Rod Miller: Of Milking Stools and Politics in the Cowboy State

Columnist Rod Miller writes, "While it's early yet, it appears that the centrists are noticing that there are barbarians just outside the gates and are pushing back with their checkbooks."

Rod Miller

January 07, 20244 min read

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I got a head start on breaking my New Year's resolutions. 

I only made one – I promised myself that I wouldn’t pay attention to politics for a year. I joined a support group for recovering politicos, got into a good 12 step program and even had a hotline that I could call if I ever felt the tug of politics.

All that went out the window when I read Leo Wolfson’s recent article on campaign finance reporting. As Michael Corleone said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in”.

Money, as we know, is the mother’s milk of politics. Leo divulged the end-of-year campaign finance reports and that got me hooked. Again.

What jumped out at me in the numbers is that the Wyoming Caucus (RINOs, redcoats, Goldwater/Reagan Republicans or whatever you want to call ‘em) significantly out-raised the Wyoming Freedom Caucus (MAGA Trumpers, REAL Republicans, firebreathers or whatever you want to call ‘em).

It's no secret that the really juicy political jousting in Wyoming is between these two factions of the GOP. And while it's early yet, it appears that the centrists are noticing that there are barbarians just outside the gates and are pushing back with their checkbooks. 

In the immortal words of Deep Throat, “Just follow the money.”

As a wise veteran of politics once told me, a campaign is like a three-legged milking stool. You need all three legs to keep your ass off the ground. The three legs are money, people and time. If you have enough of all three, your chances improve.

Right about now is when hats need to be tossed into rings to take advantage of the eight month window before the primaries. Timing is critical. A candidate can always beg more money or recruit more people, but they simply can’t add more time to the calendar.

“People” means a good candidate to begin with, one who will pass the smell test with voters and have as few skeletons in the closet as possible. Also, a good campaign staff and enough volunteers to get the grunt work done. Those doors won’t knock on themselves.

Money we’ve already touched upon. Without it, a candidate has as much business being in a political battle as a moose has in a phone booth. Here endeth the lesson.

American politics, and Wyoming is not excluded, has never been looked upon as a particularly noble pursuit despite the fawning we do over our favorite politician. It's like that t-shirt that says, “Please don’t tell my mom I’m a politician. She still thinks I’m playing piano in a brothel.”

In these latter days, we seem to have raised dysfunction in politics to an art form. It looks more like Dumptruck Demolition Derby on black ice and the drivers are all monkeys. But, man oh man, we just can’t tear our eyes from the spectacle!

That’s why I’m breaking my New Year's resolution.

It ain’t pretty and it sure as hell ain’t what that trigger-happy colonist on Lexington Green had in mind when he fired the Shot Heard ‘Round the World. But it's ours. It's the worst political system on Earth, except for all the others.

That’s why electoral politics in our state and country deserve our careful and realistic attention and our participation. We can’t afford to leave this stuff to monkeys in dumptrucks. 

So I guess, friends & neighbors, my best advice is to jump in either as candidate or voter. Get involved and put your shoulder to the wheel. Hold your nose, if you have to, but get to work. 

We can always make new resolutions next year.

Rod Miller can be reached at:

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Rod Miller

Political Columnist