A TPM reader with a Wyoming background offers this analysis of Lynne Cheney’s reported confrontation with former Sen. Alan Simpson (R) for not backing Liz Cheney’s Senate candidacy:
Without going too into it, I’m from out that way and my people and their people are real friends, self included. There isn’t a more Wyoming family, and there is enormous affection for them. The Simpsons are Wyoming in a way the Cheneys never were and never will be.
There are a bunch of them, so no doubt everyone has some connection to them, and the folks who consider them friends run the entire political spectrum, from the most conservative to the the most liberal, and I really mean that. Despite differences, gay activists, the arts community, seniors, you name it, have ties to, and affection for, the Simpson clan, including Al.
Wyoming used to be a state, and still is to some extent, where not seeing eye to eye in political matters was no cause to be rude, no cause to not genuinely enjoy each others company, root for the Cowboys together, or help when one or the other was stuck in a snow bank. End of story.
Simpson helped make Cheney. But one could feel space emerging between them over the years as Cheney privatized and profited from the defense industry, and moved ever rightward in politics and his commitment to executive power. Al stayed true to the blend of advocating for small but real government that didn’t push a social or religious agenda and was realpolitik in matters of foreign policy that was genuinely representative of the state during his years of public service. In short, Al stayed in the party of Bush Sr., and Cheney pioneered the party of Bush Jr. Al is nothing but loyal, so these divisions were studiously played down.
But in a profound way Cheney left the state as well as the old school Western GOP. Not that his influence diminished, but as he became the exemplar of the increasing power of the defense industry and the executive branch he fell out of cultural resonance with Wyoming. There were rumblings among some hard bitten old behind the scenes Wyoming conservatives (not Simpsons) that he was being dismissive of people without whom he would not have had a political career. He had been a junior member of a distinguished legislative team with a remarkably bipartisan and collegial tradition when he left the state, but his relationship to Wyoming became increasingly less real even as his power increased. He was seen to be approaching Wyoming and his old relationships there as a CEO, as the unitary power of the Executive; in short, as a new school Texan (’nuff said).
Near as I can tell, the Simpson clan has had a relatively natural, unforced, and long standing generalized practice of discretion in matters of political diversity within the family, and between the family’s most public members and other most senior members of the Republican establishment, that has withstood many years and intense pressure and has been respected by their many friends of all political persuasions.
If Lynne Cheney pulled a rude in your face power move on Al sufficient for the Simpson clan to be publicly spreading the word about it after many years of studious discretion, then if there is any Wyoming left in Wyoming a Cheney isn’t going to get elected in the Equality State any time soon.