Sen. Cynthia Lummis addresses the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 9, 2021. (Screenshot/U.S. Congress)

Sen. Cynthia Lummis knows the consequences of throwing Donald Trump under the bus. We all saw what happened to Rep. Liz Cheney. But Lummis did it anyway last week, and she’s still standing. 

Opinion

Some might interpret that as a sign of Trump’s waning power and not give Lummis credit, but defying the former president wasn’t the only indication she’s shifting from party minion to independent thinker.  

Successfully turning against the former president and keeping his insults at bay is all about timing. Cheney voted with Trump’s positions for four years. But she couldn’t stomach Trump’s behavior when he lied about the 2020 election and incited a mob to storm the Capitol.

Branded by Wyoming Republican Party bosses as a traitor to their king, Cheney became a primary target in Trump’s “sweet revenge tour.” Harriet Hageman handily ousted her in the primary, setting up what was supposed to be a slew of midterm election wins for Trump-endorsed candidates on his road back to the White House.

Lummis, the state’s junior senator, played a much different game. Like almost every GOP lawmaker, Lummis campaigned as a Trump lapdog in 2020 and spent the past two years courting his favor. 

But no longer. Lummis didn’t blame Trump for inciting a riot and threatening to end democracy, and even voted to acquit him during his second impeachment trial. However, she drew the line following Trump’s failure to spark a massive “red wave” to put her party back in power in the Senate.

When a Politico reporter asked Lummis last week if she endorses Trump in his third presidential bid, her response was remarkable. The journalist even preceded his tweet about it with three exclamation points.

“I don’t think that’s the right question,” Lummis said. “I think the question is who is the current leader of the Republican Party. Oh, I know who it is: [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis.”

There were many Republican politicians willing to blame him for his miserable election efforts. However, no one expected Lummis to be on that list.

She had no hesitation calling DeSantis — the potential rival Trump fears the most — her party’s leader, “whether he wants to be or not.” It’s a scorching burn.

After Cheney’s experience, what politician in Wyoming — or anywhere — would willingly open herself up to Trump’s persecution?

Such attacks may yet come, but Trump has been boxed in by fresh Republican detractors like Lummis. He couldn’t announce his campaign and accept blame for his obviously inferior slate of candidates, so Trump did what comes natural: He lied and pretended his endorsements helped the party.

Lummis has enjoyed a self-serving political relationship with Trump while managing to stay on his good side. Like Hageman, she jumped on his bandwagon late, but once aboard she used it to her maximum advantage.

After deciding not to run for a fifth U.S. House term in 2016, Lummis initially backed Rand Paul for president. She ultimately supported Trump, even after a video surfaced in which he bragged about groping women’s genitals against their will.

Why? 

“Because he had the good sense to choose Mike Pence as his running mate, I still intend to vote for him, but I will be holding my nose and repeating, ‘Supreme Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court’ as I vote,” Lummis said in a statement. “I fear for my freedom and our nation’s future if Hillary Clinton is appointing Supreme Court justices and running the federal government.”

For the record, Cheney called Trump’s comments “appalling” but also said she would vote for him. 

Trump interviewed Lummis twice for secretary of the interior. While she didn’t get the job, Lummis declared herself an “unabashed crusader” for Trump, vowing to “march shoulder-to-shoulder” with him and his America First agenda. 

Her earlier “nose-holding” vote didn’t keep Trump from tweeting that Lummis “is a friend of mine and a great woman [who] has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Lummis easily won her Senate race in 2020.

Lummis was sworn in only 16 days before Trump unwillingly left office in January 2021. While she initially called Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory legitimate, in her first official Senate action she joined seven of her new GOP colleagues who objected to certifying Biden’s key Electoral College win in Pennsylvania.

And where, pray tell, was Lummis’ respect for Trump’s vice president when MAGA goons shouted, “Hang Mike Pence!” while roaming the Capitol? 

Wyoming Republicans battered Cheney for her Trump impeachment vote, but have been strangely silent about Lummis putting distance between herself and their leader. She has the advantage of not being up for re-election until 2026, when Trump’s control over the party may be long gone.

Lummis is in the state Republican Party’s doghouse, though. She was one of 12 GOP senators last week who voted to advance a federal same-sex marriage bill.

Support for any LGBTQ rights is a sure way to put a politician in the crosshairs of the Wyoming Republican Party. It didn’t waste any time letting Lummis know what she did is unacceptable.

In a mass email to members, the party “sadly” noted Lummis’ support for a bill it claims “threatens religious liberties” and is opposed by the Wyoming Republican Party Platform, which was unanimously adopted.

The email says marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and calls for Republicans to “keep in mind the Judeo-Christian principles of the Founding Fathers” and contact Lummis about her vote.

Supporting the new bill is the polar opposite of what Lummis did in 2013, when she co-sponsored the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act.” That failed legislation tried to block the feds from punishing a person for acting on their religious belief that only marriages between a man and a woman should be recognized.

What prompted Lummis’ dramatic change of heart on the issue? Perhaps she was influenced by Cheney, who publicly opposed same-sex marriage for years before finally admitting she was wrong last year. 

Cheney patched things up with her sister, who is married to a woman, but more importantly she stood up for the rights of people the Wyoming GOP always maligns.

Lummis issued a statement calling marriage “a deeply personal issue.” She said her decision recognizes the equality for all that is enshrined in the Wyoming Constitution.

One of my criticisms of Lummis’ congressional career is that she too often plays it safe. But a week in which she’s shocked constituents by opting not to support Trump and taking a principled stance for marriage equality helps break that mold.

Please keep surprising us, senator. You may not always please the people who voted for you, but the rest of us deserve to be represented, too.

CORRECTION: This commentary has been updated to reflect that Cynthia Lummis supported Rand Paul. -Ed.

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. Correction: she supported Rand Paul, never Ron Paul, his father. Rand ran in 2016. Ron ran for president in 2008 and 2012. Rand is not his father.

  2. Hello, all of these issues of transgender etc have been fought for in the seventies. Why are we still wasting time on these issues, the founding fathers are like the dead sea scrolls, yes this is history, and we should learn from history and not repeat!!!! Our Wyoming politicians just follow the money, which corporation will sponsor me, and then, this politician has to be a servant to the corporation. Cheney was on her own when she went against the ultra conservatives, and King Trump, she will go down in history as truly fighting for democracy.

  3. Cynthia Lummis knows well that the ACTUAL leader of the national Republican party is neither Donald Trump nor Ron DeSantis but rather Tucker Carlson. And she perceives – because it’s obvious – that Faux News is getting ready to abandon Trump and throw its weight behind the even more rapacious Florida Man. Her move is simply tactical and not motivated by any kind of enlightenment.

  4. WyoFiles suffers from the Stockholm Syndrome. You apparently love and can’t quit obsessing over Trump and his supporters. You are giving the oxygen they must have.
    Move on. Sane R’s have.

  5. When will the Wyoming Republican party wake up and realize that it is only hurting itself. The voters (American citizens) have made themselves very clear as to what they want, abortion rights and no more Trump. While I was one of Trump’s earliest supporters, even trying to convince my fellow county Republican precinct committee to back Trump instead to Ted Cruz in a previous election, I have given up on Donald. Senator Lummis is doing an excellent job representing the Wyoming people and she should not be condemned for her thinking which is representative of the American people, although maybe not the historic thinking of the Wyoming Republican Party.

  6. “I fear for my freedom and our nation’s future if Hillary Clinton is appointing Supreme Court justices and running the federal government.” Seriously? We’ve seen how Benedict Donald wants to preserve democracy.
    Invoking Hillary Clinton’s name will forever be an excuse for conservatives to do or say anti- democratic things.

  7. I have been around C. Lummis up close and personal for far too long to believe for a moment she has had any kind of epiphany about her political disposition.
    Leopards are born without spots. They acquire them as they mature into adult carnivores , but once earned the spots do not change, since they serve as disruptive camouflage to aid their own success at survival when competing with other ambitious felines of her genus & specie, all the while confusing predators.

    Metaphorically speaking , specie Cynthia Genus Lummis has not changed her spots in the least during this milennium.

  8. Lummis is apparently not captive of the religious right dogma that permeates the Wyoming Republican Party. The fact she supported Ron Paul and her support of the same sex marriage bill would indicate she has strong libertarian leanings.
    Barry Goldwater bemoaned the rise of the undue influence of the religious right in his Republican party, and was an early advocate for gay and lesbian rights, as well as stating a woman has a right to abortion.
    The fact is with the takeover of the Republican Party by the “true believers” Goldwater couldn’t be nominated for dog catcher let alone president.
    Trump failed to endorse Colorado Republican Joe O’Dea in his Senate bid for the unpardonable sin of suggesting Trump shouldn’t run in 2024. Trump’s ego was more important than control of the US Senate.
    DeSantis has solid conservative principles devoid of the vitriolic baggage of Trump and at age 44 is the future of the Republican
    party.
    Lummis is from the windswept state of Wyoming, and she doesn’t need a weatherman to know which way the winds blows.

    1. She did not support Ron Paul– that is an error. She supported Rand. When Ron Paul ran in 2012 she was strongly opposed to him and supported Mitt Romney for president, unfortunately.

  9. Sometimes it takes people time to come to their senses. Better late than never. Thank you for your strength Sen Lummis we can only hope some of your fellow colleagues will take a second look at their misguided beliefs!!!!! Especially in light of the shootings in Colorado. As a country we must find peace and acceptance with one another. It’s our political leaders that owe us citizens peace and ACCEPTANCE of every individual!!!!!
    STOP THE HATE !!!!!

    1. That ia an actual Christian concept. Well said. So far, nothing Lummis has done indicates she is not a phony hater claiming to be Christian. If she genuinely shows she loves her fellow humans and really means well, then I may reconsider. Saying that she prefers De Santis over Trump is the same as saying she prefers Satan instead of Lucifer.