The Drake's Take

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.

Kerry Drake

Kerry Drake

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.”

And:

  • 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.

Columns are the signed perspective of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WyoFile’s staff, board of directors or its supporters. WyoFile welcomes guest columns and op-ed pieces from all points of view. If you’d like to write a guest column for WyoFile, please contact Guy Padgett at guy@wyofile.com or Dustin Bleizeffer at dustin@wyofile.com.

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Published on July 9, 2013

  • http://drcallahan.bravemusings.com Dr Denis Callaghan

    Welcome to the club! This isn’t your fathers Republican party any more You are of course a right as rain ! When the evangelical Christian base got into politics, that was their first mistake. The second was believing that a party that for all intents and purposes has been bought and paid for by those who care nothing for ethics or morality peopel like the Koch brothers. The fact that people have always took care of one another through the church or other groups who hold the dignity of their fellow men and women is no longer the way things are. Here in Indiana, people continue to believe that our governor is looking out for the majority of its citizens. Not true! I had a chance to challenge Mr Pence in a debate over the health care bill. He wouldn’t back down and he lied to the group where we spoke but I did tell him and the people there what was going on.

    We have the beginning of two class of people those with money and power and those who will be the next slaves (Witness the fast food workers, Walmart women being denied health care they would prefer you to be barefoot and dependent. Notice the defunding of quality education. The continuing effort ro stop voting rights of the poor and elderly Those who actually read, study and try to understand the Bible have seen this for a long time.

    The question is what to do. Write, call petition those currently in office. And most of all get involved and VOTE! Get these people out. We no longer can afford to sit back and allow our country to run on cruise. control. You might want to turn Fox “News’ off as well. The key to this whole thing and how to know who to trust is “follow the money”!

    Nescire autem quid antequam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. (To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.) Time after time, history demonstrates that when people don’t want to believe something, they have enormous skills of ignoring it altogether. Jesus’s procession deliberately countered what was happening on the other side of the city. Pilate’s procession embodied the power, glory, and violence of the empire that ruled the world. Jesus’s procession embodied an alternative vision, the kingdom of God. This contrast—between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Caesar—is central not only to the gospel of Mark, but to the story of Jesus and early Christianity. The Western World has been attempting to preserve the fruits of Christianity after having surrendered the roots.”

  • gwarnock

    Blue dot in a red state, BTY Mr. Drake, I don,t do Facebook. I find it quite chilling, sometimes, living in this state, Fokkk News as the preferred news channel, Rush Limbaugh as The political pundit, electing a Texas supported Senator, I despised the GWB presidency, in large part, due to his boss RBC whose lies profited Halliburton to the tune of over 4K American lives and hundreds of thousands of innocent human lives, men, women and children! But the Rights unadulterated Hate for our sitting President pales in comparison, to the tune of allowing, or should I say, demanding the failure of our society to prove themselves correct, not only have they enacted unbelievable and record setting obstruction, but have even refused to give credible solutions to help remedy anything!
    Our citizenry, bless them, believe in the right so dearly, they believe it can do no wrong, vote (R), and go about their business.
    Time has come to research who we vote for, party-line means nothing anymore, some candidates calling themselves Republican, border on the politics of Pol Pot, we must be more diligent if “WE” wan this state, and “OUR” country back, Left or Right, find out who you are voting for!!

  • lousewort rodgers

    with hank and leslie media show is as shallow as the lizzie media show. good luck with that.

  • Brodie Farquhar

    Dear Judy,
    It has been several decades since there was even the possibility of voting a straight Democratic ballot in Wyoming.

  • Judy

    Fun article and a good warning for the powers that be in the state government. I disagree with most all of your beliefs-I assume I can do so without drawing any invectives-and I haven’t voted a straight ticket in years. I know it does require actually reading and listening to candidates but I am willing to do so. As they say, a democrat in Wyoming is a conservative in most other states! So bring on some decent candidates.

    One question, though. Don’t most Democrats vote a straight party ticket?

  • Brodie Farquhar

    Good stuff, Kerry! Wyoming citizens capable of rubbing two synapses together should indeed wonder about the benefits of voting straight tickets, with the Hill nightmare growing in sheer weirdness. I think the Wyoming Democratic Party has a long row to hoe, however, rebuilding a county party infrastructure that can knock on doors, identify supporters, respond quickly to outlandishly absurd editorials and letters to the editor, etc.
    The key to statewide success, still rests on whether strong “D” candidates can emulate Dave Freudenthal’s initial campaign strategy of a two-year rampup to election day, hitting the chicken dinner circuit, lining up support (logistical and financial) and building name recognition — all of which was woefully absent last year when a complete unknown ran his very first elective-office race against Rep. Lummis! For sheer chutzpah, that rivals Lizzie Cheney deciding she can run against Sen. Enzi.
    Given the deepening civil war on the right, Wyoming Democrats do have opportunities, but they have to be smarter and work harder and longer than the Wyoming Republicans. That’s doable.
    (Brodie was communications director for the Wyoming Democratic Party last year. He is now pursuing freelance opportunities from his new home in Colorado.)

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