Past Event On February 17, 2024

Liz Cheney

Principles Over Politics

The former U.S. representative discussed democracy, principled leadership, and the future of bipartisanship. We discovered where the Republican party is headed next, and so much more.

Liz Cheney

“Authoritarians cannot succeed alone. They need enablers. They need collaborators. They need appeasers. Donald Trump needs people who will spread his propaganda and who will threaten others on his behalf. One of the most terrifying lessons in the years since January 6th has been just how many elected Republicans are willing to make themselves hostage to this dangerous man.”

Liz Cheney

Principles Over Politics

Program Date: February 17, 2024

“We cannot be bystanders. If we don’t defend this incredible republic — our land of freedom — then no one else will.”

Former U.S. Representative, attorney, and author Liz Cheney rocked the Republican party in 2021 when she spoke out against President Donald Trump’s actions following the January 6 attack on the Capitol. On February 17, 2024, she rocked The Richmond Forum with a rallying cry to join her in her fight to preserve American democracy.

Cheney has been engaged in politics for most of her life. As the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in the Forum audience, she was exposed to the inner workings of the federal government from a young age. She recalled her first-ever volunteer gig at the age of 10 — sealing envelopes at the 1976 campaign headquarters of President Gerald Ford, for whom her father served as chief of staff. Cheney laughed that she was quickly fired after being a bit overzealous with the sealant, but her budding passion for politics was undeterred.

Twenty-five years later, after her father and George W. Bush were determined to be the winners of one of the closest presidential elections in American history, Cheney’s passion grew as she watched former Vice President Al Gore deliver his concession speech. Gore referenced what Senator Stephen Douglas had said in his own concession speech nearly a century and a half earlier: “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.”

On Inauguration Day in 2001, Cheney said that she was struck by the idea that “it was a stunning and incredible thing that we had had this hard-fought campaign and here we were engaging in the peaceful transition of power, because that’s what we do in the United States of America.” She added, “Every single American president since George Washington has fulfilled that oath and that responsibility … every president except one.”

“One of our very most important obligations as citizens, especially in this election year, is to stand in the truth, not to look away, not to let others look away or lie about what happened.”

– Liz Cheney

Having worked many years of her career in international affairs, Cheney recognizes former President Donald Trump’s behaviors as “tactics that we see from authoritarians from around the world and throughout history.” She claimed that authoritarian leaders can only succeed when they are surrounded by enablers and collaborators, which she believes is the case with the current state of the GOP.

Cheney has witnessed Republican colleagues quietly ignore this slide into authoritarianism. According to them, there are limits to the damage a second term could do because of the country’s system of checks and balances. However, she believes our institutions will not be able to restrain Donald Trump. “What we’ve learned since January 6 is that it’s not the institutions that defend themselves, it’s the people who do that.”

She cited multiple high-ranking party colleagues, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, who have made statements that indicate they are willing to deny the decisions of these institutions and the will of the American people. “That is not the rule of law,” she remarked. “That is tyranny.”

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If re-elected, Cheney believes Trump will fill the Oval Office with allies who will deny court rulings, feed misinformation, and claim for themselves the power that belongs to the people of this country. “The damage that can be done with the appointment of corrupt lawyers and individuals to achieve what Donald Trump wants in a second term is immeasurable.”

She urged that there is an immediate and immense need for citizens to step up to preserve our republic.

“This will take every one of us and it won’t be easy, but I ask you tonight to commit yourselves to the defense of the foundations of our republic. Commit yourselves to living in truth. Commit yourselves to rising above partisanship. As you go to the polls this year, I ask you to look beyond party. I ask you to find and support candidates who will defend the Constitution, candidates that you know will do the right thing. Please spread the word about how high the stakes are and how important this election is. Consider running for office yourselves. Lord knows we need good candidates.”

Cheney has absolute confidence that the majority of American citizens want future generations to grow up and live in freedom, which is attainable by moving beyond partisanship and working and voting together. “We can right the ship of our democracy,” she said. “There is no power on Earth that is stronger than ‘We the People.’”

Liz Cheney’s speech was followed by an audience Q&A, moderated by Melody Barnes, director of the University of Virginia’s Karsh Institute of Democracy. During this portion of the evening, Cheney dispelled conspiracy theories, discussed primary election reform, and shared her love for “The Real Housewives.”

“It was a privilege to be in the same room with a true hero. A person who stood up for the constitution and the greater good while putting aside her own interests. She is a model for all about what it means to do the moral act in life even if it hampers your own interests.”

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About Liz Cheney

Liz Cheney served as the U.S. representative for Wyoming’s at-large congressional district from 2017 to 2023. She chaired the House Republican Conference, the third-highest position in the House Republican leadership, from 2019 to 2021, and served as the Vice Chair of the Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol. She was also a member of the House Armed Services Committee, China Task Force, Natural Resources Committee, and the House Committee on Rules.

Cheney previously served at the State Department as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and in positions for USAID and the Department of State working in Poland, Hungary, Russia, and Ukraine. Prior to this, Cheney practiced law with White and Case and at the International Finance Corporation. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Colorado College, and received her Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago Law School.

A specialist in national security and foreign policy, Cheney is the co-author, along with her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, of “Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America.”

In 2021, Cheney was selected for the inaugural Forbes “50 Over 50” list and was included in TIME magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2022, Cheney, along with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, received the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s prestigious Profile in Courage Award, with a commendation for her “consistent and courageous voice in defense of democracy.”

This spring, Cheney accepted an appointment as a professor of practice with the University of Virginia Center for Politics for the fall 2023 semester.

Who Else has spoken at The Forum?

More than 240 distinguished speakers have participated in The Forum since its inception in 1987. Our list of alumni includes past U.S. presidents, sitting heads of state, and leaders from the sciences, arts, business, and more.

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