Liz Cheney and the Twilight of the Old Republican Elite

Rep. Liz Cheney gives a concession speech to supporters during a primary night event in Jackson, Wyo., on Tuesday. /Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

By Stephanie Muravchik and Jon A. Shields | The New York Times

Ms. Muravchik and Mr. Shields have spent the last year working on a book about Liz Cheney’s Wyoming and the future of the American right.

If Liz Cheney’s loss to Harriet Hageman in Wyoming’s primary election on Tuesday seems like a bad dream to many of Ms. Cheney’s Democratic admirers, that’s because it is: For a generation, progressives have imagined the moment when the white working class would finally turn against an insular and privileged Republican establishment. That day has arrived. But it isn’t what Democrats dreamed.

Apparently uninterested in everyday governing, the new insurgents who elected Ms. Hageman are consumed with demonstrating that they are authentic conservative Republicans. And in that sense, they are succumbing to the same impulses they associate with their liberal opponents: a shrill hostility to different viewpoints, an obsession with virtue signaling and a willingness to purge their own ranks. The older tradition of Republican politics — the one that cradled Ms. Cheney from girlhood and shaped her in office — is still alive, though embattled, even in Wyoming. Progressives who realize that this privileged Republican establishment was a linchpin of our democracy all along may start rooting for a counterrevolution from above rather than a revolution from below.

In the not very distant past, Wyoming’s G.O.P. was focused on governing the state by addressing everyday challenges, like distributing a limited number of liquor licenses and funding its public schools. Politics was “frankly boring,” recalled Tim Stubson, a partisan of the old school.

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