‘We stand at the edge of an abyss, and must pull back’

Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) is a member of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
The following is an excerpt from her June 29 speech at the Ronald Reagan Institute.

I’m a conservative Republican. And I believe deeply in the policies of limited government, of low taxes, of a strong national defense. I believe that the family is the center of our community and of our lives. And I believe those are the right policies for our nation. 

But I also know that at this moment, we are confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before. And that is a former president who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our Constitutional Republic. And he is aided by Republican leaders and elected officials who have made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man.  

Now, some in my party are embracing former President Trump. And even after all we’ve seen, they’re enabling his lies. Many others are urging that we not confront Donald Trump, that we look away. And that is certainly the easier path. One need only look at the threats that are facing the witnesses who’ve come before the January 6th Committee to understand the nature and the magnitude of that threat.

But to argue that the threat posed by Donald Trump can be ignored is to cast aside the responsibility that every citizen – every one of us – bears to perpetuate the Republic. We must not do that, and we cannot do that.

Ronald Reagan said, “It is up to us in our time to choose and to choose wisely between the hard but necessary task of preserving peace and freedom, and the temptation to ignore our duty and blindly hope for the best while the enemies of freedom grow stronger day by day.”

No party, and no people, and no nation can defend and perpetuate a Constitutional Republic if they accept a leader who has gone to war with the rule of law, with the democratic process, or with the peaceful transition of power, with the Constitution itself.  

As the full picture is coming into view with the January 6th Committee, it has become clear that the efforts Donald Trump oversaw and engaged in were even more chilling and more threatening than we could have imagined. As we have shown, Donald Trump attempted to overturn the presidential election. He attempted to stay in office and to prevent the transfer of presidential power. He summoned a mob to Washington. He knew they were armed on January 6th. He knew they were angry. And he directed the violent mob to march on the Capitol in order to delay or prevent completely the counting of electoral votes. He attempted to go there with them. And when the violence was underway, he refused to take action to tell the rioters to leave. Instead, he incited further violence by tweeting that the Vice President, Mike Pence, was a coward. He said “Mike deserves it” and he didn’t want to do anything in response to the “Hang Mike Pence” chants. 

It’s undeniable. It’s also painful for Republicans to accept. And I think we all have to recognize and understand what it means to say those words, and what it means that those things happened. But the reality that we face today as Republicans, as we think about the choice in front of us – we have to choose. Because Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution. 

And as we think about this choice, and as I think about how I come to this choice, the first thing that I think about is that I come to this choice as a mother, committed to ensuring that my children and their children can continue to live in an America where the peaceful transfer of power is guaranteed. We must ensure that we live in a nation that is governed by law and not by men.

And I come to this choice as an American, as a citizen of the greatest nation God has ever created on the face of this Earth. And I come to this choice as a person of faith, as someone who believes deeply that our rights come from God, not from the government, and always mindful that we must pray as though everything depends upon God, because it does, and we must work as though everything depends upon us, because it does. 

America is exceptional. We’re the exceptional nation. We are a good and a great nation. And our history teaches us that ordinary Americans in every generation have done extraordinary things, they have done heroic things. Our men and women in uniform have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom and that task is now ours.  

In his inaugural address, President Kennedy said this – he said, “In the long history of the world, there have only been a few generations that have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.” And today, that responsibility is ours. 

And what a magnificent responsibility that is. And what a blessing it is that that is our duty and our obligation. But, my fellow Americans, we stand at the edge of an abyss, and we must pull back. We must pull back.

One of my Democratic colleagues said to me recently that he looked forward to the day when he and I could disagree again. And believe me, I share that sentiment. Because when we can disagree again about substance and policy, that will mean that our politics have righted themselves. That will mean that we have made the decision that we are going to reject anti-democratic forces, that we are going to reject toxicity, that we are going to reject some of the worst kinds of racism and bigotry and anti-Semitism that characterize far too much of our politics today. History has taught us that what begins as words ends as far worse, and we must reject those things.

So, while I know that we will come to a day when we can begin, again, to disagree on substance and policy, I think it’s important for us to take this moment to agree what that future should look like. I think it should be a future where our political leaders are serious, where our political leaders are worthy of our support, where they are prepared, where they are substantive, where they defend principle, where they abide by their oaths of office.

When we go into the voting booth and we cast our votes as citizens, we should do so with a commitment to electing people who are as serious as the challenges we face as a nation. We demand excellence in so many areas of our lives, we should demand excellence from our elected officials, as well.

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