Dave Cromley, the sole counter-protester at a rally outside the Cheyenne FBI Office on Aug. 14, 2022, says he’s mystified why so many Republicans believe the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump. (Kerry Drake/WyoFile)

Sherry Harden has never trusted that American elections are honest and fair. That’s why the Cheyenne resident waited until 2020, when she was 72, to cast her first ballot.

But her vote for President Donald Trump simply confirmed what Harden said she already knew: The results cannot be trusted.

“He won the last time, there’s no doubt in my mind,” she said, emphatically declaring the election was “corrupt.”

Opinion

But that’s not the only reason Harden was boiling mad when she joined about a dozen people in front of the FBI Office near the Cheyenne airport on Sunday. She responded to a Facebook ad posted by Don Odom, a Republican candidate in House District 61, to protest the federal agency’s “invasion” of Trump’s residence at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida last week.

Odom scoffed at the notion that the FBI was responding to “a huge national security problem” when agents searched Trump’s property to recover top-secret documents. 

“This is about politics,” said the candidate, a 59-year-old truck driver for an oilfield services company. “You’ve got [Joe] Biden, the weakest president ever, using his people against the president that’s going to take his place in 2024, if [Trump] chooses to run. 

“If we saw this happening in Nicaragua or El Salvador, we would be mad about it because this is Third World, banana republic stuff,” Odom added. “They’re using the FBI as a political weapon.” 

The angry tone of the protesters was in sharp contrast to a man sitting in a lawn chair across the street. Dave Cromley of Cheyenne tacked his own sign, “Reality not Conspiracy,” on a pole to make his view clear.

Cromley said he’s typically not politically confrontational, but he felt the need to defend democratic principles like fair elections. He noted that the idea the last presidential election was stolen has been thoroughly refuted by the courts and other officials, including many Republicans.

“My source of news is CNN and NPR, their source is Fox and Newsmax,” he said, motioning across the street. “We see different worlds.

“To me so much of their position is conspiracy-driven. ‘Deep state.’ Well, is that reasonable?” Cromley asked. “Everybody I know that’s an election worker takes it seriously. And people honor the election system.”

What drew me to this scene of impromptu political theater is my own sense of bewilderment: How did we get to the point where there is so little common ground? 

The peaceful transition of power, a hallmark of our constitutional republic for nearly two-and-a-half centuries, came perilously close to ending with the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Yet millions of Americans stand ready to again vote for Trump, who incited the insurrection and almost got away with it.

And he still might, if the rule of law is ignored and Trump is not held accountable for his actions.

As if we needed something to further divide the nation. And yet the FBI’s legal search to find classified documents that the former president allegedly took with him from the White House has prompted a hysterical reaction by far-right politicians and media outlets. The furor is likely to provoke more violent acts like last week’s attack on an FBI field office in Cincinnati.

Don Odom, left, a House District 61 candidate, talks to an unidentified fellow protester outside the FBI office in Cheyenne Aug. 14, 2022. Odom, who helped organize the event, says President Joe Biden’s administration is using the FBI as a “political weapon” against former President Donald Trump. (Photo by Kerry Drake)

The good news is that events like the Cheyenne protest can be peaceful, with people airing their differences without threat of reprisals. But Cromley has another concern, and one that I share.

“What do you think is going to happen if [Trump] does get charged with crimes?” Cromley asked. “Now, these guys [across the street] don’t look violent. I don’t see any guns. But Jan. 6 sure went wild, and there were people with guns and organizations that are really violent.”

I spent several hours last week talking to American correspondents for news organizations in Germany, France and Switzerland. All three came to Wyoming to cover the final days of the primary race between U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney and her main Republican challenger, Trump-backed Harriet Hageman.

The German reporter told me readers can’t get enough news about Trump to satisfy them. I asked why they are so fascinated by the former American president, and his response was chilling.

“Because they know all too well what happens when you have an authoritarian leader like Trump,” he said ruefully. “And they don’t want to see it happen again.”

Reporters also asked me to explain polls indicating Hageman has opened up a huge lead on Cheney. They couldn’t fathom how a Wyoming politician whose votes aligned practically all the time with Trump’s position could be at serious risk of being voted out of office.

“Without Trump and Jan. 6 and Cheney’s impeachment vote,” I told them, “you wouldn’t be in Wyoming, because this wouldn’t have even been a race. She would have won in a walk.” 

I explained that while Wyoming Republican Party officials have virtually everything going their way, with a registration advantage over Democrats of about 4.5-to-1, nothing will please them until 100% of officeholders believe what they believe.

And while the state GOP has cast Democrats as villains because many will cross over and vote for Cheney in the Republican primary, they don’t even view Dems like me as the real enemy anymore. The voters they fear are moderate members of their own party they deride as RINOs — “Republicans in name only.”

Even the far-right has splintered in this state, with two factions in the Legislature inexplicably quarreling over which one’s bill to protect the Second Amendment is stronger.

Today’s primary will help determine whether being a Wyoming Republican requires blind allegiance to Trump. The GOP is guaranteed to maintain its huge majority of legislative seats, but whether the far-right continues making incremental gains to take control of the House and Senate or is thwarted by candidates running to fix the real problems facing our state is very much in play.

The shiny object that fascinates most observers far and wide is the Cheney-Hageman race, because it’s a referendum on Trump. But down-ballot contests for statewide offices and legislative seats will have a much greater impact on Wyomingites’ daily lives than who represents them in Congress.

Will the FBI’s action at Mar-a-Lago bring more radical voters to the polls, and tip elections farther to the right? Odom said he was disappointed more people didn’t show up to protest how the agency mistreated Trump.

“Apathy is why we are where we are. We’ve got a government that just don’t listen to us,” he said. “Part of it is our own fault. When I go [campaigning] door to door, I run into people who still don’t vote. What are you thinking? That’s the only weapon you’ve got, is that vote.”

I agree with Odom about the need to exercise your vote and have a voice. But Harden’s reluctance to do so for decades, until Trump came along, underscores a fundamental GOP problem. If a large swath of its members think all elections are rigged, how does the party expect to get them to the polls?

By sowing the seeds of distrust in Wyoming elections, while insisting on blind loyalty to Trump and the party’s platform, Republican officials are banking on a strategy that seems destined to lose members. It makes no sense.

I believe the party that has always branded itself the defender of law and order will someday look at its reaction to the Capitol riot and the FBI’s “raid” and wonder what on Earth its leaders were thinking. 

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. The job of the propagandist is to repeat the lie over and over until the naive accept it as truth. So what is the big lie in this opinion piece that just got repeated? Here it is.

    “He noted that the idea the last presidential election was stolen has been thoroughly refuted by the courts and other officials, including many Republicans.”

    No court has refuted the claim that the last general election was stolen and if I am wrong I challenge anyone to provide me with the citation and I will recant. Let me explain.

    One of the very first things besides determining Jurisdiction any court must do is to determine Standing. In simple terms it means does the plaintiff “stand” to be damaged by the actions of the defendant. Every case I know of, including the Texas case that went before the Supreme court, was not heard on the merits ( presentation of evidence for and against ) but dismissed for lack of standing. This is a common way courts avoid actually hearing evidence on a hot button topic one way or the other and kick it down the road. So to state that the claim of election fraud has been throughly refuted by the courts is not even close to the truth.

    I would not expect Mr. Cromley to know this so I am not saying he is lying he simply just another victim of the lying media. He is simply repeating what the lame stream media has told him and was again repeated by the author of this opinion piece who should know better.

    1. As a point of clarification. I share serious concerns about Donald Trump as President and would not vote for him in 2024 should he run so let me put that to rest. My interest is in the truth and IMHO the Supreme court did a great dis-service to this country by not hearing the Texas case on its merits and putting an end to the question once and for all instead of leaving us divided on the issue. Mr. Cromley on one side of the street and other Americans on the other. Why they did this alludes me. Someone is right and someone is wrong and we do not know who but it begs the question. If there was no merit to the Texas case, as Mr Cromley believes understandably because it has been told to us over and over by the Media, why did they not dismiss on that basis?

      The media is complicit for propagating the lie that there was no merit when we simply do not know and the media appears all too happy to do so by letting good folks like Mr Cromley believe the case was refuted by the courts on the merits. Where is the responsibility of the Media to educate?

      The most important part. Please consider what the Supreme Court is telling you as an American citizen by dismissing the Texas case for lack of standing. What they are saying in simplistic terms is yes we do have Jurisdiction but “so what if the election was fraudulent or even stolen or not. It is not material because what harm would the State of Texas and its voting citizens have if the election was stolen. Case dismissed for lack of standing”. They are telling you the citizens of Texas would not be harmed by the election of a fraudulent President, even if that was Trump, without looking at the evidence for and against. Let that sink in. I have my opinion about the election but without adjudication I simply do not know and neither does Mr.Cromley or the crowd on the other side of the street.

      I do what I do and write what I write because I am convinced our Country is in serious trouble to the extent it matters little who sits the White House.The political narrative and controlled opposition only serve to keep us divided. A very sobering thought. This has been a long time in the making dating back at least 100 years and the slow but steady destruction of our constitutional rights in what was meant to be a Constitutional Republic, a federation of independent States not a Democracy with power centralized in Washington DC.

  2. Trump did nothing wrong.
    More fascist lies.
    The Nazicrats fear his honest approach.
    They cannot understand it.

  3. “ Today’s primary will help determine whether being a Wyoming Republican requires blind allegiance to Trump.”

    Kerry, come on. Simplistic statements like this are silly. They are part of the reason “journalists” rank lower than the politicians they cover. There are Repubs who are both wicked smart and nuanced…..and some dumber than a sack of hammers. Trump ain’t the litmus test for both, just like Dems ain’t defined by JoeB.

  4. Benedict Donald could have declassified every document in the federal government, but they are still not his. They belong to the citizens of the US, as in ours.

  5. This is a sad place in history.
    So much needs to be said but that would never be permitted here.
    “How did a great nation, the birthplace of so many great minds, let gangsters take over?”
    Our grandparents asked that question 90 years ago.
    Those of us who see reality share more in common with our grandparents than we do with the those who would condone a loss of liberty for political gain.
    We are making choices for ourselves now.
    Our children will be fortunate if they inherit a republic at all.

  6. Mark Twain said it best, “It is easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” This paraphrase’s tTump supporters the best. They are so deluded that they can’t think for themselves anymore. tRump is a master manipulator given all the people he’s duped, including his wives and ex-wives. The fact that Odom was disappointed more people didn’t show up shows how tired people are getting of his blustery BS. Eleven million people spoke in 2022 and elected Joe Biden, he needs to put on his big boy pants and get over it.

  7. Sad, when the rule of law defended so strongly by the GOP seems to only work for a select group. Cheyenne sits with a military base beside it what happens if there is information at a private citizens residence that could jeopardize us or another private citizen?
    The rules need to apply to all people who live in America.

  8. First things first. If you haven’t gone out and voted please go. We need to make our voice heard .It doesn’t matter who you vote for as long as you vote. We the people need to get all these politicians to realize they do serve us. Most of them have forgotten that they are public servants.

    Also let’s not forget how many capital police were injured or killed in the January 6 insurrection. Those people were not respecting law enforcement. They were beating on them for doing their job. Now that the FBI appears to be doing their job the Republican idiots are saying overreach.

    We need to respect our law enforcement agencies until the facts come out. If the facts come out and they overreached their authority in appropriate actions need to be taken.

    I have now counted 8 excuses number 45 has used to justify why he had the White House documents. I am sure more excuses will come out today.

    This executive privilege excuse is crap. If he has executive privilege why did Number 45 continue to take the 5th for 4 hours.

    1. You are aware that every president has boxes of documents don’t you? Including Obama. My guess would be that when they started going thru Melanias underwear drawer they were getting desperate to find something…..anything.

      1. You must care about honesty, honor, and respect for legal tradition, and that silly Constitution thing that would never have been ratified without the Bill of Rights.
        Evidently only those crazy Trumpers would be so bold. Naughty, Naughty.

      2. No, the department of Records , or whatever it’s real title is, just affirmed that every record Obama has is in the archives. Sorry, again you fell prey to paranoia and misinformation

  9. Kudos to Dave Cromley. It takes Liz Cheney type guts to go against the prevailing winds in Wyoming these days. Especially with the Trumpnistas propensity for violence.

  10. I’m not sure “Political Theater” is an accurate way to describe conservatives concerns about federal law enforcement agencies, and Kerry is reading this one wrong. It implies that conservatives are acting upset just to score political points. That isn’t the case. Most of them truly believe that at the national level, federal law enforcement treats democrats differently than republican’s. Certainly there is some evidence to support that opinion. Because of that belief, I don’t think we should call it “theater” as they are totally sincere.

    1. Cause and effect…

      If you improperly take classified documents, expect repercussions. The faux outrage by chrumpers is infantile theater. The man has never, and will never, walk on water. Just because his gullible lemmings believe he should be able to do whatever illegal thing he pleases, it doesn’t mean that he can.

      Mr. Cromley’s sign is correct. Reality, not conspiracy. You chrumpers should try joining reality again.

      1. Actually EVERY president takes home boxes of papers/documents, has any other one of them been subjected to this? What are in the boxes that Obama took, Bush?

    2. “Most of them truly believe that at the national level, federal law enforcement treats democrats differently than republican’s.”
      Gee, I wonder why they would think that? Could it be because there is a steady drumbeat of conservative pundits and elected leaders saying that? The fact is that Trump treats the law and law enforcement differently by acting as if the law doesn’t apply him and by respecting law enforcement selectively. Trump has nobody to blame but himself for his legal troubles, continued investigations and “witch hunts”
      If you think many conservatives are not acting upset to score political points then you’re not paying attention to their lies and hypocrisy

  11. Mr. Odom represents that wing of the Wyoming Republican Party that emphasizes attitude over ideology and which is invariably politically and historically illiterate. There are things to not like about the FBI but typical of the modern Wyoming Republican Party, the Party of Eathorne, Gray and Bob Ide, these protesters have not identified any of those problems. They are just angry that the leader of their cult has been subject to the same laws that any other person who misappropriated highly classified documents would be subject to. The current leaders of the Wyoming Republican Party don’t even have enough sense to be ashamed of themselves.

    1. Krampner says (quote) : “The current leaders of the Wyoming Republican Party don’t even have enough sense to be ashamed of themselves. ”

      That is the very working definition of the Dunning-Kruger Effect , paraphrased as the condition of cognitive biased resulting from a person too dumb to grasp that they are , in fact , dumb…

      I may be way over my allotted quota in applying the D-K Effect to the bulk of the Republican party , but it nevertheless explains much these past six years…

    2. Proof of misappropriation? Every president has boxes of papers, we KNOW as much about is what in them as what is in Trumps…..nada.

      1. You have said that three times. That is a blatant lie. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Obama never had possession of the DECLASSIFIED documents. It’s hard to argue with a cult.