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OPINION | FABIOLA SANTIAGO: Cheney defies Miami GOP

by Fabiola Santiago Miami Herald (TNS) | May 15, 2021 at 10:12 a.m.

MIAMI -- Of all the cities in the U.S., in Miami -- populated by Cubans who stood up to dictatorship, some risking their lives, all paying the price of being exiled -- the throngs should be standing up for and applauding Congresswoman Liz Cheney.

She stood on the side of democracy. She told the truth and, for this, the Wyoming conservative was ousted from her leadership post in Congress.

Yet, all we hear from Republican congressional representatives and their followers in Miami is ... silence.

No colorful placards being held up for Cheney at Versailles.

No ¡Viva Cheney! chants at La Carreta on Bird Road.

The Republican leader put country and democracy above party, and she told the truth: Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and incited the deadly attack on the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification process in Congress.

Gimenez, Salazar, Diaz-Balart

For truth-telling, cowardly Republican members of Congress voted -- in secret and by voice vote -- to oust the third-highest ranking Republican from her leadership position.

At the very least, Miami-Dade's Republican representatives in Congress -- Carlos Gimenez, Maria Elvira Salazar and Mario Diaz-Balart -- should be upfront with their constituents and tell them how they voted on Cheney.

But the trio is taking the cowardly way out. They won't say how they voted.

They want to save their own political skins at whatever the cost.

They don't want to offend the anti-Trump crowd, voters they will need come re-election next year.

They don't want to offend the cult-of-Trump crowd, voters they also will need come re-election next year.

A little too late for that game of hide-and-seek.

Delayed in going to Washington because of covid-19, Salazar missed the Electoral College vote certification. But Gimenez and Diaz-Balart showed their stripes when they voted to uphold the lie that there was election fraud in the certification vote.

All three voted to support the instigator of the Capitol insurrection during Trump's second historic impeachment hearing.

It also looks like they weren't moved by Cheney's May 11 speech on the House floor about "freedom and our constitutional duty to protect it" in the face of a former president who "has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him."

"He risks inciting further violence," she said.

"Our freedom only survives if we protect it..." she added. "We must speak the truth. The election was not stolen. America has not failed."

In the speech, Cheney mentioned a Cuban exile as an example of the many brave people she has met around the world who defend democracy against great odds and despite threats to their lives. People inspired, she said, by the United States' brand of democracy.

"Three men -- an immigrant who escaped Castro's totalitarian regime, a young man who grew up behind the Iron Curtain and became his country's minister of defense and a dissident who spent years in a Soviet gulag -- have all told me it was the miracle of America, captured in the worlds of President Ronald Reagan, that inspired them," she said.

There's a name that conjures a different kind of Republican: Reagan.

He, who gave amnesty to the undocumented, including thousands of Central Americans fleeing war and violence. He, who stood up to the Soviet Union and would have never cuddled a thuggish leader like Vladimir Putin.

Those Republicans who revered Reagan should have Cheney's back.

But don't expect Gimenez, Salazar, Diaz-Balart to show that kind of backbone.

As pundit Ana Navarro put it on CNN, that kind of GOP spine is "in storage in Mar-a-Lago."

Ironically, Cheney's champions in Miami are mostly Democrats.

They disagree with her politics, but admire Cheney's all-in commitment to standing up to a Republican Party too comfortable in its status of being hijacked by Trump and his posse.

Miami-Dade's GOP could use a lesson on leadership from Cheney.

Miami Republicans do have a lot to lose by siding with Trump at this juncture in American history.

Most of all, their credibility.

When they don't have the guts to stand up for democracy in their own country, nobody cares what they have to say about Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua. Or Miami, for that matter.

Their silence trades truth for the cult of personality and political convenience.

In upholding the Constitution above party interests, Liz Cheney embodies what Miami's hyper-partisan Republicans lack: courage and commitment to truth.


Fabiola Santiago writes for the Miami Herald.

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