January 21, 2021
Author: Chilton Williamson
I met Dick Cheney in the 1980s as he was leaving Luigi’s Restaurant in Diamondville, Wyoming following a Chamber of Comics banquet and had the honor of shaking his pudgy hand as he waited to waylay his constituents outside. (I had spent the evening in the bar, not at dinner with the Comics.) I never saw the man again, nor paid him attention before he was selected in 2000 by the Party elders to run on the Republican ticket with George W. Bush, officially as the Vice-presidential candidate but in point of fact to serve as the immature President’s adult minder. Cheney was born in Nebraska and raised partly there and partly in Casper, Wyoming. He attended Yale, dropped out, and entered the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Following graduation he worked as an intern for a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, and next in the White House. Wyoming scarcely saw him again until 1978, when he was elected the state’s sole member of the U.S. House of Representatives, an office he held until 1989. His subsequent career in Washington, D.C. under Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush is well known. Despite his frequent appearances around the Capitol wearing a Stetson hat, Cheney has shown little interest in Wyoming for decades. His world, which is also his oyster, is Washington, D.C., not Cheyenne.
His elder daughter, Liz Cheney, was raised largely in Washington and subsequently lived and worked there as a apparatchik in the State Department and the Republican Party. Her relationship to Wyoming is even more tenuous than her father’s. As with him, her Wyoming is not Kemmerer, or Rock Springs, or Gillette: it is Jackson Hole, Little Manhattan in the Rocky Mountains; the wealthiest town, it may be, in the entire United States, populated by superrich liberals from the two Coasts, and abroad. Calculating that Wyoming, with its population of less than 600,000 people and her father’s political connections in the state, ensured her a happy hunting ground there, Cheney moved “back” to the Wyoming to challenge Senator Michael Enzi in his bid for reelection in 2014. Her cynical ploy was not appreciated by the electorate, but she persisted in her attempts to establish a political base here and got herself elected to Dick Cheney’s seat in 2016, 2018, and again last year.
Liz Cheney, who has carried a torch for her father’s hawkish neoconservative foreign policy throughout her career, loathes Donald Trump. But Wyoming people have strong isolationist tendencies. They are, moreover, not agreeable to neoconservatism in any form, and they have been wildly enthusiastic supporters of President Trump. And so when Cheney joined nine congressional Republicans in voting last week for President Trump’s impeachment, she almost certainly forfeited whatever political future she might have had in the Cowboy State. Trump won Wyoming last November with 70 percent of the vote, compared with Cheney’s 68.7 percent. But despite the closeness of their two victories, Wyoming is Trump country in a sense that it will never be Cheney country. Wyoming voted for Donald Trump because it loves Donald Trump; it elected Liz Cheney because she was the Republican candidate. This, for several reasons. First, Wyoming doesn’t really know the woman. She spends as little time here as she can get away with, and when she does visit the state she holds few town meetings and spends most her time in Jackson, where she owns a house and “lives.” Second, in terms of personality she is the GOP’s equivalent of Hillary Clinton: a cold fish, arrogant, charmless, distant, and in her mind self-entitled. Three, as I have mentioned, her politics are not congruent with those of the majority of the people in this state.
Her constituency’s reaction to her traitorous betrayal of President Trump was immediate and explosive. The Wyoming GOP condemned Rep. Cheney’s vote, claiming that by judging the evidence before it could be presented and refusing to hear the arguments in favor of impeachment she denied the President due process. Carbon County’s Republican Party voted unanimously to condemn Cheney for her vote to impeach on charges of “incitement of an insurrection.” And an online petition to recall her from office has acquired more than 35,000 signatures to date. (My wife and I signed with relish.)
Liz Cheney has found a few defenders within the state and in the District who have praised her action as “brave.” That is as may be. It is rumored in the state that she does not plan to run for office again in Wyoming, but move instead to a more liberal state farther East and seek elective office there, where her Trump Derangement Syndrome—and her “bravery”–would be appreciated and rewarded. Another rumor has it that she hopes to run for the presidency, once the GOP (with her help, that of her family’s, and of her connections) has been purged of Trumpism and Trumpists and made safe once again for the Bush-Cheney dynasty that could be expected to return the party to what President Biden calls “normalcy.” That, however, is almost certainly not going to happen; and the likelihood is that Liz Cheney is washed up for good as a national politician. My advice to her, if I knew the woman, would be to run for Mayor of Jackson Hole. While the millionaires and billionaires who own, inhabit, and operate the town are still to the left of Liz, my suspicion is that she might get comfortable with them in time. She must, after all, be in the same tax bracket as the more minor grandees among them.