On the morning of August 26, 1879, nearly 200 men stormed the Maricopa County jail in Phoenix, took custody of two murder suspects, and strung them up in the town plaza. The Phoenix Herald endorsed the hangings, writing, “Villainy and vice are rampant these days. Murders and assassinations are to (sic) frequent to be tolerated in a well-governed community.” Lynch mobs bolstered the opinion that the “Wild West” was a violent and lawless place. That depends largely upon where and when you examine a geographic spot in the West. Only three months prior to the “necktie party” The Herald reported, “Phoenix is one of the quietest and most orderly towns in the territory.” This wasn’t a town absent laws-they just ignored it, fueled by “lawless passion” of vigilante citizens.
For hard-core political wonks, this week marks the 55th Anniversary of the first televised debate in our history between Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy, and GOP Vice President Richard M. Nixon. An estimated 70 million watched the first dust-up between the rivals. Back then, about 85% of households had a TV. Black and white TV left Nixon, who had been in the hospital prior to the debate, looking pale, tired, and sluggish. Polls of TV viewers reported Kennedy, tanned, rested and prepared, was given the nod by the public. As they say, “That’s history!”
We’re reminded, “Politics is a full contact sport.” To the average citizen in Wyoming, or elsewhere, there’s a clear, precipitous decline in public confidence in organized and institutionalized structures of government, except unprincipled D.C. Beltway politicians and lobbyists, driven by careerists impulses. One of the obstacles we face is the question of “What is the purpose of politics?” Some reply, “None whatsoever!” We intuitively know that Congress is absolutely feckless. Polls support that intuition. That mood of dismay and frustration is, in part, due to years of over expectation that politicians would “solve our problems.” Ronald Reagan was right, “Government is the problem.” Soaring rhetoric from an Illinois Senator “bamboozled” an election cycle of voters. They came back for more. What price did they pay for their vote? The “bill” is “past due.” Who can pay it? What have we learned?