Reflections of Lincoln

In the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (revised 1980 edition), Janet Maslin wrote the chapter on Bob Dylan. She included the photo of the folkie Dylan posing with a cigarette dangling from his lips and a guitar in his lap. Maslin supplied the caption: “The conscience of a generation, trying to smoke and sing simultaneously.” (The photo is accessible here.)

Liz Cheney followed in Dylan’s footsteps with her speech at Mead Ranch near Jackson on Tuesday evening following her crushing defeat in the Wyoming Republican primary. Photo captions might have read: “The conscience of her party, trying to chisel her face into Mount Rushmore and speak simultaneously.”

Newsweek has posted the text of Cheney’s remarks here. She suffers from a toxic overdose of her own virtue. She sought to dignify her humiliating loss by invoking Abraham Lincoln, likening her mission to his and throwing in Grant for good measure:

The great and original champion of our party, Abraham Lincoln, was defeated in elections for the Senate and the House before he won the most important election of all. Lincoln ultimately prevailed, he saved our Union and he defined our obligation as Americans for all of history. Speaking at Gettysburg of the great task remaining before us, Lincoln said, “That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom and a government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.”

And so on, ad nauseam.

Lincoln first ran for the state legislature in 1832 at age 23. He lost the race while receiving an enormous vote of confidence from his fellow citizens in the frontier town of New Salem. Lincoln won 277 of 300 votes in New Salem — 92 percent of the votes cast.

It was the only direct election that Lincoln ever lost. Lincoln proceeded to win every succeeding election (eight in all, including two for president) in which he stood for office before the public. The only races he lost (closely) were those for the Senate in 1854 and 1858, in which he necessarily sought election by the state legislature.

In 1846 Lincoln was elected to Congress. Although Lincoln wanted to run for reelection, he declined. He felt bound to honor an informal agreement among the Whigs in his district to serve only one term and he therefore stood down. Cheney asserted that Lincoln lost an election to the House. I think she got that wrong.

Lincoln’s 1832 announcement of his candidacy is somewhat famous. In the concluding paragraph he wrote: “I am young and unknown to many of you. I was born and have ever remained in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relations to recommend me.”

I understand that Cheney carried Teton County, where she claims residence in Wyoming:

Teton County, home to Jackson, a new playground for the ultra-rich set against a breathtaking natural landscape, is unlike anywhere else in this heavy mining and agricultural state. It’s Wyoming’s bluest county, meaning voters here are more likely to be Democrats who voted for Cheney, an uncommon phenomenon that Cheney’s campaign encouraged.

Cheney claims residence in Wilson, a few miles away from Jackson Hole: “The voters…rode up to the city’s lone polling site in elite performance bicycles, Teslas and luxury trucks…” New Salem it’s not.

And the thousands of Democrats who crossed over to vote for Cheney in Tuesday’s primary mitigated the extent of her crushing defeat. Cheney’s pitiful share of the vote in the Republican primary was artificially inflated by the Democrats who voted for her.

Cheney has contracted delusions of grandeur somewhere along the line. She seems to be planting the seeds of a presidential campaign. It wouldn’t fly in the Republican Party. She might try as an Independent, but wouldn’t splitting the anti-Trump vote be a gift to President Trump? Or perhaps she intends to undertake her own Lincoln Project grift. I’m sure I’m missing something, but I think it makes about as much sense as her Mount Rushmore shtick.

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