I’m not a Republican, and my eyes don’t cloud over at the memory of the glorious achievements of the Republican Party.
So when I first arrived at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley on Wednesday, the images of the 40th President—wearing cowboy clothes, eyeballing Gorbachev, loving Nancy, or throwing a golf ball into the Oval Office—were gone. I’m cold.
Reagan, in my opinion, was a dangerous Cold Warrior and arch-conservative whose distrust of government led him to unravel programs that brought relief to millions of Americans.
But it’s a sign of how times are changing – and how blatantly the bar has been lowered – as I made my way through the exhibits, my heart softened to just a touch.
At least Reagan was not a selfish, irrational, deceitful demagogue like some others I might mention.
My reassessment wasn’t all that unexpected under the circumstances. I arrived at the Reagan Library from Los Angeles on performance of the Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Vio.), frank, straightforward famous Vice President of the House of Representatives Yang. 6, who risked her seat in Congress to take on Donald Trump and his supporters.
“Liz with low ratings,” as Trump called her, traveled to the rocky hills of Simi Valley to spread her message that Trump – a member of her own political party – had placed American democracy in existential danger; that he “started a war on the rule of law”; that Republicans cannot be loyal to him or to the Constitution. She said the country was “on the brink” and that everyone should choose sides.
“We are facing an internal threat that we have never faced before,” Cheney told a crowd of nearly 700 people. “And this is a former president who is trying to undermine the foundations of our constitutional republic. And he is aided by Republican leaders and elected officials who have willingly made themselves hostages of this dangerous and irrational man.”
Compared to him, Reagan, for all his faults, seems like a statesman.
As for Cheney, my political differences with her are as deep and wide as my differences with Reagan ever were, from her hawkish foreign policy views to her admiration for small government. She defended the use of torture. She praised the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade. For a while, she didn’t even support her sister’s right to marry another woman. (She has since changed her mind.)
But at the moment it all seems irrelevant. These days, she stands up for what she believes in and reminds Americans and people around the world what it means to be a person of principle. It takes courage to challenge your political allies and unite with your opponents.
As a result of her lone battle against Trump, Cheney was stripped of leadership in the House by her Republican counterparts. Now she faces an even bigger threat: August. Top 16 Challenges from the Trump-backed Wyoming House Candidate. Some polls suggest she might be running behind by as much as 30 percentage points.
Cheney is not a gifted or hyper-articulate speaker. She is serious and businesslike; her words derive their power more from their directness than from their eloquence.
Of course, she spoke in the library about the finds of Jan. 6 committee. She said Trump knew he had lost a fair election. Nevertheless, he called a dangerous crowd to Washington. He knew the Mafia members were armed and dangerous, but ordered them to march on the Capitol to prevent the electoral votes from being confirmed. And not only did he not try to stop the melee, he incited further violence.
Cheney also spoke about her own “conservative Republican” beliefs and took some short shots of the economic and immigration policies of the Biden administration. She spoke about God and the centrality of the family.
I was very curious about who would be attending an event for a renegade Republican in the GOP stronghold. The room was full. The audience was clearly supportive. Cheney received several standing ovations, including when she first entered.
There were Democrats in the crowd – almost certainly more than usual showing up at events at the Reagan Library. Some felt touched in the wrong place. “I’m here to thank her for what she’s doing,” said Alan LaFace of Glendale, a Democratic voter.
There were also self-proclaimed independents who were curious to see Cheney in person.
And, of course, the Republicans are dissatisfied, mostly dissatisfied with Trump’s rise to power. One couple called themselves Rockefeller Republicans. Another person said he was a Reagan Republican. The Camarillo woman told me she always voted Republican until 2020, when she voted for Biden. “I have a lot of respect for Liz Cheney,” she said.
A handful of demonstrators along the road at the entrance to the library chanted that Cheney was RENO – a Republican in name only – and that those who attended the speech should be ashamed. They said Jan. The 6th committee was a one-sided fiction.
But inside the library, she was among the supporters. “She put everything on the line,” said Greg Wyatt of Big Bear City.
I have no idea if Cheney really risked everything or if she is already preparing for the next ambitious step. Many viewers said they saw her as a potential future Republican presidential candidate, supposedly representing the not-so-crazy wing of the Republican Party.
For my part, I would never vote for her in a million years. It would be terrible for the country. But I still admire her, and I would have always known at least that she was a man of principle.