In my last column, I promised y’all that I’d reveal the name behind WyoRINO.com IF said person had the courage necessary to attend last Thursday’s Natrona County GOP shindig in Casper (link to column). If they were a no-show, I’d have to resort to another ol’ campfire story.
As expected, WyoRINO didn’t show their face, but the event itself turned into a pretty interesting campfire story. Let me set the scene for you.
Cookie had whupped up a big vat of his signature thermo-nuclear roadkill chili, and there were assorted vegetables for those with a more delicate palate. A hundred or so cowgirls and cowboys sat around the fire and listened to a passel of Wyoming Republican legislators who had found themselves on the receiving end of WyoRINO’s anonymous vitriol.
As always happens in an event like this in Wyoming, it was a chance for me to shake & howdy with old friends from the cow business, a couple of whom I hadn’t seen for decades. I was reminded once again of the strength of the bonds among citizens of the Big Empty, and how those bonds survive the ravages of time.
But I digress.
After the legislators offered their opinions of WyoRino while holding forth on their own views about their political responsibilities toward their Cowboy State constituents - civilly, articulately and under their own names, I might add – the audience was invited to ask questions.
While WyoRINO didn’t show up, there were several of the organization’s supporters around the fire, dodging smoke and trying to digest Cookie’s chili like everyone else. To their credit, these folks stood up and asked pointed but important questions of the legislators. And they did so civilly, articulately and under their own names.
There was no hootin’ and hollerin’ as anyone spoke, no snarky catcalls. Both sides appeared to listen to each other with something approaching respect. It could almost be described as the beginning of a dialog.
Here’s an example. I finally met Dan Sabrosky around the ol’ campfire when he came up to me and introduced himself. As many of you may know, Dan and I have spent months lobbing “truth bombs” and laughing emojis at each other, all from the comfortable space behind our keyboards. But, after a firm handshake and looking one another in the eye, the dynamic changed.
In that moment, we ceased to be anonymous, faceless antagonists. I think we each recognized in the other a son of the Wyoming soil, albeit with differing political opinions but a common dedication to the state we both love.
Perhaps the great benefit of the NCGOP event was not the unmasking of WyoRINO, but a chance to learn that we can deal with our political disagreements, no matter how stark, with respect for each other. If we can nurture that skill, then we’ll do a greater service to Wyoming than all of the bombastic, ALL-CAPS social media rancor that characterizes our political discourse today.
I hope that evenings around the campfire, like the one in Casper, become the norm rather than the exception when it comes to us interacting with each other over Wyoming’s political future. It won’t be easy because we’ll all need to shift gears to get it done.
And it probably ain’t for everyone. There’ll still probably be those who prefer skulking in the shadows and sniping anonymously from behind rocks. But if the rest of us can change the paradigm, it’ll be worth waaaay more than twenty cents. (sorry, I couldn’t resist that pun).
If we can sit around the ol’ campfire and with firm handshakes and eye contact respectfully hash out our political differences, then we’ll go a long way to ensuring a bright political future for Wyoming.
And we can leave the post-campfire dishes to be done by the faceless few who don’t have the courage to join us.