Liz Cheney is too new in Wyoming to “get it”

A street in Hanna, Wyoming. (Allen Best/WyoFile — click to enlarge)
Guest Column by Walt Gasson and Beth Worthen
July 30, 2013

Walt Gasson and Beth Worthen

Former Governor Mike Sullivan is credited with the line, “Wyoming is a small town with really long streets.” For those of us who have lived here all our lives, his point is obvious. There are around 576,000 of us in the whole state, and there are some things that not only make us unique but bind us together.

As in any small town, we tend to know one another. When you meet another Wyomingite, no matter if it’s in Beulah or Bogotá, there’s a good chance you met once before at a Cowboys game in Laramie or at the rodeo in Douglas. But if not, you instantly seek commonality like this:

“Where ya from?”

“Casper.”

“Did you know Tom Stroock?”

“You bet. Who didn’t?”

Then you share a story about meeting Tom and his daughter hiking in the mountains, what a remarkable guy he was, and pretty soon it’s like you’ve known one another since birth. In this small town we call Wyoming, it doesn’t matter much what church you go to, what political party you identify with, what your socio-economic status might be. What matters is that you both knew and admired a great Wyomingite. The point is that you’re a resident of that small town with the long streets.

The same fact causes us to trust friends and family. We knew and liked Cliff Hansen, even if we didn’t always agree with him. And we knew his daughter Mary, and liked her too — and we sure admired the way she could sit a horse. So when her son came along, having been a UW Law School grad and U.S. Attorney here, we elected him governor. We elected him because he “got it” when it came to Wyoming. He loves it as much as any of us, because he is one of us.

So when Liz Cheney shows up and jumps into a race against Mike Enzi quicker than a duck on a Junebug, we naturally have a few reservations.

Some call us provincial.  They say that we need to inject new blood into our state, that we need leaders with fresh ideas. But while fresh thinking is a part of good leadership, it’s no substitute for knowledge and love of our people and places. It’s not that we need tall fences to keep the new folks out – it’s that we need people who come and stay long enough to “get it.”

And what is the “it” that we require our leaders to get?  It’s knowing what they’re fighting for. It’s being more passionate about our land and way of life than the bullet points from the national party elite.  It’s caring more about what folks are saying in the Farson Merc than on Fox News.  It’s about spending more time in the Big Horn Basin than the Washington Beltway.

We come from a family that established its roots here in the 19th century. As father and daughter, we could have chosen to live someplace else. We could have even chosen to live someplace else, make a pile of money and then return here to dazzle the locals with our millions, our intellect and political acumen. But we didn’t.

And now we have someone doing just that. She comes to Wyoming by way of Virginia, asking for a straight shot to Washington. Welcome to Wyoming, Liz. How about settling down and staying awhile?

— Walt Gasson is a 4th generation Wyomingite from Cheyenne, by way of Green River. His daughter, Beth Worthen, lives in Casper and is a homeschooling mom of three children.

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  1. I could care less if Ms. Cheney has lived here for 40 years or two, she is divisive, hateful, disrespectful of our President, like him or not. I believe she would use her ‘position of power’ to further her fathers interest in Halliburton, to further the fear, hate and obstruction generated by the “Grand Obstructionist tea Party”.
    This state has long been held back by Conservative ideals for decades, I would like to see us move forward to the future instead of living, and regressing, into the past. Our “Texas Senator”, McConnell’s second head, has repeatedly spewed lies about anything that he disagrees with,, Washington is broken, Left and Right!
    There is Absolutely NO reason both parties can’t work together to establish common ground, and stop Liz/ Dick Cheney style division and obstruction.
    Let us quit giving Big Oil free reign to write legislation, for our lawmakers to sign into law, we need the oil industry, sadly, but we also have vast resources besides oil, lets start tapping those also.

  2. Many thanks for your article. And many thanks for your kind reference to my dad. He would be so pleased. Like so many others, I agree with your assessment of Liz Cheney’s lack of understanding of Wyoming today. I also happen to find her extreme right wing views and her militant, knee-jerk, blind opposition to any and every initiative of the Obama administration, regardless of merit, rather objectionable. We need political leaders who know how to work across party lines to accomplish good things for our nation’s future.

  3. BUL% CRAP. Mike Sullivan did not coin the the miles and peoples phrase. It has been around longer than you have been alive. This nonsense blather is not credible because it started with non WY folks.

  4. Dick Cheney moved to Casper from DC after Jimmy Carter took office in 1977. After living in Casper for less than a full year, he ran for the House seat that Teno Roncalio vacated in 1978.

    Liz Cheney’s political and geographic moves are repeats from the state’s recent past. This is not new. And her dad’s success suggests it’s possible.

    I’m just grateful that this election will be contested.

  5. I generally agree with the tone of the article, but especially agree with John Anderson’s comment above. Remember that the key is, as the author puts it, “knowledge and love of our people and places” in order to be an effective political leader both in the state and in Cheyenne. To be sure, there’s a correlation between being in the state a long time and having sufficient knowledge and love of the state. However, it could be the case that someone who only moved here fifteen years ago, stayed, and worked to develop that knowledge/love is far more qualified to serve in political office than a “fourth generation” Wyomingite who hasn’t worked for the same knowledge and doesn’t know much about the world.

    Fortunately, I think Senator Enzi is a far superior choice for all these reasons. I just want to add my nuanced view to this debate. I see and hear far too many comments equating amount of time one’s family has in the state with effectiveness in representing Wyoming politically. There may be a correlation, but it’s probably slight and none of us are probably justified in magnifying our qualifications because of what our ancestors did. Wyoming is a state of individual merit and hard work. To reference Harry Potter, let’s not become a state with a political/social/economic aristocracy of “purebloods” because they’ve been here a long time versus the “mudbloods” who have only been around for two generations or less.

  6. If you were capable of living someplace else, making a pile of money and then returning to Wyoming, I would think you’re darn smart. You didn’t because you couldn’t. Personally I think comments from Democrats are not material and make me wonder why they are afraid of Liz.

    I am a 4th generation Wyomingite from Casper, by way of the Mormon Trail. I don’t “get it” because I believe we need leaders, not career politicians that go along to get along.

  7. Liz has spent no less than three years of her entire life in this state (correct me if I’m wrong) and about 2/3rds of it when she was a very young child who, most likely, didn’t have an inkling of what was needed to grease the political machine. She has spent the majority of her life in Wisconsin and Virginia. My question is “Why if so politically inclined, why not run for congress in a state that needs a more conservative base…..such as Virginia or Wisconsin?” Hmmm…..just curious, although I have my suspicions.

  8. Wallace Stegner argued that communities were made by people who “stick.” I think this is the problem with Liz Cheney, because she hasn’t been in the state long enough to show that she will “stick.” I also believe that being in a place a while provides valuable experience. While I am a fourth generation Wyomingite, I don’t think that gives any of us some kind of special privilege and that is where I have an argument with Walt and Beth. Remember, my great grandfather was once a newcomer here and so was Walt’s. Chances are those two men knew some things that were valuable to their communities and the state. Those same chances are likely applicable today. Let’s not use “fourth generation” as a good argument for anything–I prefer right reasoning.

  9. I worked with your daughter, Beth, when she worked for Dave Freudenthal. What a quality lady! She might remember me — I was the Director of Government Relations for the WEA at the time (for about 14 months as interim util they found someone permananetly). But then, my sense of cennection through my experience with her is just what your article speaks to. Good piece!

    Steve Thulin
    Professor of History
    Northwest College
    Powell, Wyoming

  10. Thank you for clearly stating an opinion I feel many share. We are blessed to have talented politicians who understand and care deeply about the ground here that supports us. All of whom wouldn’t leave their home state to run for office elsewhere. Despite how needy some states are for good politicians! I heard there is a great opportunity in Virginia for a Congressional seat (they have 11) with lots of mud slinging that seems suited for someone with a house there.

  11. i’m not from wyoming, but i’m from montana and following this closely and cheering you on. mike kramer voiced my opinion as well. it’s frustrating to watch others “move” in up here and tell us how to fill our empty space instead of staying long enough to understand why we value the “empty space.” keep up the good fight, wyoming.

  12. Excellent article. Thank you for expressing this so well. Walt and Beth, this reminds me of selecting superintendents for LCSD. Several have been selected from another states (playing the revolving door game of education).

    What looked so good at first, turned out to be a disaster. They knew what was best for us and were quick to implement their ideas as soon as possible.

    Several times times we lost good people, were left in debt, and the school district was left in shambles.

    I know it’s a stretch to compare Liz Cheney’s run for the Senate, but somehow it reminds me of the wag who said it’s déjà vu all over again.

  13. Yep. Frankly, I don’t even care about her politics. You can’t just waltz in here from VA and expect to run the joint (by heading straight back to VA).

  14. Just as you two “get it,” Liz doesn’t and probably never will. She’s never ridden drag while moving a herd to or from pasture, never hiked and camped in a Wyoming wilderness like the Winds, never wandered or wondered about the Red Desert. Liz is a carpetbagger, far more at home in Virginia’s power salons. Period.

  15. I would say Walt and Beth “GOT IT” just right. What we don’t need is a FOX news contributor representing Wyoming from her large primary residence in Virginia spewing hate speech and sending our Wyoming boys off to another unnecessary war in order to get Halliburton Services another lucrative contract of supporting the troops.