Wyoming Democrats have insisted for years that the political pendulum is bound to swing their way after decades of Republican dominance.

Opinion

I’d like to think it’s inevitable, too. However, I’ve made some rough calculations, and a person would have better odds of winning Powerball, being struck by lightning twice and hitting three straight holes-in-one — all on the same day — than Dems pulling off an Equality State miracle anytime soon.

I wish I could be more optimistic about the party’s chances, since I’ve been a member for nearly a half-century. But I’m not going to tell you the Democrats’ glass is half full when the bottom is barely wet. 

Here’s the stark history:

There was one golden year when Democrats held the state’s three congressional seats, all five statewide offices and majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. That was 1936, when Franklin D. Roosevelt and his popular New Deal won all states except Vermont and Maine.

The party has been on a downhill slide ever since. Wyoming hasn’t had a Democrat in Congress since Rep. Teno Roncalio retired in 1978. The last time we held a majority of statewide elected offices was 1989. 

And come Jan. 10, when newly elected lawmakers are sworn in, there will be 57 Republicans and only five Democrats in the House. The totals are even worse in the Senate, with the GOP outnumbering Democrats 29-2. With the party holding just 7.5% of legislative seats, Wyoming has the lowest percentage of Democratic lawmakers in the nation.

Though some Wyoming Democrats describe this as their political “rock bottom,” it’s actually been worse. The party only held four legislative seats in 1900 and 1920. 

Why the party has fallen so out of favor is a topic for another column, but part of it is the GOP’s skilled ability to exploit fear to convince voters that Democrats don’t have their best interest in mind. But the truth is Democrats put people first, and here’s how: 

For starters, Democrats work on behalf of the middle- and lower-income classes, not giving tax breaks to the extremely wealthy. 

Democrats believe lawmakers must follow the state constitution’s mandate to provide a high-quality, equitable education for every student, and not look for fiscal escape routes to back away from obligations.

Democrats stand for reproductive freedom and against government overreach into private medical decisions. 

Health care is a basic human right. Wyoming’s dems have fought for years to expand Medicaid and insure thousands of low-income workers whose employers can’t afford — or simply refuse — to provide insurance.

Another Democratic stance is to protect human and environmental health. Along those lines, Wyoming must reduce carbon emissions, promote renewable energy resources like wind and solar and stop acting like the fossil fuel industry’s profits are more important than the people of this state.

Democrats protect Social Security and Medicare because they are programs residents have paid into their entire working lives, not federal programs Congress can seize to balance their budgets. 

The modern Democratic Party consistently supports protecting social programs that keep people from falling through the cracks — from food security to maternal health to consumer protections to workplace safety, criminal justice reform, racial equality and environmental protections. That’s a sweeping agenda Democrats should be extremely proud to back.

Unfortunately, as part of its winning strategy, the GOP does a better job spinning cultural wedge issues, perpetuated on a grand scale by former President Donald Trump. Trump and his minions want voters to believe the greatest threats to families are teaching “critical race theory” and allowing transgender females to compete in girls’ sports.

Trump’s “America First!” and “Make America Great Again” slogans helped him capture 70% of Wyoming’s presidential vote in 2020, and his support shows no signs of abating here. Within Wyoming’s 98,000 square miles, he’s by far the state’s most popular yet polarizing political figure.

Wyoming GOP members, even when they are fighting amongst themselves, trot out their mess of a playbook every election and somehow make it work. It doesn’t even matter that the GOP has only one statewide employee compared to the Democrats’ six, and Wyoming Dems have much more money in the bank. Part of the strategy is focusing on national issues.

Republican leaders pretend every Democratic candidate is plotting to take away all guns — a far-fetched threat that drives up weapons sales and adds to manufacturers’ fortunes while the number of mass shootings skyrocket in our schools, grocery stores, churches and bars. The public no longer feels safe.

Somehow the Republicans have managed to convince the voting public that a) they should be mad as hell about the state of affairs in Cheyenne, and b) that the only solution is to elect more Republicans, i.e. members of the only party that could plausibly be credited with the state of affairs in Cheyenne. I hate to admit it, but you have to admire the rhetorical sleight of hand. 

The only healthcare access “solution” offered by the GOP is repealing the Affordable Care Act, which it fortunately has never been able to do despite at least 70 Republican-led attempts to repeal, modify or otherwise curb “Obamacare” since 2010. How on Earth is this a winning position when it always fails?

Let’s never forget the voluminous evidence gathered by the U.S. House select committee to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Trump convinced Republicans to buy the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen by Democrats. He incited a deadly insurrection and helped convince millions their votes no longer matter.

Unbelievably, many in Wyoming view Trump as head of a patriotic, law-and-order party whose supporters injured about 140 Capitol police officers who had sworn to uphold the peace at our nation’s majestic symbol of democracy. 

As of Dec. 1, the Wyoming Republican Party had 197,000 more registered voters than Democrats. That’s a disaster for the state, which benefits more from two healthy parties providing voters with choices, including working together to solve societal problems. 

Democrats only elected legislators in two of the state’s 23 counties, Albany and Teton. Democrats didn’t throw in the towel — they competed in 17 legislative contests previously won by Republicans — but lost every one.

There’s nothing shameful about losing an election, especially if you know your party has great ideas worth fighting for, but we mustn’t sacrifice our values. Some within Wyoming’s Democratic party suggest that to win we should either act more like Republicans, or our candidates must be more moderate because MAGA Wyomingites won’t elect “extreme” Democrats.

I don’t pretend to know what the answer is to the Wyoming Democratic Party’s struggles at the ballot box. But we can’t lose sight of who we are or pretend we’re someone else, because there must be enough of us left to make a difference in our state’s future whether we’re in office or not. The sooner we reaffirm what’s at stake for the greater good, the sooner we’ll have a realistic chance to win at least a few more contests.

Kerry Drake

Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. I’m not sure what the Democrat to Republican ratio is for the Capitol custodial staff; but they all work together and admirably do the job they are hired for. This should serve as an inspiration for everyone walking these hallowed halls.

  2. What is presented here will continue to ensure the rejection and ultimate demise of the Marxist-Democrat party and their establishment Republican allies . . . A cause for celebration!

  3. If what I’ve read lately is correct, House Republicans want to pursue impeaching Biden, as he’s “weaponizing the federal government as an assault on the constitutional rights of American citizens.” Apparently Biden isn’t mentioned specifically in the 55-page proposal for the new rules of the House, but nut-job Marjorie Taylor Greene never meant that rule for anybody but Biden. And I’ll bet that most of the elected and registered Republicans in this state think the same way, albeit in less obvious language, the sentiment being the same. Can’t wait to hear what Wyoming’s new Secretary of State will try to push in changing Wyoming’s voting rules. Ask any Republican, in degrees, they support these crazy ideas that have taken hold, the worst one being that the 2020 election was stolen. The House is currently a circus, thanks to its spoiled brat Freedom Caucus group. Republican politics have become performance art, led by the biggest spoiled brat baby of all. Think about politics on a personal level. Is anybody knocking on your door asking who you voted for, asking about your medical history, if there’s anyone LGBTQ living there. If you’re Republican and answer appropriately, then you’re okay. It’s already happened. Wake up Republicans, you’re operating within the tyranny of ignorance, and if our democratic ways are lost, it will be because of you.

  4. Democrats continue to shovel dirt on their own graves by blaming their failures on President Trump and his voters. Is anyone really surprised by yet another failing tactic?

  5. Kerry, I have to say I’m disappointed with this piece. I’m a registered Republican; I’ve voted for numerous Democrats. I find the piece angry, divisive, and filled with generalizations, all the things we need to avoid, especially in today’s journalism.

  6. Talk is cheap: for the last two years under complete Democrat control, people have been constantly reminded that the Democrats are certainly NOT “the real party of the people”.

    1. President Biden and the Democrats have done an excellent job in running America in very trying times. I realize you may not believe that but it is true in spite of what Fox News and Wyoming right wing radio says.

      Democrats in Washington and Wyoming come to the table with ideas to make our country better for all people as well as a more humane, while Republicans offer no plans, blame Biden and offer cruelty instead of compassion on every issue.

      I could take apart every one of the right wing talking points presented below, but you would not read them, think about them or discuss them. Robert Crooks is especially funny as Albany County is the best county in Wyoming and you can thank the Dems.

      The Republican Party in Wyoming have abandoned reason, the US Constitution and any principles to support a New York City con man that never cared about this country, only himself. I really did not think a State that produced the Cheneys could pick a worse House Representative but congratulations on Hold My Beer Hageman.

  7. Mr’ Drake I do believe you are 100% right,Watching the Speaker of the house vote today, I realize they are not all on same page,Thankyou

  8. Being born and raised in Wyoming I do not have any problems with the real republican party. I have voted Republican, I have voted Democrat, I have voted independent and in certain cases I exercised my right to not vote. It is what Wyoming is all about and many of you out there seem to have forgotten that.

    The problem is the orange blobs republican party is not a party of the people. He has torn this country apart. He only cares about himself and how much money he can make. The damage he had done to this country and to the world will last decades. He will go down in history books as the worst leader this country has ever had and he may go down in history books as the worst leader that the world has ever had,

    Wake up Wyoming! Vote for people that are working on real issues not fake issues that the orange one has made up.

    We need to get Wyoming values back to where they were. Wyoming’s current Republican party is way off base. We need to follow the constitution, realize that everybody matters, and that everybody is equal. We need to help our fellow Wyomingites out.

    I can’t believe that a presidential candidate would put out his own fake trading cards. I hope those of you that are reading this article did not get scammed by that. If you did I have a bridge you can buy.

    Wyoming is a great state and will become a greater state if our legislators
    start working on real issues.

    Love and peace out

  9. It is frustrating to compare the actions compared to the words of our legislators who say they have the best interests of Wyoming citizens at heart. Moist of their concerns relate to issues that can be resolved in courts – property and land issues – of smaller impact than identity, health and education. What century are we living in?

  10. Here’s the quantum physics of political parties: If conservative Republican partisan ideology was the better choice for democratic governance , by now Wyoming should rule the world.

    That it does not …

  11. Chicago,Detroit,Baltimore are democrat examples of “shining cities on the hill we all strive for.. Drake peddles that malarky. Some still buy

    1. Have you actually ever been to any of those cities Jim, or are you drawing your conclusions from the internet? And by the way the term “Shining City on a Hill” actually came from Ronald Reagan. The last time I checked he was a Republican.

  12. This is a good column Kerry. Unfortunately it does not get the heart of the fundamental problems that Wyoming faces, with its electorate. Democrats use to offer an alternative to an independent voter and those with a social conscience. They still do. However the problem lies with an electorate that has been brainwashed by the right-wing media, echo chamber, corporate propaganda, and an agricultural industry that wields far to much power in the state, in relation to what it actually contributes to the economy and the tax structure. This is coupled with the hard demographic realties of an aging population that feels threatened by change and faces being left behind economically. One other factor is the low educational level of the population. Wyoming has a very respectable high school completion rate and a very low college completion rate. This makes for a large portion of the population that knows just enough to be dangerous, relying on social media for much of its information. The answer for democrats is to use their money for education of the electorate on issues that matter. Then, and only then, will they have a chance of regaining their political strength.

  13. Wow! Democrats are the party of the people? So this would explain why Teton County, the most Democrat county in the state, has an average annual income of more than 300,000 dollars per person. The most of any county in the nation. Does that sound like middle class America? Think those folks would love to rub shoulders with the average oil field worker from Casper?

  14. Well said and I am with you, never give in on principles, especially as Democrats care about people and the environment. From my perspective Democrats have higher expectations from their elected representatives which results in getting scrutiny from both sides of the political spectrum as well as fear mongering from the conservative media. However when Republicans are elected there is not much oversight of their actions from the GOP or its propaganda arm Fox News.

    For instance the deals Trump made with the Taliban prior to his leaving office, which triggered the collapse of the Afghan government. There was not a peep from Fox. The debacle was laid at the feet of Biden.

    What I see happening is the Republican Party is so strong in Wyoming that less and less qualified candidates are getting elected which expresses itself negatively in two ways; less thoughtful or coherent legislation and the loss of competent staff when incompetent people are elected. To be fair this can happen in over weighted Democratic regions but with less frequency due to scrutiny from Dems. AOC running against an establishment Dem and winning is an example.

    In my 60 years on this planet the world has gotten better and the left put down its guard as it was clear to progressives that facts and compassion were on our side. There are many factors that contribute to where we are today, but one thing is clear that the election of Obama surely broke their minds.

    At this time Democrats are on the right side of history and I will never switch to Republican until hate, in the name of god I might add, is removed from their Party line.