With the smallest team of congressional delegates in the United States, it’s easy for Wyoming to get lost in the political workings in Washington, D.C.
Until U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney started speaking her mind.
Much attention is being paid this week to the decision facing Republican party leadership in the nation’s Capitol — whether or not to oust Cheney from her current position as the Republican Conference Chair, the No. 3 leadership position among Republicans in the House.
Coincidentally, the last time such a decision garnered this much attention, a Wyoming lawmaker also played a central role.
In 1994, the U.S. Senate whip was Wyoming’s own U.S. Sen. Al Simpson — and in December of that year, Republican leadership decided Simpson wasn’t conservative enough.
On a 27-26 vote, Simpson was ousted as whip in favor of Mississippi Senator Trent Lott.
Cowboy State Daily spoke with the former senator Monday about the controversy now capturing the attention of the nation. Simpson said 27 years ago, politics was a different game.
“They were counting the secret vote,” he recalled. “And it was 26-27. They said, ‘We have a new assistant Republican leader.’
And I got right up, I stood up, I remember that clearly,” Simpson continued. “And I said, ‘I want to tell you, Trent, that I will help you in any way. And before this drags out any further before the media, the print media, television, I want to take you by the hand, and I want to go out where they’re waiting outside to learn the results of this, and pledge my full support to you.’”
Simpson, who had been the Republican leader in the Senate for the previous 10 years, said he knew that he wouldn’t be running again in 1996, that he was content with what he had accomplished as a legislator, and that he held no bitterness against Lott for campaigning for the leadership position.
But that type of polite camaraderie seems to be a thing of the past in the Washington of today, according to Simpson.
“It’s called hatred,” Simpson said of the political temperature these days. “These are people who hate RINOs (Republicans in Name Only), they hate Trump. It’ll destroy the Republican party.
“To think you could go in and kick Liz Cheney off — who voted for Trumpy-babe about 78% of the time? What are you thinking about? If you’re thinking about unity, then this is not just about hatred, it’s about revenge,” he continued. “Donald Trump is a hateful man, and he is seeking revenge. He is seeking revenge against anybody that crossed him. And I tell you, I voted for him once, and that will be the last time.”
Simpson noted that the next election won’t turn out well for Republicans if they can’t find unity.
“There won’t be any way to save it (the Republican Party) without ballots,” he said. “And if you have insurgents like we had on Jan. 6 — there are people who really fear this government. They think that they’re going to come cruisin’ through the pass at Laramie and come on and take your guns.”
Simpson said it is those extremists who will, in his words, “destroy the Republican Party.”
“Especially in the next race, where Republicans have a good shot at getting back into the House of Representatives and the Senate, you’re going to find that the right wing crazies are going to put up people in the primary that no one will accept in the general election,” he said. “They’re just gonna say, ‘Well, you know, they gave me a Republican, but the guy was talking about, you know, theories I’d never heard of, a loon. So I guess I’ll vote for the Democrats.’”
Simpson said he is distressed at the hatred being spewed by many in the party that he represented for so many years. He spoke of a meeting that he recently attended with local Republican Party leaders – which was actually being held in a church.
“I said, ‘I think most of you are Christians,’” he recalled. “Heads go up and down. ‘Well, then why don’t we talk about what Christ was about? He was about tolerance. Love, kindness, taking care of the fringes of society, the prostitutes and lepers. So, whatever happened to Jesus Christ, the one you talk about as a true Christian, while you’re filled with hate, and revenge?”