Saturday, October 13, 2018

The gulf between the empty states and the crowded states gets wider all the time

The Oct. 9 New York Times featured an op-ed give-and-take between liberal columnist Gail Collins and conservative Bret Stephens. It was prompted by the recent dust-up between Dems and Repubs over the future of the Supreme Court. The column had one section that bears repeating because it concerns Cheyenne and Wyoming. The majority of  Wyomingites do not read the NYT because the majority of Wyomingites are Trump supporters and Trump consistently bashes the paper as "the failing New York Times" and "fake news." Instead, these readers get their reportage from the always reliable Fox and the always unbiased Breitbart site. As a public service. I repeat the exchange below. To red the entire column, go to
Gail: That leads me to one of my constant preoccupations: the way this country is organized to disenfranchise urban voters and empower people from rural areas. The 59 million people in California and New York are going to elect Democratic senators. But they’ll be completely canceled out if the less than two million people in Wyoming and Montana decide to go Republican. 
Bret: There you go again, Gail, making the case for democracy. I’m still a republican (even if no longer a Republican), so I’m for sticking with the original design. How about all those blue state voters moving to Kansas or Wyoming instead?
Gail: Instead of “Let them eat cake,” it’d be “Let them move to Cheyenne?” There’s a gulf between the empty states and the crowded states that goes beyond geography.
As a 25-year resident of Cheyenne, Wyoming, this exchange tickled me. My town was mentioned in the NYT, which happens rarely. The conservative writer (with tongue in cheek, methinks) says that blue state voters should move to red states such as mine, thus watering down the yayhoo vote and saving the republic. The liberal pins down the issue when she says that "a gulf between the empty states and the crowded states that goes beyond geography?" Indeed. That span is wider than the Gulf of Mexico, wider than any gulf I can think of.

As a liberal blogger in a red state, I agree with Bret -- let those blue voters leave the comfy environs of Brooklyn and Berkeley and move to Cheyenne. Our small coterie of Democrats welcomes them. Our city of 65,000 needs to grow. Our county, one of 23, used to have the best representation of Dems in the state legislature. No more. 2016 took care of that. Republicans all voted R and Democrats stayed home. Gerrymandered districts helped, of course, the most recent ridiculous changes occurring in 2010 and more to come in 2020 as our legislature is even more right-wing crazy than it was in 2010. And don't forget about the Russians.

That's one of the main problems. As rural lawmakers propose more wackadoodle legislation, the more bad publicity we get and the less likely it becomes that free-thinking liberals want to move here. Expect more bills that restrict voting, LGBTQ equality, protest, birth control, abortion, etc. They will come up with laws that more severely punish marijuana users. Since there are only a few women in the legislature, expect more anti-women votes. But lest you think they are only against everything, the Republican majority will come up with bills promoting oil, coal and gas and the right to bear arms in almost anyplace you damn please.

The irony here, is that Republicans bemoan the fact that their grown children take their educations and put them to use in Denver, Palo Alto and Atlanta. That's where the good jobs are. That's where other young people live and play. Those cities, as Gail infers, is the geography in which young people choose to live. They may want to be close to family, but with the money they make, they can travel to Cheyenne for our Frontier Days extravaganza every July. They can take part in a family reunion, share their success stories, and play cowboy for ten days. Then they go back to their crowded, exciting, liberal cities. From there, they can monitor the boneheaded moves of our legislature and be glad that they escaped such a benighted place. It seems that legislators don't understand how quickly their dumb quotes zoom around the world. We have the Internet now and a 24-hour news cycle. Dumbassery knows no boundaries.

Why do I live in Cheyenne? I came for a job in the arts and stayed. My wife loves her job. Our friends are wonderful people. Surprisingly enough, there is much to do and more events all of the time. And if it's not happening here, it is in Fort Collins or Greeley and Denver, the purplish-blue state that begins 11 miles from my front door. They have right-wing kooks in Colorado too, but there are enough liberals, some home-grown and some imported, to negate their bad influences. Colorado, too, has the disconnect between urban and rural. Five rural northern Colorado counties threatened a secede a few years ago when the legislature voted to restrict gun rights and oil drilling. Rural residents blame Denver for all of the bad stuff. Denver blames their country cousins for all of the bad stuff. I keep close tabs on all of this because I am a second-generation Denverite and my son is third-generation. My daughter was born in Cheyenne but recently made her way to L.A. and Chicago and Salt Lake City and Denver before gravitating back here.

Blue staters are not going to pick up and move to Cheyenne or Casper just to bring some balance to the equation. Red staters will remain in their small towns, come hell or high water (or hurricanes). The gulf between us gets bigger and we all suffer for it.

Where will it end?


Liz Roadifer said...

New York times and Cheyenne, Wyoming. Nice to see the connection.

Michael Shay said...

I'm always on the lookout for mentions of Cheyenne and Wyoming on the national scene. As you know, we are a mystery to most Americans. We're a mystery to us!