A Wyoming mayor’s recent move to replace a portrait of President Donald Trump with that of an iconic Native American chief has become a flashpoint in the small town of Jackson. There, Mayor Pete Muldoon is defending his decision to remove Trump’s photo from outside the town council chamber, and insisting that the choice isn’t motivated by partisan politics.
The initial decision to replace the Trump picture with one featuring of 19th century Shoshone Chief Washakie came from local Councilman Jim Stanford, who told the News & Guide that “Chief Washakie is somebody we can all get behind. Town Hall should be a haven for people from all backgrounds.”
Washakie is a well known historical figure in Wyoming, for whom several statues have been dedicated, and the dining hall at the University of Wyoming is named. He is believed to be the first Native American to receive a full military funeral in the United States.
“First, Donald Trump is our president, and he’s president because he won the election under the rules we have in place,” Muldoon explained in a firmly worded statement sent out to constituents in the wake of his having removed the portrait.
“Second,” Muldoon continued, “our town government is a non-partisan body. We do not work for the federal government, and there is no requirement to have a picture of the president displayed at Town Hall. Citizens are free to display pictures of whomever they choose at their own homes and businesses, but the idea that we are required to display a portrait of the president at Town Hall is simply not true.”
Pointing out that hanging the portrait is pointless from both an educational standpoint (“everyone knows who the president is”) and unequal in terms of the three branches of government, Muldoon concluded that the only purpose of displaying Trump’s face is as an honor:
When the Town Of Jackson decides to honor such a divisive person, it is taking sides against some of its residents. The Town Council has made no such decision, and until and unless it does, that kind of honor will not be bestowed. I don’t know who put up the portrait of Trump, but it was not authorized by myself or the Council.
Muldoon went on to state that the portrait was hung without his knowledge, and that he would have had the same reaction to a picture of President Obama as well. But despite his nod toward bipartisanship, the mayor’s decision has been met with rancor from some in his community.
“Hanging pictures of the president has been a tradition in the community since at least the mid-’80s,” County Commissioner Paul Vogelheim, chairman of the Teton County Republicans, told the Jackson Hole News & Guide. “I find this totally disrespectful and dishonoring of the position of the president. Even more so, the concern is that it’s bringing ugly national partisan politics into our community.”
County Republicans have also launched a petition to pressure the town council to restore Trump’s portrait and pass a resolution mandating pictures of the President and Vice-President be displayed moving forward.
For mayor Muldoon, the choice is clear.
“Dictators like Joseph Stalin required their portraits to be displayed everywhere,” he explained in his statement. “Luckily, we do not live in a dictatorship.”