This is how bizarre Wyoming politics are these days: I’m a Democrat defending an uber-conservative Republican who’s been condemned by her law-and-order-loving party-mates for voting to impeach a president who, in a deranged attempt to overthrow a lawful American election, incited a deadly insurrection at the Capitol.

Opinion

Surreal. Since when is defending the Constitution and the rule of law unpatriotic? Guess I didn’t get the memo.

Sure, the party apparatchiks voted to no longer recognize U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as a member of the GOP, but I simply refuse to believe that a majority of rank-and-file Wyoming Republicans think she should be thrown out of office. 

I’ve been interviewed by journalists from Washington, D.C., to Switzerland who are fascinated by Wyoming’s odd political climate. Most are anxious to write Cheney’s political obituary. In their view, the fact Donald Trump hand-picked Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman to oppose her is game, set, match. They’ve asked me why Cheney hasn’t dropped out of the race.

I’ve pointed out that Hageman, who finished third in the 2018 gubernatorial GOP primary, isn’t exactly a political powerhouse. A former friend of Cheney who shares most of her conservative views, Hageman even opposed Trump’s nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Cheney might want to mention that during their debates.

Anyone who listened to Cheney as Congress marked the first anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack should know she’s committed to making sure Trump will not get away with what she calls his “dereliction of duty.” She is using her position as co-chairman of the House committee investigating the riot to show the nation — and Wyoming voters — that Trump’s lies about Democrats stealing the election came dangerously close to unraveling our democratic republic.

Cheney noted that many people, including Trump’s own daughter, Ivanka, pleaded with the president on Jan. 6 to call off his supporters. But Trump, who called his own vice president a coward for not following his order to disrupt the official count, didn’t budge — not even when rioters erected a gallows outside the Capitol and chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”

Hours passed before the White House finally released a video of Trump telling the angry mob, “Go home. We love you.”

And his cult following still fervently believes the Big Lie. 

This is what Cheney told ABC News last week: “Any man who would provoke a violent assault on the Capitol to stop the counting of electoral votes, any man who would watch television as police officers were being beaten, as his supporters were invading the Capitol of the United States, is clearly unfit for future office, clearly can never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again.”

Does that sound like someone who won’t fight like hell to stay in office? I think she’s relishing this role as truth-teller, to try to bring her party back to reality.

For the most part, Cheney has ignored her detractors despite their control of the state party. Last week she called them “radicals” and noted Chairman Frank Eathorne has “toyed with the idea of [state] secession.”

Cheney was too kind. This is a state party that’s been way out of control for several years. Anyone who won’t toe its extreme-right line is lambasted as a “Republican in name only.” Many state lawmakers are in their crosshairs for failing to do as they’re told.

I’ve never seen a political party at war with at least half its members. Why do voters put up with it?

Political pundits in the D.C. beltway have taken notice that Cheney is banking on a “silent majority” within the party’s ranks. “Her backers say the bark of Ms. Cheney’s most vocal Republican critics in the state is worse than their bite, insisting the rabble-rousers in the party are out of sync with the sentiment of most Wyoming residents,” wrote Seth McLaughlin of the Washington Times.

He included an excellent assessment by Cheney backer Amy Edmonds, a former state lawmaker. “They are loud and they are ugly,” she said. “They are a minority, though. That is definitely not Wyoming.”

I think she’s right. The way Wyoming GOP officials have treated Cheney is disgraceful. So is the lack of any public support from the other two members of the congressional delegation, Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis.

I keep expecting Cheney’s Republican supporters to break their silence about her principled stand against Trump’s reprehensible actions. He nearly thrust the nation into a constitutional crisis.

It’s a strange phenomenon, but the most vocal praise for Cheney’s tenacity in this political fight of her life is coming from Democrats. Any foe of Trump is an ally, but most members of my party I’ve talked to feel compelled to point out that while they can’t stand anything else she’s done, they admire her for what she’s doing about Trump.

At first those words kind of stick in your throat, but I’ve gotten past it. There’s absolutely no need to hedge when you’re supporting someone who’s speaking truth to power.

Because voters can change parties at the polls on primary election day, Democrats who cross over can significantly impact who will win the Republican nomination. However, that possibility could motivate Trump supporters to show up in droves.

Is there a path for Cheney to win her primary and cruise to a fourth term in a state that gave Trump 70% of the vote in 2020? Of course there is.

First, that silent majority of Republicans, if it indeed exists, must actually vote. 

It would help Cheney if she can score solid debate victories. She and Hageman will be formidable foes, and their split over Trump will spice things up. The challenger showed she can go for the jugular in her debates four years ago against a crowded field when Mark Gordon won the GOP gubernatorial primary.

The House’s Jan. 6 committee will afford Cheney unmatched opportunities to toss some high-profile bombshells. In Wyoming politics, though, indicting Trump could actually win him more votes.

“We can either be loyal to our Constitution or loyal to Donald Trump, but we cannot be both,” Cheney told ABC News. “And the nation needs a Republican Party that is based on substance and values and principles. … Fundamentally, at the end of the day, we cannot be a party based on lies.” 

As a future Republican for a day, I couldn’t agree more.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. I will give Cheney the benefit of the doubt and assume she had a head injury as a child. Either that or she is a Nazi like Schiff and Pelosi and should face criminal prosecution vs a long stint in a care facility with no sharp objects or triggering Golden Books to endanger her infantile capabilities.

  2. I hope you’re right, Kerry, that there is a silent majority of Republicans who’ll re-elect Liz. But where are they? Who are they? That enormous silence does not bode well. Unless there are prominent Republicans who’ll step up and grasp the nettle, those inclined to support Liz and hold Trump accountable may just stay home on election day. I am not sure there are many profiles in courage in the Cowboy State.

  3. The left is gearing up to defend Liz because they can’t muster up a good enough candidate of their own.

  4. The ongoing investigations into January 6th and the Trump organization should have a profound effect on Liz Cheney’s future – I think they will prove her right. I remember how long it took to disclose the facts about Watergate and Nixon and how long it took to reveal the real Bill Clinton. And the public still doesn’t know the full details of the Biden family corruption in Ukraine and China. The nation would be a lot better off if Trump is discredited or even indited – should that happen this year – Liz will be vindicated. Trump’s role in the January 6th fiasco is just now coming out and the upcoming public hearings might be his undoing. So lets wait for the facts to come out and follow the facts – that’s what we did with Nixon. Just the facts mam, nothing but the facts.

  5. “I’m Liz Cheney, and I approve this message.”
    Cheney is NOT representing us. She represents the 1%.
    She benefited from name recognition and took the safe route on votes. While Trump was in power she stayed that course. I wish she had kept doing so.
    Jan 6 was a terrible day. Trump made a huge error. He should have stayed home. His supporters should have stayed home. His advisors lied to him and told him it was a good idea to have the rally. Not the first time they lied. That advice was not in a vacuum. It was part of something sinister. The details of the chaos will come out, and will be nothing like what we have been told. The real instigators of violence are not being judged. This has happened in the past in other countries but never here. This was our Reichstag Fire. Ignorance is not bliss when your country is heading over a cliff into a dark abyss and you are eating Hot Pockets and watching a Show Trial on TV. God save us from the TV watchers.

      1. No. Wrong. Never said that the Donald was a “pure soul”. Did you ever try to watch his TV show??? I had bosses like him.
        As to advisors…. of course they are liars. Do you watch the Congressional hearings? Senate confirmation hearings? These people are pathological.
        When I read articles about any subject, the “experts” always blow smoke to serve an agenda. Never take what they say at face value. Always cross check to see what is really going on.

    1. Bob: I think it will emerge that Trump was at the core of the rally, the insurrection and the efforts to file false electors. He wasn’t misled by advisors — they were trying to get him back in office for their own interests. Reichstag Fire? Now you’re hinting about Q conspiracies, not objective reality. Remember the principle that given a choice between a simple explanation and a complex, convoluted one, the simple one is probably accurate. Trump is a conman who desperately wanted to stay in office, to fend off investigations and creditors.

      1. My comments are being memory-holed again. Too many facts for the censor to allow in print. Enjoy your bubble of misinformation and propaganda, comrade.

  6. It’s interesting that other Congressional Republicans, having been shown the light by Rep. Liz Cheney and realizing that a backbone is not a liability but evidence of being a true American, are beginning to appear on national outlets and denounce ex-president Trump’s claim that he was the rightful winner. (E.G. S. Dakota Senator Mike Rounds’ recent TV appearances…)

    I’m grateful Liz is leading by example, and willing to stand up to the fifth-grade-name-calling (i.e. “RINO”) from loyalists of a defeated politician. Like many Wyoming residents, I’m tired of Trump’s bullying and rude personal attacks, his scorched-earth tactics and refusal to adhere to an oath to put our nation first.

    I haven’t left the Republican party but it sure feels like it’s left me. I want to return to the GOP which valued American traditions and customs, like the right to vote. I have no patience with this new Republican cohort of sore losers who have decided they – not the people – know what’s best for everyone. To these deserters of democracy, here is how you’ll be remembered in history:

    “And woe unto you, deserters, and your aiders and abettors.. a jury of your countrymen will not believe you on oath, and honest men everywhere will shun you as a pestilence; for he who lacks courage and patriotism can have no other good quality or redeeming virtue.” (North Carolina Governor Zebulon Baird Vance, May 11, 1863)

  7. Not from Wyoming, but close. Have friends that live in Wyoming, having moved there because Colorado is “too liberal.” Great people! They became integrated into Wyoming culture easily, as they are conservative and Evangelicals. We don’t ever discuss politics but from social media it’s always been obvious they support Trump and are totally against any progressive legislation or politics. Right wing media and right wing religious dogma are their guides for living. They would rather hold hands with the devil than vote for Liz. Fealty to Trump is their over riding measure of whom they support. So, in my humble opinion, Liz won’t become the Republican candidate ever again. I have good friends in rural Colorado that abhor President Biden and firmly believe he stole the 2020 election. Kerry is an optimistic person. I’m not optimistic about Liz’s future.

  8. An anecdote: my late father was an internationally known expert on conventional ammunition. A NY Jew, and a lifelong Democrat, his enormously prestigious award from none other than Dick Cheney hung in his hall along with one from Ronald Reagan. When I moved to Wyoming to teach, he said, with ironic scorn, “All you need to know about Wyoming is that Dick Cheney is from there.” If Liz does survive the Trump-won- the – election myth she will go back to being a chip off the old block, the conservative policy maker y’all will adore. It would be silly not to vote for a lesser radical conservative because of anything to do with Donald Trump. If he had won, would Wyoming be getting this huge pile of bucks from a Democratic administration?

  9. It’s fascinating that this media mascot cannot recognize his own cognitive dissonance. The real “apparatchiks” are those who are paid to repeat corporate media narratives.

  10. My thought is that the alt right in this state and nation has become so radical that it disagrees with even the supposedly extreme positions of Republican conservatives like me in our conservative state of Wyoming. These alt right republicans are the real existing threat to our party. Seriously, having folks like Frank Eathorne or Anthony Bouchard like ilk as leaders? Yack – no thanks – not for me.

    I am on board with Liz for her courage and her conservative values. Check out her voting record. I, too, believe that there are many silent Wyoming republicans out there that support her.

  11. It’s obvious that the Wyoming media must follow the orders of the big Liberal donors and corporations that fund them, endorse Cheney, and keep the establishment in power.

  12. In Wyoming, the Primary election is the most important. All others are secondary. My college professor imparted that in his oxymoronic sophomore class ” Politics and Government of Wyoming ” . It is why I am a card carrying RINO … I want my vote to actually count for something

    – because here we are in a state ruled imperiously by the monolithic Republican Party. At the Statehouse the Dems are treated as nuisances on par with a few horseflies in the barn. The alleged minor parties ( Constitutional , Libertarian et al ) barely rise to the level of gnats. So it is the Primary election that decides most if not all.

    If any state needed a robust Green Party, it is Wyoming most of all.

    Liz will win the primary in August and keep her seat. She has my vote in her pocket. Honestly stated, we really have no good choices in 2022 … yet.

  13. This article should have been titled “Cheney working to win battle for heart and soul of Wyo Democrats” because if she is re-elected, that’s who will put her over the top.

    The entire Cheney family are Uber Washington Insiders, having been there for decades. Too much time in Washington, and too little time in Wyoming, outside of Jackson, has led to the Cheney’s being totally out of touch with ordinary Wyoming voters. They appear to believe that like themselves, the average Wyoming voter’s life revolves around Washington politics and Jackson Hole elites. Perhaps they are right. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

  14. Why don’t you print all the other news about what happened on the 6th. Did you check out other news outlets and other legislatures on what evidence they have that is not being put out? Do you talk to the other side that does not think that Cheney represents us? If not, how do you know how many are on what side?

    1. Joyce it is clear that when you vote for a person that intends to dismantle our US Constitution so he can become a Dictator, it should not matter what those voters think. Liz is giving you an opportunity to understand our Republic as the Founders knew that in a pure democracy, voters will destroy our future based on their misguided passions and love of a demigod.

      Trump was clearly trying to overturn an election he lost and just because most of Wyoming gets its news err propaganda from Fox or right wing radio, doesn’t mean any of it is based on actual facts. Those organizations, just like Trump, knows which side of the aisle is the most gullible and most violent when they do not get their way. Please step back and think about believing in the Big Lie as Biden won fair and square and Trump lost.

      1. Mr. Hunter, maybe you are the one who should “step back” and allow Joyce to voice her own opinion and pose valid questions without trying to intimidate her through condescending “propaganda” of your own? Just sayin’ . . . .

  15. As a lifelong voter, I have voted both sides of the aisle, hopefully for the best candidate. No more. If there isn’t a “D” after a candidate’s name on a ballot, then forget it. Republicans need to cleanse their party of Trumpists.

  16. I agree with your assessment completely. As an Independent, I am now in the position of the enemy of my enemy is now my friend. I will vote for Cheney sans a viable alternative, and her opponent does not come close.

  17. Harriett rented from me during law school in Laramie. She is no match for Lynn. I am an old lady who has no more vote in Wyoming. But I long ago said, never under estimate a woman from Wyoming with her mind set. I agree with you. And democrats may make the difference. Thanks for your essay.

  18. As a long time former WY resident, I couldn’t agree more and I’ve been telling those who ask that I think a majority of republicans will silently support Liz.

  19. Very well said, Kerry. Well said. Only you could write this. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for doing this.

  20. Liz Cheney has a pair. When I found WYOFILE and read more about beautiful, rugged Wyoming I got this great idea to pack up my pistols and my tax dollars and haul off to come and live there. Kind of like everything I’m reading about the people who live there. Especially women who will take on a corrupt President when all the men cower under his leaky umbrella.

  21. I agree with you Kerry. This Utahan wishes he could vote in Wyoming. It will be interesting what the future holds for our friends Cheney and Mitt.

  22. Bravo Kerry. You aptly described the dilemma over Cheney for WY Dems. Then you identified the solution: priority is to do the right thing & support a courageous, honest elected. Change yr registration for a day – it’s easy – & vote for Cheney.

  23. You’re right – it is bizarre! Never thought I’d see the day that you became – even temporarily – a Republican. And I quite agree with you. And Cheney – “The nation needs a Republican Party (any party, actually) that is based on substance and values and principles.”