Liz Cheney is too new in Wyoming to “get it”Guest Column by Walt Gasson and Beth Worthen July 30, 2013
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?”
“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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