Wyoming is less than two weeks away from the primary election in one of the most significant elections of the modern era. In the Republican primary especially, there is a conflict in philosophies and approaches that will be monumental for our future as a state. The winners of this election will set the tone and priorities of our state government at a key point in Wyoming’s history.
On one side, we have the realists. These candidates recognize that, for the good of Wyoming and the nation, they must accept uncomfortable truths and determine how to respond to real issues. Their policies and priorities are based on what genuinely impacts our lives and livelihoods. The issues they focus on may be less sensational, but they are exponentially more meaningful. You can often identify these candidates by their nuance. Big issues are seldom simple. A real answer is not bombastic; instead, it recognizes the complexity of the issues facing us.
On the other side, we have the fantasy-world candidates. These candidates spend their time talking about what they wish was the truth, rather than the actual truth. Unfortunately, many of us have come to believe their stories. It is uncomfortable to accept that a cause or candidate we believe in has fallen short. Instead, many would rather choose to believe that some other bad actor was the cause of the bad result. The fantasy-world candidates are all too happy to set up a boogeyman to blame when things don’t go our way.
The fantasy-world approach is bad for our state, our country and the Republican Party. We cannot elect candidates who refuse to accept uncomfortable truths in favor of reassuring lies. Our leaders need to be able to respond to reality and work with the facts, even when they’re bad. That is how we prepare for challenges, mitigate harmful events and capitalize on opportunities. Those who respond to every bad outcome by blaming someone on the opposing side are never able to address the real root problems. Leadership requires the ability to learn and adapt, even when what we learn is unpleasant. Refusing to accept the truth is the opposite of leadership.
Unfortunately, the fantasy-world candidates have concocted an impressive list of boogeymen to blame for their failings. Perhaps the biggest right now is false claims of rigged elections. We as Republicans need to accept when we have lost and learn from our defeats. If our response to losing an election is that it “must have been rigged,” we will keep losing elections by bigger and bigger margins. Our candidates must be responsive to the voters, and if we refuse to accept what the voters say, we give them even more reason to vote against us.
The most disheartening fact is that many of these fantasy-world candidates are fully aware that what they say is untrue. They do not believe elections were stolen or rigged. Rather, they believe that saying it was will help their own ambitions. They want to win the primary and they believe it will motivate more primary election voters to say that the election was stolen and their candidate should have won than to say that the election was lost and we must engage in careful reflection to understand why. If we Republicans reward this approach on Election Day, we are asking for dishonest candidates. If a candidate is unwilling to tell the truth on one issue, why should we expect them to tell us the truth on others?
Thus, for us Republicans, this is a time for choosing. We must choose between those who would tell us the uncomfortable truth and the comfortable lie. As we contemplate this, we need to be honest with ourselves. We would not want to go to a doctor who would conceal a disheartening diagnosis. A doctor who does not care enough to tell us the truth about our own condition is dangerous. The same is true for civic leaders. Politicians who are unwilling to tell us the uncomfortable truth bring devastating consequences. We must vote for the truth, not what we wish was the truth.
We as a party have a great opportunity right now. The administration in Washington is so dysfunctional that Republicans should be poised for massive gains. However, if we choose poorly, we may blow our chance. Already, in other states, we see races that Republicans should win become less and less favorable because Republicans chose poor candidates. If we keep nominating candidates that will not tell the truth, it is hard to blame voters for looking elsewhere. Our ability to implement conservative policies and solutions depends on our ability to earn the trust of voters. For that to happen, we cannot become the party of the fantasy world. As we cast our ballots for the primary on Aug. 16, I hope all of us will keep that in mind.