Hageman, Cheney Offer Dueling Visions of Threats to American Democracy

As Harriet Hageman prepares to head to Washington, she and her former rival Rep. Liz Cheney stand as standard bearers for two vastly different approaches to modern Republicanism

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), recently ousted by Trump-backed Harriet Hageman in her GOP primary reelection battle, continues to lambast the former president, saying in remarks on Monday that Trump is "attempting to unravel our Constitutional Republic." (Photo via the American Enterprise Institute / YouTube)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

WASHINGTON — Appearing just over two miles from one another before audiences convened at rival conservative think tanks on Monday evening, Wyoming’s current representative to the U.S. House and the woman set to replace her both delivered scathing indictments of the state of the American constitutional order.

The dueling speeches, each pegged to celebrations of Constitution Day, seemed in direct conflict with one another, though the two politicians did agree on one thing: the United States is facing threats unseen in modern American history.

“Over the last two and a half years, we have been confronted with an existential threat to our very existence as Americans, to our way of life, to our heritage as a free people and to our governing philosophy,” Harriet Hageman, who defeated incumbent Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) in August to become the Republican nominee for U.S. House from Wyoming, said at the Heritage Foundation.

“This freedom that we have been blessed with, this freedom that is defended and guaranteed by our Constitution, only survives if we recognize threats to this freedom when they arise,” echoed Cheney at the American Enterprise Institute. “Today, we are facing such a threat. It’s a threat we have never faced before.”

Harriet Hageman, speaking at a rival think tank less than three miles from where Cheney was delivering her remarks, said Biden — and not Trump — is the greatest threat to the nation: “The Biden administration is a constitutional disaster, the likes of which we have not seen before.” (Photo via the Heritage Foundation / YouTube)

Hageman and Cheney differed in their identification of the root causes and prescriptions for how Americans should respond to these threats. The simultaneous, split-screen events highlight ongoing schisms within the Republican Party over former President Donald Trump’s conduct during the Jan. 6 insurrection and the role he should play in the GOP moving forward.

Though their electoral battle ended last month, Hageman and Cheney continue to serve as de-facto standard bearers for two increasingly inconsistent approaches to modern conservatism. Hageman planted the threats to the country squarely on the shoulders of “the left” and the Biden administration, which she dubbed a “constitutional disaster the likes of which we have not seen before.” Investigations into Trump amounted to a “partisan witch hunt,” Hageman alleged, decrying the Jan. 6 committee as a “kangaroo court” and claiming that “many Jan. 6 defendants are held in jail without trial in abhorrent living conditions, without access to even the most basic rights as guaranteed by our Constitution.”

Yet according to Cheney, who serves as vice chair of the select committee investigating the events surrounding the Capitol riot, it is Trump who is “attempting to unravel our Constitutional Republic.” The GOP officials and leaders who continue to defend him, Hageman among them, “compromise the principles of our Democratic Republic,” Cheney added.

Hageman prepares for Washington life promising to disempower D.C. policymakers

Though she still must defeat Democrat Lynnette Gray Bull in the Nov. 8 general election, Hageman appears to have started preparing for her new life in Washington, D.C. Her campaign has signaled that they are relatively unconcerned about beating a Democrat in Wyoming, most recently announcing that Hageman would skip the WyomingPBS general election debate scheduled for October 13.

On Monday, Hageman spoke to the importance of candidates’ responsiveness to their voters.“When people are running for office, you need to hold them accountable for the decisions that they’re making,” she said. “You need to question them about how they’re going to govern and why.”

But when it comes to the general election debate, Hageman’s conversations with voters are a “much more effective way of communicating with Wyomingites, and it’s how she will continue,” Hageman’s campaign told WyomingPBS in a statement declining the invitation.

Cheney seemed to criticize Hageman’s decision without referencing her directly: “You know, I really welcome it when we’re going to have a debate or discussion in the House,” she said.

“If the person who’s on the other side of the debate from me… will have prepared, I know that they will have good arguments, ,” Cheney added. “And those debates are wonderful.”

Representatives for the Hageman campaign did not respond to questions about Cheney’s remarks or Hageman’s campaign strategy, telling the Wyoming Truth only that “Harriet’s remarks at the Heritage Foundation will speak for themselves.”

In her Constitution Day speech, Hageman signaled some possible areas of legislative interest should she win in November. She derided social media companies’ efforts to moderate hate speech as “censoring” conservatives, lambasted Biden’s decision to forgive millions of Americans’ student debt and claimed the administration held “the most radical abortion policy in the history of the U.S.” As some Republicans nationwide have softened their tone on abortion, Hageman doubled down on her anti-abortion stance, saying she believes Americans’ natural rights are granted by God “at the moment of conception.”

Hageman also railed against a new Dept. of Agriculture policy requiring institutions that receive federal funding to investigate allegations of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity — something Hageman claimed was tantamount to the administration “instructing our schools that they either adopt radical gender ideology or they will withhold school lunch money.”

Acknowledging that the overall tone of her remarks was “dour,” Hageman insisted she remained optimistic about the state of the nation, demanding that Congress “pass legislation to rein in the out of control, unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats” and “return power to the states where it belongs.”

Speaking to an audience of Washington politicos and policy researchers, Hageman denounced the capital city as “too powerful”: “We need to take power out of Washington, D.C.”

As the clock runs out on her Congressional career, Cheney seeks electoral reform

Cheney has continued to prioritize her Jan. 6 committee work and recently introduced a bill to reform the electoral certification process with Democratic co-sponsor and fellow Jan. 6 subcommittee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

If passed, the Presidential Election Reform Act,  would clarify that the Vice President’s role in counting electoral votes is purely ceremonial, ensuring he or she has no ability to overturn the will of the voters, as aides testified that Trump pressured former Vice President Mike Pence to do in 2020. It also would raise the threshold for members of Congress to object to electors submitted from contested states and require governors to send electors to Congress for candidates who won the election based on state law before Election Day — ensuring retroactive changes to election rules after an election took place would not impact the results.

The bill is intended “to prevent future attacks during election processes,” Cheney said. It passed the House Rules Committee on Tuesday with a party-line vote, clearing it for consideration before the full Democratically-controlled House within the next few weeks.

As Hageman prepares to head to Washington, Cheney continues to explore a possible presidential run, telling those present for her speech on Monday that she’s not interested in pursuing a third-party ticket. Though she shares Republicans’ fears about “radical liberalism” and “wokeness,” Cheney said, “those concerns cannot justify what the Republican Party is doing now.”

“For the Republicans, unfortunately right now the fringe is in charge and is dangerous. But I’m not ready to sort of abandon that,” she added.

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