U.S. Sen John Barrasso. (Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore)

Recently Wyoming’s U.S. Sen. John Barrasso called Sen. Chuck Schumer’s state of New York a fiscal cesspool, and then pledged to oppose the use of any taxpayer dollars to subsidize it. This language may provide red meat for hard-right conservatives, but let’s remember that here in Wyoming, we too have some big bills coming up. While poking Democrats in the eye may be good for gaining Twitter followers, it’s bad for our state.

Our coal and natural gas industries are in the tank, and because we failed to plan ahead we have no replacement for those revenue sources. This comes at the same time Wyoming’s state pension plan entered the year underfunded by $2 billion, a deficit likely to expand to $3 billion by year end. We have 99 dams that are rated “high hazard,” a $149 million gap in school capital expenditures and 10% of our bridges are structurally deficient and will need repair or rebuilding. Unless we want to be the next Flint, Michigan, get ready for an estimated $500 million in infrastructure costs over the next 20 years to maintain a safe drinking water supply.

I may be cowboy-minded and self-reliant, but I’m also no dummy. If and when Congress passes an infrastructure bill, and the money is getting passed around, I’d like to have some Democratic friends in the room.

Building meaningful relationships with the other side will only become more critical for Wyoming, because the best guide to how people will vote in 2020 is to look at how they voted in 2018. In 2018, Republicans lost 41 congressional seats, 10 governorships and picked up only one Senate seat. This didn’t happen in ultra-liberal states. In the last two years, voters elected Democratic governors in Louisiana, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico and Wisconsin. Iowa farmers elected Trump by 10 points in 2016. Two years later they threw up their hands and voted out two of their three Republican U.S. Representatives.

The socialism nightmare we’re being fed by the hard right may be soothing to cable news viewers, but it looks like most of America isn’t buying it. Take a state like Michigan. In 2018, Democrats won two congressional seats and both of Michigan’s U.S. Senators are Democrats. In nearby Pennsylvania, another need-to-win state for Trump, the GOP lost three House seats in the last election. These voters are not Silicon Valley liberals — they are welders, autoworkers and truck drivers. They hunt, attend church, buy-American … and they are voting Democrat.

There’s a certainty the House will remain in Democratic control, and the Senate may also have a Democratic majority. Republicans are certain to lose Senate seats in Colorado and Arizona before having to fend off serious challenges in Montana, North Carolina, Maine and Iowa. Amazingly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is now tied with his Democratic challenger in a conservative state which today has more registered Democrats than Republicans.

Previous generations of Wyoming politicians, like Al Simpson and Malcolm Wallop, understood the need for having influence with both parties, and the importance of building strong relationships across the aisle. To them, serving your state was not about scoring points on social media and moving up the political-party food-chain, but instead working with colleagues to pass laws and enact policies that serve our communities.

Wyoming has some rough years ahead. Our ability to get support from Washington will be tied inextricably to the relationships our delegation can build with both political parties. Regardless of how the 2020 elections turn out, for the sake of Wyomingites it’s time to move away from petty partisan fighting and toward statesmanship.

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Dave Dodson

Dave Dodson lives in Wyoming and is a former CEO and professor at Stanford University. He was a Wyoming Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Read more from his archive at davedodson.com/news.

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9 Comments

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  1. Back in the good old days before the Trump tax cut I thought that the Republicans were supposed to be fiscal conservatives. Since that tax cut the expenditure line and the income line of the Federal budget keep diverging. I haven’t heard a peep out of the Wyoming delegation about that. As noted in the article the Wyoming State budget is even in worse shape. Given they typical Wyomingite’s aversion to taxes. I only see doom and gloom in Cheyenne and further reduction of Wyoming’s State services.

  2. Unfortunately, the attitudes and actions from Washington D.C. shake down to the local level. We need some Democrats in Fremont County in every elected office.

  3. Wyoming needs more than new friends….Wyoming needs new leaders. Vote these old guys out; they only reinforce our economic, environmental, and class problems. Thanks WyoFile for allowing voices of descent and reason to be heard.

  4. I’m “sheltering” in a mountain cabin with a pile of old New Yorkers and just read an article from September 13, 1984 about the coalition that passed Reagan’s big tax reform act (actually tax increase). The supporters were half Republicans and half Democrats — and so were the opponents. Wow! This bi-partisan spirit and independence was true for many years, including the Carter administration, the first Bush administration — ending I guess in Clinton’s day. How much we have lost! The tone of argument is completely different from what we have today — there’s even some humor. Yes, both Wallop and and Simpson reached across the aisle and most of our politicians were free to follow their best judgement whether or not they followed the party line. I hope that our current representatives in Washington DC will try to exercise independence again, as this article recommends, and bring back a politics of honest debate.

  5. Wyoming is in a world of hurt. Our state legislators have failed to take any action to prepare us for the declining fossil fuel industries and have pretty consistently worked against renewables that should be filling the gaps in our economy. Meanwhile, both Rep. Cheney and Sen. Barrasso are building careers as the attack dogs of the Republican party. Sen. Enzi has at times been willing to work with the opposition but he is retiring and we know that if Lummis wins she will take up the attacks she was making in the House. Most people in Wyoming still refuse to recognize that we get more in federal benefits than we pay for and that most of that largesse comes from blue states California and New York, and slowly changing from red to blue Texas. Wyoming is not so independent and is becoming less so as we fail to address our economic woes and continue to try to cut our budgets rather than to increase our revenues. Republican leadership is failing us on both the state and national stages, and unless we demand more of our elected officials or vote them out, the painful consequences are going to get worse. Is all of this turmoil worth the satisfaction of having leaders that consistently trash liberals, support guns, and serve the wealthy? .

  6. Here’s our big problem…None of our legislators want to work with each other anymore. They are to busy yelling and digging their heels in. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s I saw legislators who for the most part did what was good for OUR country. There was bipartisan legislation. I dont think most of our legislators even give a damn about America anymore and that’s very frustrating. I’m very patriotic. I love America with all her imperfections, I just wish that our legislators would show they give a damn about her and ALL of her citizens. If you listen very carefully you wont hear any of our legislators use the word America and that’s a problem…