The ‘Cowboy Code’ put to the test in Wyoming’s Republican Party

By Corey Cronin, Development Director

It’s the unofficial slogan of the University of Wyoming, and something engrained in everyone who grew up a product of the Wyoming public education system. The embodiment of this slogan that was taught to those of us who grew up here is the “Cowboy Code of Ethics.” Signed into law in 2010, the “Code” is adopted from James P. Owen’s book “Cowboy Ethics” and is as follows:

  1. Live each day with courage.
  2. Take pride in your work.
  3. Always finish what you start.
  4. Do what has to be done.
  5. Be tough, but fair.
  6. When you make a promise, keep it.
  7. Ride for the brand.
  8. Talk less and say more.
  9. Remember that some things aren’t for sale.
  10. Know where to draw the line. 

I can’t help but read through this very fine moral philosophy and relate it to the political battle currently consuming my home state. 

Rep. Liz Cheney is in the political fight of her life against a barrage of Trumpian opponents, the most notable being Harriet Hageman, a Cheyenne attorney. Hageman has secured the endorsement of the former president, who hosted a rally for her in my hometown of Casper on May 28. At the rally, Trump proclaimed the Wyoming At-Large House race the most important election of the midterm cycle.

Both Hageman and Cheney have been running campaigns that make direct and indirect references to the Cowboy Code of Ethics. When it comes to who exemplifies this local moral compass, the difference couldn’t be clearer.

1. Live each day with courage.

When the history books retell the story of today’s America, it will look fondly upon Rep. Liz Cheney. Cheney has bucked her party to stand for truth, integrity, and for our Constitution. This courage has cost Cheney her position in GOP leadership and might very well cost her her seat in Congress. But nevertheless, she persists in facing down intimidation and is cementing her legacy as a profile in courage.

In contrast, Trump-backed candidates must pass the litmus test of being complacent in the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Consistently, the loudest applause line at his endorsement rallies, including the one in Casper, is attacking trans kids. The MAGA loyalists go after immigrants as scapegoats for the problems we face. These are not courageous stances, but rather profiles in cowardice.

7. Ride for the brand.

Cheney and Hageman have been running under the banner of “riding for the brand,” but there’s a stark contrast between the two as to what that means. To Hageman, the “brand” is Trumpism. To Cheney, the “brand” is the Constitution. The candidates don’t stand too far apart on policy, but the brands for which they ride are the defining difference that should be considered when determining which direction Wyoming and the country take when charting our path forward.

 10. Know where to draw the line.

Democracy is precious, but fragile, and we must do everything in our power to protect it. This is a red line on which we should all agree, yet we see candidates and elected officials throughout the country, as well as here at home in Wyoming, inch their way further over it every day. January 6, 2021 is the day the MAGA movement didn’t just step over that line, but marched down Pennsylvania Avenue right over it. Ten brave House Republicans, including Rep. Cheney, stood up and voted to impeach the former president because they recognized they were the last stand to that line disappearing forever. Hageman, the Wyoming GOP, and the RNC have punished Cheney for putting country over party, yet she bravely holds the line in a last-ditch effort to keep our democracy intact.

I will admit, when I first learned of the Cowboy Code of Ethics, I found it to be rather silly. Yet, with age comes some semblance of wisdom, and I’ve learned how important the “Code” has been in shaping my moral compass. It’s apparent it has shaped Liz Cheney’s as well. Let us hope our fellow Wyomingites remember these 10 principles and reject candidates and ideologies that run counter to them. The world needs more cowboys. Wyoming and our country need Liz Cheney.

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