJ Cox in California on Tuesday. The one-term congressman—who represented California’s 21st congressional district from 2019 through 2021—was charged with 15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud.

Cheney Falls

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images.)

For the first time in what feels like decades, voters will not be able to vote for a member of the Bush or Cheney political dynasties this fall.

Months after George P. Bush’s bid for Texas attorney general fizzled out, Rep. Liz Cheney met a similar fate in Wyoming—one that was all but sealed on January 12, 2021, when she announced her intention to impeach then-President Donald Trump for what she labeled the greatest betrayal of a presidential oath of office in American history.

The Republican primary for Wyoming’s at-large House seat was lopsided enough to be called within minutes of the polls closing. Harriet Hageman—an attorney and Republican activist who received Trump’s endorsement—more than doubled Cheney’s vote total (66.3 percent to 28.9 percent, as of 3 a.m. ET), but a ham sandwich probably would have done just as well. In the eyes of Wyoming voters—who cast their ballots for Trump over Joe Biden in 2020 at a 2.6-to-1 clip—Hageman’s most redeeming quality was that she was not Liz Cheney. In a series of late-night posts to Truth Social, Trump quickly congratulated Hageman before turning to the main event.

“Liz Cheney should be ashamed of herself, the way she acted, and her spiteful, sanctimonious words and actions towards others,” he posted, tearing into her decision to help lead the January 6 Select Committee. “Now she can finally disappear into the depths of political oblivion where, I am sure, she will be much happier than she is right now.”

“Two years ago I won this primary with 73 percent of the vote,” Cheney said in her concession speech. “I could easily have done the same again—the path was clear. But … it would have required that I enable [Trump’s] ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic. That was a path I could not and would not take. No House seat—no office in this land—is more important than the principles that we are all sworn to protect.”

Cheney’s loss is hardly a surprise. Of the nine other House members who voted to impeach, only two haven’t lost their primaries or retired. As the vice chair of the House committee investigating Jan. 6, Cheney has made exposing Trump and his allies a near single-minded focus of her last several months in Congress. She lost her leadership role in the House Republican caucus, and Wyoming’s Republican Party voted not to recognize her as a member. 

Though she was likely to lose anyway, her reelection campaign hasn’t exactly been calculated to woo back disgruntled Trump supporters in a state the former president won by 43 percentage points in 2020, his largest margin in the nation. She ran ads drubbing Trump, including a recent video of her father—former Vice President Dick Cheney—calling Trump a unique threat to America. Plus, Cheney held lower-profile, invite-only campaign events, reportedly due to death threats, and didn’t empty her multi-million dollar war chest.

Cheney did ask Democrats and independents to vote for her. It’s relatively easy to switch party affiliation in Wyoming to vote in a different primary, and registration numbers suggest some sympathetic voters rallied to the cause. From July 1 to Aug. 16, Republican voter registrations in Wyoming rose by about 14,600 voters, while Democratic registrations sank by about 6,800. Still, Wyoming Democrat Vickie Goodwin told our Price St. Clair (who reports in-depth on the primary on the site today): “While I know that there are many who have switched parties to vote for her, it won’t be me, because she just doesn’t represent me in anything except her January 6 committee stance.” And in a ruby red state, blue voters didn’t make much of a dent.

So what’s next for Cheney besides more Jan. 6 committee work before the 117th Congress leaves office? She’s been asked about running for president in 2024—likely more to siphon votes from Trump than as a viable candidate. She hasn’t announced whether she’ll run, but noted in her concession speech Tuesday that Abraham Lincoln lost elections for the House and Senate before winning the presidency. “This primary election is over—but now, the real work begins,” Cheney said. “I have said since January 6th that I will do whatever it takes to ensure Donald Trump is never again near the Oval Office, and I mean it. This is a fight for all of us together.”

Cheney’s race grabbed the most attention, but Alaska voters also headed to the polls for a few races Tuesday. 

Trump has been on a mission to oust Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski over her vote to convict during his second impeachment trial. Though Trump won the state in 2020, Murkowski has strong approval ratings. We won’t have results right away, but while she may not lead the pack in Tuesday’s results, the top four vote-getters in Alaska’s all-party Senate primary will all advance to the general election. Murkowski and Trump-endorsed attorney Kelly Tshibaka are virtually certain to advance. In the general election, Murkowski has a strong chance of winning votes from Democrats and independent voters who dislike Tshibaka. Murkowski also has an independent streak that attracts out-of-party support—she supports abortion access, voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act, and has voted with President Joe Biden often on recent legislation.

We’ll also have to wait for full results in the special election to fill the House seat left vacant by deceased Rep. Don Young. Former governor and Tea Partier Sarah Palin, Republican tech entrepreneur Nick Begich, and Democrat Mary Peltola are competing for the fill-in slot—and have all also entered the regularly scheduled race to hold the seat for a full term. Under Alaska’s new ranked-choice voting system, the candidate who comes third will be dropped, and voters who ranked that candidate first will have their second choice counted. Election officials won’t finish tallying those results until September, so stay tuned.

Worth Your Time

  • When it comes to election results, everyone wants them fast, accurate, and cheap. “Pick two of those,” Jessica Huseman writes for Votebeat. “You can’t have three.” But candidates don’t want to hear it. “For example, Kari Lake, the GOP nominee for governor of Arizona, declared that Arizonans should know who the winner is ‘when they go to bed on election night,’” Huseman writes. “That’s interesting. Because Lake … wants to eliminate mail voting in a state where it’s wildly popular, instead requiring voters to cast ballots in local precincts on Election Day, and also get rid of the machines used to tabulate ballots. Instead, Lake advocates a switch to hand-counting paper ballots. In theory, Lake could push for all votes to be cast on a single day and counted that very night by the hands of thousands and thousands of sleepy volunteers. For that to be remotely possible, though, counties would need to spend untold millions of dollars on staffing. … The expectation of instant results is irrational. It stems from how elections were conducted in the 2000s, when counties were able to boop-beep-boop their way to results without counting a single physical ballot, given the popularity of machines that electronically record votes. Counting paper ballots takes longer.”

  • A year after Afghanistan fell, Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Will Selber recounts his experience trying to get trapped Afghan allies out of the country, and grieving those lost. “I’ve spoken with the families of recently killed servicemembers and tried to find the right words to console them,” he writes for The Bulwark. “However, even those excruciating calls pale in comparison to what Hamidullah and I had to tell the allies that we were leaving behind. Some cursed at us. Many cried out in pain. Others recited their entire resumés to us: the schools they had visited in the United States and the American soldiers they had saved in combat. Others filled our phones with pictures of their children in a last-ditch effort to save them. None of their pleas worked because there was nothing we could do. Today, almost a full year later, all of them remain in Afghanistan, trapped behind enemy lines.”

  • Is it possible for colleges to present graduates with too many different career prospects? “Colleges today often operate as machines for putting ever-proliferating opportunities before already privileged people,” Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silver Storey—research professors at Furman University—argue in the New York Times. “Our educational system focuses obsessively on helping students take the next step. But it does not give them adequate assistance in thinking about the substance of the lives toward which they are advancing. Many institutions today have forgotten that liberal education itself was meant to teach the art of choosing, to train the young to use reason to decide which endeavors merit the investment of their lives. … Colleges should self-consciously prioritize initiating students into a culture of rational reflection on how to live, and this intention should be evident in their mission statements, convocation addresses, faculty hiring and promotion, and curriculums.”

Presented Without Comment 

Also Presented Without Comment 

Toeing the Company Line

  • In Tuesday’s Uphill (🔒), Haley covers a new report from Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the withdrawal from Afghanistan and its fallout. “Not only did the administration not take seriously the need to evacuate allies in advance,” she writes, citing the report, “but officials were also late to act once it was evident their rosy predictions about the withdrawal weren’t going to pan out.”

  • Sarah, Andrew, and Audrey teamed up on Tuesday’s Sweep (🔒) to round up a host of topics, including the Republican National Senatorial Campaigns Committee canceling ads in key Senate battlegrounds, abortion’s impact on the Georgia gubernatorial race, and the McCarthy-Cheney rift peaking in Tuesday’s primary.

  • On Tuesday’s episode of Dispatch Live, Sarah was joined by David, Andrew, and Steve (from Wyoming) to discuss Rep. Liz Cheney’s reelection effort, talk through the latest on the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, and answer audience questions. Dispatch members who missed the conversations can catch a rerun—either video or audio-only—by clicking here.

  • Steve had to hop off Dispatch Live early to go finish reporting his piece from Cheney’s campaign-night event. Read the fruits of his labors here

  • Who is a traitor to the Republican Party? Not Liz Cheney or Mitt Romney, David argues in Tuesday’s French Press (🔒). By defending standing against the new right’s rush to abandon character and respect for institutions, David writes, Cheney, Romney and their ilk are the true defenders of the Republican Party and the U.S. “They were never ‘turncoats,’” David writes. “They lost while demonstrating that loyalty is never blind, and in its best version, it can defend an institution even from itself.”

  • Economist Russ Roberts drops by The Remnant today for a conversation with Jonah about his new book, Wild Problems: A Guide to the Decisions That Define Us. Many of life’s biggest decisions—when to marry, what career to choose, whether to have children—can’t be calculated. So what then? 

Let Us Know

What do you think Liz Cheney set out to accomplish over the past year-and-a-half? Do you consider her successful or unsuccessful on those terms?

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.

Price St. Clair is a former reporter for The Dispatch.