My biography of former Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt provides evidence that Democrats once walked the earth in this state. Following the demise of the dinosaurs and sometime before the near-extinction of the Democratic Party, Wyoming voters had been known to choose non-Republicans to fill congressional seats.
The last time a Wyoming Democrat was elected to the Senate was 1970, forty-three years ago. Gale McGee won a third term that year. A seismic shift came six years later when voters decided they’d rather have a doctrinaire Republican in the senate than an effective senator.
Next year, voters may have that choice again. The difference is the choice may be made, not in a general election contest between a Democrat and a Republican, but in the primary election. In 2014, the congenial conservative incumbent Mike Enzi is up for reelection. Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz wants his job.
To prove how badly she wants it, she bought a Cowboy hat and moved from Virginia to Wyoming last year so she could meet residency requirements. It’s a lesson learned at her father’s knee watching him scurry to the Teton County courthouse in 2000 upon learning that fellow-Texan George W. Bush wanted him on the ticket. The US Constitution prohibits two people from the same state to run for president and vice-president. Cheney hastily registered to vote in Wyoming so that he could accept the nomination.
He then claimed he was from Wyoming in order to become Veep before he was even qualified to buy a resident fishing license here. Now it’s Liz Cheney’s turn to requisition the state as a means of winning high public office. She apparently doesn’t care an iota about the destruction her ambition would cause.
Former Senator Al Simpson, whose seat Mike Enzi won when Simpson retired, told the New York Times that an Enzi-Cheney primary would cause “the destruction of the Republican Party in Wyoming.” Simpson added, “It’s a disaster — a divisive, ugly situation — and all it does is open the door for the Democrats for 20 years.”
Sadly, it would do much more than open the door to Democrats. Whether she defeats Enzi or not, her candidacy will close another door to rational, bipartisan politics in Washington. Liz Cheney’s problem with Enzi isn’t just that he has a job she wants. Enzi is not nearly so consumed with partisanship as his colleague John Barrasso. It’s become common knowledge that the most dangerous place in Washington these days is no longer the Anacostia neighborhood after dark. The most dangerous place in Washington is that space between Barrasso and a Fox News camera.
Mike Enzi is not like that. He sees the Fox News shows as places where destructive partisanship is spawned and so he largely avoids them. Enzi actually works with Democrats, forging tough compromises without compromising his values. He was known for working with Ted Kennedy. Had Kennedy lived, he and Enzi might well have negotiated a settlement to the destructive war over healthcare reform.
If an Enzi-Cheney race simply opens the doors to a two-party system in Wyoming, the voters would benefit. More likely it will result in even greater single-party partisanship, political intolerance, and a debate over which candidate can cause the most gridlock in Washington. The NY Times observed, “Ms. Cheney’s broader line of attack on Mr. Enzi, though, may be that he is too willing to work with Democrats and not vocal enough in pushing conservative causes. Ms. Cheney, a State Department official in the administration of President George W. Bush, is a pugnacious partisan and has called President Obama ‘the most radical man ever to occupy the Oval Office.”
The woman who calls Barack Obama ““the most radical man ever to occupy the Oval Office” wants to become the most radical person to have ever represented Wyoming in the United States Senate. And Liz Cheney apparently doesn’t care how much earth she has to scorch to get what she wants.
The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.