September 25, 2022
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BIDLACK | The politics of personal vendetta | Opinion

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Hal Bidlack


I’ve mentioned before that I began my 25-plus year Air Force career up in neighboring Wyoming, a lovely state with some lovely people (I was going to say, “filled with lovely people,” but as Wyoming is our least populated state with vast areas with nary a human to be found, I decided not to). I enjoyed my five years up there, the first four as a “finger-on-the-button” guy in the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) business and the last year as a staff officer, before heading off to grad school and then the USAF Academy here in Colorado.

Wyoming is home to just under 600,000 folks and those good people have traditionally voted Republican, but not always. When I arrived in 1981, the governor was a gent named Ed Herschler and he was a Democrat (and my late first wife’s patient, when she was a physical therapist and he had a bad knee, but I digress…). Heck, while the current governor is a Republican, you only have to go back one person before him to find a Democrat. The people of Wyoming, more so than other states, really do believe in voting for the person and not the party, albeit generally from a staunchly conservative point of view.

My thoughts turned to Wyoming when I read a recent news story about a certain former president with a personal vendetta against a certain Wyomingite.

I’ve ranted regularly about my concern that the current GOP has become entirely owned by a guy who isn’t really a Republican but did manage to sneak into the White House for four years.

I need remind none of my readers that Trump has been yelping outrageous lies since his defeat in 2020. He makes stuff up about voter fraud, even as his own appointed judges tossed case after case brought by his team, from courts around the country. There was no significant voter fraud then, as there is not now, but Trumpers don’t believe that. Rather, they insist on an alternate reality in which thousands of poll workers (many of them Republicans) conspired with vast numbers of elected officials (again, including many GOPers) to steal the election. When actually tested, as the so-called recount in Arizona showed, Biden won, yet again.

And though we saw the Georgia governor and that state’s secretary of state stand up against a browbeating POTUS, who demanded they “find” extra votes for him, we see very few from the Republican side in congress stepping up.

But in the wilds of Wyoming, that state’s sole member of congress, Liz Cheney, did stand up against the buffoonery and bullying of Trump and stood with the truth regarding the Jan. 6 insurrection and the lies told by the cult of Trump. She even has a personal sense of honor strong enough to allow her to serve on the committee investigating the insurrection. But seeking the truth made her an enemy of Trump and his acolytes.

Liz Cheney has impeccable conservative credentials, as does her family. The daughter of Dick Cheney, Liz has never been a pushover. Rather, she has been a person of integrity with whom I can disagree regarding issues but whom I can respect in terms of her love of country. And that last bit is important right now.

Donald Trump is not now, nor has he ever been, a “real” Republican. Rather, he has always been an opportunist. And he is not a deep thinker (did anyone else’s irony meter just break?). Heck, I don’t even think he’s a white supremacist, but rather just finds those folks useful to him so he panders to them. Hamilton once referred to Aaron Burr in a way that, today, captures Trump’s essence rather well: “He is for or against nothing, but as it suits his interests or ambitions… If there is an embryo-Caesar in the United States, ‘tis Burr.” Swap out Burr and Trump, and you have a pretty good summary.

Trump is nothing if not vindictive. You may recall in recent month he has been using his enemies list to attack those whom he felt were insufficiently loyal to him (meaning, they wouldn’t break election laws to keep him in office). He drew a line in the sand in Georgia, where he was quite sure the aforementioned state officers had betrayed him (by staying loyal to the rule of law). Trump campaigned hard for the opponents of the incumbents and was pretty cocky about how his guys were going to take over and “fix” Georgia. But here’s the thing: the actual voters got to decide, and they voted overwhelmingly for the incumbents and thoroughly rejected Trump’s picks.

Trump was utterly repudiated in Georgia.

Which brings us to Wyoming. In August, the Republican voters of that state will go to the polls to decide if they want to nominate Liz Cheney for another term in the House, or if they want to reject her for her “disloyalty” and instead pick the Trump choice, Harriet Hageman. And here’s the kicker: Trump might get his way in Wyoming.

Cheney was one of a tiny handful that voted to impeach Trump for, well, fomenting an insurrection, which he did. And the Wyoming GOP was outraged. I’m not entirely sure if that is because they especially loved Trump, or if it was because she voted with Democrats. But a recent poll suggests that Cheney might well lose the primary, in spite of a $10 million war chest in donations from more thoughtful GOP supporters around the nation. Trump has jumped on the Hageman train and will no doubt claim vindication if she wins. If she does, it will become another example of the Trump GOP consuming and destroying the more reasonable GOP that once helped run the country.

We’ll see what happens in August up north. If Cheney holds on, it will appear that the GOP is continuing to throw off the virulent burden of Trumpism. But if Hageman wins, it may signal that opposition to a wannabe Caesar is seen as treason.

Stay tuned.

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.



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