Late last month something extraordinary happened in Cheyenne. Certainly counter-cultural, it was special.
We live in times defined by our differences. Whether it’s politics or religion or science or education, most of us are looking for a fight and someone to fight with. If a Democrat proposes it, a Republican is opposed. If a Republican thinks it’s a good idea, a Democrat doesn’t.
The people claim to despise negative campaigning but they generally vote for the candidate who proves best at making his or her opponent seem almost un-American. By the time one candidate or the other gets enough votes to be sworn in, nearly half of the voters think that person to be a dishonest, corrupt devil.
As if to prove it doesn’t have to be that way, two Wyoming politicians recently did something earthshaking.
Late on a Friday evening the telephone at Charlie Hardy’s home rang.
Charlie was the Democratic Party’s nominee for the United States Senate in last year’s campaign. Charlie is a Democrat. Though quixotic, Charlie ran an aggressive campaign sincerely aimed at defeating the incumbent Republican. Hardy was born and raised in Cheyenne. As a priest, he served in Rock Springs, Laramie, Casper and Cheyenne. Father Hardy worked as a missionary in Venezuela for eight years, living in a dirt-floored hovel among the poorest.
Charlie was more interested in talking about issues than Mike Enzi’s almost-primary election opponent. For a time he was opposed by Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz. They thought he was too old and too liberal and too useless. She learned quickly that Wyoming people didn’t care for her and her father as much as they thought. Liz dropped out of the campaign.
That left Mike Enzi with no primary challenge and a general election contest against Charlie Hardy. Charlie’s decidedly liberal challenge to the conservative Senator Enzi ended as most predicted. Charlie received 17% of the vote. Mike Enzi got the rest.
Which brings us back to that night last month when Charlie’s phone rang. It was about 8 PM on a Friday evening. Charlie, a couple of his young campaign volunteers, and his son were eating dinner before a late night showing of “Selma.”
“Charlie,” the caller said, “this is Mike Enzi. Are you free for breakfast tomorrow morning?”
Really? Mike Enzi? Yes it was. Charlie fumbled his word momentarily. He asked Mike if he’d ever been to the home where Charlie grew up on 18th Street in Cheyenne. Of course he hadn’t. Charlie suggested they have breakfast there. Charlie asked if Senator Enzi’s wife was with him. She was. “Please bring her with you.”
The Enzi’s rang Charlie’s doorbell at 9 AM on Saturday morning as planned. Charlie welcomed them. He gave a quick tour of the house his immigrant parents built so long ago. Charlie then prepared his famous Kaisersharm. I’ve enjoyed it before and it is a breakfast feast worthy of serving a United States Senator.
Mike and Diana visited with Charlie. He mixed the flour, milk, eggs, butter, and sugar. Charlie cooked the mixture in a cast iron skillet. He sprinkled it with powdered sugar and limejuice and sat the table.
For the next two hours they visited. It was Charlie and his political opponent, his wife, Carlos, sister Francis, and a couple of Charlie’s young campaign volunteers. Democrats. Republicans. Liberals. Conservatives. Young and old.
They drank coffee and ate breakfast. They spoke of the fine Wyoming weather. They talked about the historic home in which they shared the meal. They discussed a few issues such as how to provide for the street people who concerned Charlie and his son.
Mostly those diverse folks gathered round the kitchen table enjoyed Charlie’s Kaisersharm and the fellowship.
Who knows? Maybe it was the Kaisersharm. Maybe it was the old historic home in which they gathered. But I think it was something more. It was Mike and Diana Enzi. It was Charlie Hardy. It is Wyoming. It is what the United States should be.