Liz Cheney’s primary in Wyoming is likely to end a dynasty and an era

CODY, Wyo — At an event last month honoring the 14,000 Japanese Americans who were once held at the Heart Mountain internment camp near here, Rep. Liz Cheney was overwhelmed with emotions, and a prolonged standing ovation wasn’t the only reason.

His appearance – with his father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as former Senator Alan Simpson and the children of Norman Mineta, a Democratic congressman turned transportation secretary who was sent to camp at age 10 years old – was part of An innovation for the new Mineta-Simpson Institute. Ms Cheney was moved, she said, by the presence of survivors and their enduring commitment to the country that imprisoned them during World War II.

There was something else, however, that happened to the MP during the bipartisan ceremony with the party elders she was raised to revere. “It was just a combination of emotions,” she recalled in a recent interview.

With Ms. Cheney facing near-certain defeat in her House primary on Tuesday, it’s the likely end of the Cheneys’ two-generation dynasty as well as the demise of a less tribal and more clubby-focused politics. the substance.

“We were a very powerful delegation, and we worked with the other side, that was key, because you couldn’t function if you didn’t,” recalls Mr Simpson, now 90. years, who has just received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. and as sour as ever about his ancestral feast. “My dad was a senator and a governor, and if I ran again today as a Republican, I’d get my ass beat – it’s not about inheritance.”

He was elected to the Senate in 1978, the same year Mr Cheney won Wyoming’s General House seat, and they worked closely together, with two Republicans fighting on behalf of the nation’s least populous state at a time when Democrats still controlled at least one chamber of Congress.

It’s not mere influence, however, that Wyoming’s mainstream Republicans yearn for as they consider their golden past and ponder the state’s less certain political and economic future. Ahead of Tuesday’s election, which is expected to propel Harriet Hageman, who is backed by former President Donald J. Trump, into the House, the nostalgia in the state runs deeper than the Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

Mr. Cheney and Mr. Simpson were not only at the head of their respective chambers in the 1980s; they, along with Senator Malcolm Wallop, a Yale-educated cold warrior whose grandfather served in both the British House of Lords and the Wyoming legislature, got along well and often appeared together as a delegation in a kind of road show through the sprawling state (“A little town with long streets,” as the Wyoming saying goes).

The administration of President George Bush was even more intoxicating. Mr Cheney became Secretary of Defense and his wife, Lynne, served as President of the National Endowment for the Humanities, while Mr Simpson was both the second Senate Republican and one of the President’s closest friends. . On top of that, then-Secretary of State James A. Baker III spent summers at his ranch in Wyoming, meaning two of the nation’s top national security officials could be found in doing unofficial promotional work for the state’s tourism industry.

“You would have army helicopters ripping Cheney and Baker out of the fishing holes,” recalls Rob Wallace, who was Mr Wallop’s chief of staff.

As conservative as the state was nationally—Lyndon B. Johnson is the only Democrat to carry Wyoming in the past 70 years—Wyoming’s Republican delegation has worked effectively with two prominent Democratic governors during the same period. , Ed Herschler and Mike. Sullivan.

Now Ms Cheney barely speaks to the other two Wyomingites in Congress – Senators John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis, both Republicans – and has little contact with Gov. Mark Gordon. Ms Lummis supported Ms Hageman. But Mr. Barrasso and Mr. Gordon, who are the main Republicans in the Cheney tradition, have sought to maintain neutrality in the hope of avoiding Mr. Trump’s wrath.

‘They have to make their own choices and live with the choices they make,’ Ms Cheney said of the pair, before adding: ‘There are too many people who think someone else will sort it out. the problem, that we can sit on the sidelines and Trump will disappear.

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Asked about Cheney’s legacy in Wyoming, Mr. Barrasso and Mr. Gordon both declined to comment.

Mr Gordon, however, has surely not forgotten that when he ran for governor in 2018, in a primary that included Ms Hageman, Ms Cheney did not back him.

“Everything is politics in Wyoming except politics, which is personal,” Mr. Simpson likes to say. What worries some longtime Republicans in Wyoming more than the tensions of the election season is what the combination of fear and Trump loyalty will ultimately mean for the strength of the delegation – and for the future of the state. Wyoming has no state income or corporate taxes, long relying on severance pay on oil, natural gas and coal.

With growing national support for clean energy — and a major federal bill promoting climate-friendly energy soon to become law — this pillar of Wyoming’s economy could face an uncertain future.

“Wyoming has to fight to redefine itself with the decline of fossil fuels,” said Mr. Wallace, who also served as a senior Interior Department official under Mr. Trump. “We need a strategy at the state and federal level to understand how Wyoming will grow and prosper for future generations.”

Critics of Ms. Cheney, however, believe she is overwhelmingly focused on Mr. Trump and his detachment from other House Republicans, after she was ousted from the party leadershipwould render it ineffective, especially if Republicans claim a majority in the House in November.

“She’s not a true Republican in the sense of our Republican values ​​here in Wyoming,” said Gina Kron, who works in Casper for the federal Department of Agriculture, arguing that Ms. Cheney should be consumed less with the former president and “all about fossils”. energy.”

For those with deep roots in Wyoming institutions, however, Ms. Cheney’s apparent disappearance symbolizes something as unsettling as any debate over the future of energy.

“There are a lot of good people with good intentions on both sides of the aisle who want nothing to do with politics today, and that’s a scary fact,” said Laramie native Marilyn Kite. who was Wyoming’s first female supreme. Judicial justice.

Like many multi-generational Wyomingites, Ms. Kite blames the influx of “a lot of nasty people” into the state for her political change. Lured by the absence of income taxes, conservative politics and the famed “high altitudes and low multitudes,” the transplants, she said, changed the perception of the individualistic cowboy state, which has was well chronicled by John Gunther in his acclaimed mid-century book “Inside the United States”

“There is no boss in Wyoming, no rule by machine,” Mr. Gunther wrote, adding, “Here we are still in the wide open spaces where a man tries, in any case, to think by himself.

What Ms. Kite did not mention is that Ms. Hageman grew up on a ranch near Fort Laramie and that a significant number of Ms. Cheney’s constituents will themselves be transplanted, whether in what passes for a liberal college town here, the community around the University of Wyoming at Laramie, or amid soaring Tetons and soaring real estate prices near Jackson Hole.

Still, there’s an undeniable sense that Tuesday represents an end-of-an-era moment in Wyoming politics.

Even after Mr. Cheney left the vice presidency, former Sen. Michael Enzi was still leading the Wyoming delegation, said Cat Urbigkit, author and self-proclaimed “shepherdess” near Pinedale.

“It was a different kind of leadership in the Republican Party at that time,” Ms Urbigkit said.

This election is particularly poignant for Cheney admirers.

Both Dick and Lynne Cheney grew up in Casper, high school sweethearts at Natrona County High, where the football stadium is now called Cheney Alumni Field. Living in a kitchen tent and reading Churchill’s World War II story at the Coleman lantern, Mr Cheney worked for a power line crew across the state after he was kicked out of Yale twice – and before to earn a pair of degrees at Wyoming’s flagship university.

That he becomes vice president, the closest Wyoming to the Oval Office, and his daughter eventually succeeding him in the House is “a point of pride” for the entire state, Ms. Kite said.

The Simpsons, however, aren’t sure Cheney’s story is quite complete.

After the ceremony in July at Heart Mountain – where Mr Simpson, raised by Cody, befriended Mr Mineta, his fellow scout – Ann Simpson, the former senator’s wife, approached Mr. Cheney. She said she thought Ms Cheney should run for president.

“Dick just nodded,” Mr Simpson recalled, his wife later telling him. “He just said, ‘I’m very proud of her. “”

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