Thursday, August 06, 2009

In the Rockies, better blue than red

I live in the libertarian-minded Rocky Mountain West. I'm a resident of Wyoming, the second-most conservative state in the nation. Utah (not surprisingly) is numero uno, followed by our Cowboy/Equality/Coal State and then Idaho. We make up a red ultra-conservative misshapen Balkan province among a region that's trending blue. This according to the latest Gallup Poll.

Blame my liberalism on shallow Wyoming roots. I moved my family here in 1991 from Fort Collins, Colo. Before that we were a decade in Denver, now reliably blue. In fact, the entire state of Colorado now leans Democratic. Kind of amazing, when you consider that the eastern plains and the Western Slope are very conservative. But even Colorado Springs showed some gains in Democratic Party registration last year. You know all about the Springs: Focus on the Family, Ted Haggard, born-again indoctrination at the Air Force Academy. A heavy military presence, with booming Ft. Carson, NORAD and Peterson AFB.

I've lived in two solidly Democratic states: Massachusetts and Maryland. I spent most of my formative years in Florida, now in the "Leaning Democratic" fold after the 2008 elections. It's an odd place. Talk about your Balkanization. The reliably blue south (even younger Cubans are coming over to the Dems) and the Redneck panhandle, more 'Bama and Mississippi that beachtown Florida. Central Florida is a toss-up, but a very vocal group of born-agains bumping up against Yuppies emigrating from the Rust Belt.

I love Florida, for all those reasons and others too numerous to mention. Odd thing is, my eight brothers and sisters, all Floridians, are almost all diehard Republicans. The most liberal is my nurse sister in Tallahassee; the most conservative my retiree entrepreneur surfer brother in Daytona. Sometimes the others vote Dem, sometimes Repub. They either register Repub or Independent. None of them are like me -- a lifelong Dem. I did register as an Indie during college in the 1970s, but still voted for Jimmy Carter.

So why don't I just try to fit in here in Wyoming? No fun. It's also against my religion -- Catholic Socialist. That's not really a religion, just a fun label I hang on myself. In Wyoming, you can use those Repub buzzwords to get people fired up. You know, socialist, community organizer, liberal (the "L" word), even plain old "Democrat." It's fun.

But my beliefs are serious. I could never register Repub because it's the only game in town. Some of my friends admit this. Nobody to vote for in the Democratic primaries! The Wyoming Democratic Party is pathetic! You guys don't know how to party! O.K., I've never heard the last excuse, but it's probably true.

When you're in mixed company in Wyoming, the likely assumption is that you're all in the same conservative club. Doesn't take long for the Obama cracks to start. Best way to nip them in the bud is to raise your pointy little head and declare your support of Obama and your belief in "Hope" and health care and alternative energy and possibly socialism. Most Wyomingites are low key. Most of the time the conversation will go in a new direction. "How about them Pokes," referring to the Wyoming Cowboy football or basketball teams. There hasn't been much to admire in the past few seasons, but it can get things moving in a new direction.

I did get in a few dust-ups prior to the 2008 elections. And most people seem to know me well enough now that they steer clear of sensitive topics. Even my family has taken to cloaking their anti-Obama public comments on Facebook.

But this won't last. We're in the midst of a huge battle over major topics. This August recess is already off to a wild start, with Know Nothing corporate stooges interrupting town hall meetings by their Reps and Sens. This probably won't happen in the second most conservative state in the U.S. Our three-person Congressional delegation is reliably red. Obama today did mention Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi as one of the few Senate Repubs willing to talk turkey about health care reform.

But one never knows about the future. Former conservative stalwart Montana has moved into the "competitive" camp, according to Gallup. That's due to new immigrants from blue states. And Montana Democratic politicians are a lot like Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal. Some coaster liberals call them Dems in Name Only (DINO). I prefer pragmatic and cagy. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Sen. Jon Tester are also in this category.

But Wyoming Democrats have made some gains, mostly in the state's few urban areas, such as Cheyenne and Casper, and resort areas such as Jackson.

Jake Nichols, writing in this week's Planet Jackson Hole, talked about some dangerous blue trends.

“People are starting to vote the right way [in Teton County],” said Bill Luckett, executive director of the Wyoming Democratic Party. To Luckett, the RIGHT way is a left-leaning voter core begat in liberal Teton County and trending through the state.

A Houston TV station took notice of this red state’s blues. “Wyoming has turned into an unexpected — and nagging — headache for the national GOP, which now finds itself forced to commit scarce resources to the lone House seat in one of the reddest states on the map,” KHOU-TV reported. The news piece attributed Democratic gains in part to Wyoming’s fierce independent streak – witness two-term gubernatorial incumbent Dave Freudenthal’s popularity – but conservatives are still worried.

Last week, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced it was adding Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) to its Patriot program — a watch list of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents.

One thing I know after 18 years in Wyoming: there's no "left-leaning voter core begat in Teton County and trending through the state." Liberals begat in Teton County don't move to other parts of the state. They move there from another place, and either stay put through pluck and good luck and trust funds, or move back to the coasts -- or to Taos or Aspen. The blue trend I see in Laramie County, on the opposite corner of the state from Jackson, is home grown. Dem voters here may be from other states. But they didn't pass through Jackson to get indoctrinated into the true Dem faith. Cheyenne Dems have a tendency to view their Teton County brothers and sisters with a jaundiced eye. It's often said by conservatives and liberals alike that Jackson is not a part of this state. An alternate reality, I suppose, where everyone can afford season ski passes and Volvos.

But the trend is clear. Urban areas are trending blue. Resort areas are trending blue. Cities and towns with a more educated citizenry are trending blue. The West is trending blue. And finally, the Rockies are trending blue. If you live in a state that includes some sliver of the magnificent Rocky Mountains, your future lies with the Dems.

For the entire Gallup Poll article, go to


ROD said...

I used to be a Democrat.

bigfrank said...

Oh yes the hope.
The hope the government won’t come in and steal your land if you organic garden. Farmers market gone and you have to beg for your hand out from the government just as they did to the Indians. Look how well that turned out. As such here and along with HR 2749, HR 875. Obama and his house are going to kill the agriculture here in the USA just like Bush started and we will be waiting even more with our hands out waiting for food from countries that we pissed off. We have been a net importer of food for how many years now? But you don’t have to worry about that I see with your garden.... Oh wait... So you do have hope that they don’t come and steal your land.
Oh hope of a grand government health care. Government did such a fine job with the housing industry getting everyone a house and that worked out great! Until the people that the government forced the banks to loan the money to couldn’t pay up. Oh the hope of our government health care will do better than Canada and the UK where more of them die from lack of health care because of lack of providers. Government screws up everything they have touched. So why hope for this?
We the people made this country. Not democrats nor republicans not government but WE the people made this country. It is the democrats, the republicans of this government that is tearing it down. Who knows better how to spend your money? Does Ted Kennedy know how to spend your money better than you? How about George Bush? Seems those two have had a huge hand in breaking this country. Now Obama is following the same lines that Bush did. Ya I am full of hope for that change.
Obama is the joke. He said "Any bill would have 5 days for review before he signed it" How long did that last before he broke it? Wasn’t it the first stimulus package he shoved in our face? Just like Bush did? “No more lobbyists in the white house staff” “No more earmarks” are two more promise of change Obama said he would do but told us to kiss his butt when it came time to put the money where his month was. Bush and Obama are different piles of poop but the same smell.
Oh the hope of peace. Bush attacks countries on stories he heard and wanted to be true. Sucked the house into following him. Now Obama is following the same battle lines Bush did. Give us hope and bring ALL the troops home. Let’s end WW2, Korea, and Gulf war and keep our nose here to what we are doing.
Obama giving hope of swashing freedom of speech. Right on the white house web site telling people to report when people talk bad about the government. How much hope is that? Didn’t Hitler do that? Didn’t Stalin do that? Didn’t Castro do that? Bush did it with the patriot act. Hope? Better report me for exercising my free speech.
We the people have to stand up for US. We have to take responsibility for us and not wait for our government hand out. And I for one want nothing from the government that steals what I work for to give to someone that doesn’t want to work for it. It will end when people stop following the party talking points and follow what made this country great. We the people working for a better future for us and not the government. Until people forget party lines and pick up the fight our forefathers fought for the joke is on us. But more so the people that toe the party line.
So why fault the people of Wyoming for them wanting to make their own without the government. I fault them more for voting party lines also and just following talking points one party puts out even though they don’t follow them. Just like the other party.

Anonymous said...

To Athenians, democracy (demo-kratia, "rule by the people") meant something quite specific, and importantly different from the political system of any nation today. Athenians would have guffawed at the notion of calling the United States, for example, a democracy; by their standards it would have been a moderate oligarchy. What, then, was Athens' democratic constitution, and how can we learn from it?

The Origins of Athenian Democracy