Living blue — and laughing about it — in a red state
— July 9, 2013
My wife recently sent me a link to a Facebook page I hadn’t seen, “Living Blue in Wyoming.” I called it up and found a combination of amusing items and thought-provoking information that led me to quickly hit the “like” button.
But I was only the 290th person to do so, which may explain why the site itself is necessary. Our state is certainly not a bastion of progressive politics, but I thought there were more left-leaning people living in this vast sea of conservatism than that number suggests. In fact, I know there are: I meet and talk to people every day who, if not thinking blue full-time, are at least willing to consider the possibility of doing so on some issues.
The Facebook site isn’t likely to convert any members of the Republican base, since it holds almost all of the typical red state icons up to ridicule. Dyed-in-the-wool fans of Dick Cheney won’t be amused by a picture of the former vice president supposedly saying, “I am shocked, shocked that no one else thinks the war in Iraq was worth it. Halliburton has made over $39 BILLION since we invaded and occupied Iraq. I’d do it again in a transplanted heartbeat.”
Then there’s this sarcastic query: “If Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were both drowning and you only had time to save one …. what type of sandwich would you make?”
No, these red-baiting remarks are meant to both galvanize and tickle the ribs of the site’s liberal followers and hopefully inspire some independents to challenge the conservative norms in our state. The folks who see Cheney as a homegrown hero are perhaps the least likely in the nation to change their minds about their preferred brand of politics.
But perusing the site helped me solidify my theory that this may be the best time in years for Wyoming Democrats to actually make some gains, simply because there is such a rich field of topics to get independents and the more libertarian thinkers living among us to give the party a chance in the 2014 elections.
Political winds may have an actual chance to change direction in the Cowboy State after Republican miscues at the national and state levels. Several exist not because of anything the state Democratic Party has done, or done well, but simply because year after year of Republican rule has led to infighting within the GOP. As any Democrat will tell you, nothing quite stirs one’s heart as the sight of Republican factions trying to devour each other.
So here is my list of the top reasons Democrats stand a legitimate chance to make some gains in Wyoming in the next year and a half:
1) The Cindy Hill debacle, which is likely to get even more jaw-droppingly horrifying for the Republican Party. If not, it definitely isn’t going to get any better for the GOP, which is divided into two distinct camps: the minority comprised of Tea Party-types who view the embattled Republican superintendent of public instruction (and gubernatorial candidate) as a holy instrument sent by God to break up the party’s good old boy system; and the majority of Republicans who are embarrassed by her antics and just want the nightmare to end.
But as much as the party will try its best to portray Hill’s 2010 overwhelming victory in the school chief’s race as a fluke brought on by the sudden emergence of the Tea Party, the fact remains that her win was made possible because Republicans accustomed to voting straight-party tickets did so again, despite evidence prior to the election that the Democrats had nominated a clearly qualified candidate and the GOP’s choice, to put it charitably, was an eccentric newcomer with no experience who could very well wreck the Education Department. It’s up to Democrats to exploit that mistake and at least plant the seed with Republicans that if they don’t want to repeat the experience and split the party further, they should look at the qualifications of the candidates.
2) As residents of blue states are prepared to testify, all of this Republican whining about Obamacare we’ve heard over the past five years isn’t justified. In fact, the health exchanges the plan creates are offering much lower insurance rates than any one ever expected. But residents of red states like Wyoming, whose governors refused to set up their own state-run health exchanges, are not only not benefiting, they are seeing their poorest individuals and families continue to suffer without health insurance because their states are defying the president by refusing to expand Medicaid.
The decision to fight Obamacare tooth and nail was a political gamble that Republicans were willing to take because they were convinced it was a winning strategy. Now that in many instances it’s blowing up in the GOP’s face, Democrats need to hammer home until the election the fact that when their opponents had a chance to compromise and make the health care system better, they cynically chose to try to score political points instead.
3) The times, at least on some social issues, are indeed changing, even in Wyoming. Republicans have been amazingly successful over the years by exploiting wedge issues like same-sex marriage and abortion to get their candidates elected, particularly in already conservative states. But as the GOP in some states has gotten more brazen in its fight to overturn women’s reproductive rights – to the point that lawmakers are demanding women undergo medically unnecessary or harmful procedures prior to receiving a legal abortion – there are more moderate Republicans and independents appalled by such action. More states are also recognizing either same-sex marriages or civil unions, leaving red states like Wyoming to bide time until they become part of the minority that refuse gays and lesbians the right to love whom they choose.
While Wyoming’s lawmakers have generally rejected the more extreme measures on both issues that are being placed in the statutes in other states, the national trends can still backfire on Republicans here whose only apparent reason to run for state office is to force everyone to bide by extremely conservative values. The GOP, long seen as the bastion of stringent defense of gun rights, isn’t even immune on this issue, as more people die in unnecessary gun violence and people are starting to recognize that hey, maybe people don’t have an inherent right to own a weapon whose only purpose is to leave massive numbers of their fellow citizens dead.
4) Wyoming Democrats should be able to exploit votes by the all-GOP congressional delegation that today, in the cold, hard light of July 2013, seem pretty cynical, such as Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso voting with the right-wing opponents of reasonable immigration reform, and Rep. Cynthia Lummis voting for an agriculture bill that severely cuts food aid to the poor. Much will depend, of course, on the state of the economy and how Wyomingites feel about the government in general when voters go to the polls in November 2014.
While there are many other serious political differences between Democrats and Republicans to explore, let’s not forget the value of humor as people make their choices at the polls. Maybe the folks at “Living Blue in Wyoming” could incorporate some of the wisdom of Betty Bowers, “America’s Best Christian,” on their page. Bowers – not to be confused with the extremely talented artist and musician Betty Bower of Casper – is a web philosopher who shows people how to tell if they are living in a red or blue state. Such as:
- Blue states: Provide the “tax” part of “tax and spend.”
- Red States: Provide the “spend on a new 8-lane highway to link a Wal-Mart to the Olive Garden” part of “tax and spend.”
- Blue states: Champion women wrestling with the right to choose.
- Red states: Choose women’s wrestling championships.
— Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake is the editor-in-chief of The Casper Citizen, a nonprofit, online community newspaper. It can be viewed at www.caspercitizen.com.
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