Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stephen Stills understands Wyoming politics

“There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear…” Who’d have thought Stephen Stills’ words could describe Wyoming politics?  “We better stop, hey, what's that sound. Everybody look what's going down.”

That rumbling sound your stomach makes when you’re hungry, you know…that growl? That’s the sound we are beginning to hear. “There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear…”

The rumbling started with the cawing of the CROWS (Conservative Republicans of Wyoming) and turned into a growl with the formation of a new political party called the Country Party. They’ve been quietly gathering signatures. They needed only 7500 to become a ballot qualified political party. They got them.

CROW believes they can purge the Republican Party from within. The Country Party has given up on the GOP. From their perspective, it’s become hopelessly infected with leftists. And they know who you are. They are targeting Senators Tony Ross and Wayne Johnson as well as Representatives Dan and Dave Zwonitzer and Bob Nicholas. “Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.” Those five Republicans have a combined total of 50 years in the state legislature. All of a sudden, their own party says they have to go?

As Stills wrote, “There's battle lines being drawn.” Actually, there is something happening here, and what it is…is perfectly clear. They are tired of Wyoming being a one-party state. If the Democrats aren’t going to challenge the Republicans, the Country Party will. The Democrats failed to recruit candidates to run against Ross, Jonson or either of the Zwonitzers. But all four will have trouble on their right this fall.

“Paranoia strikes deep. Into your life it will creep. It starts when you're always afraid.” The CROWs and the Country Party fear politicians who try to do what they believe is right. They don’t like representative democracy. They like doctrinal democracy. No compromises, take no prisoners, no hold barred. It’s their way or the highway.

But there’s something else happening here and what it is ain’t exactly clear. There are two candidates out in the streets collecting voters’ signatures to get on the fall ballot as independents. Charlie Hardy of Cheyenne is running for the U.S. House of Representatives. Dr. Phil Roberts of Laramie is running for the U.S. Senate. Each will make effective challengers for the incumbents Rep. Cynthia Lummis and Sen. John Barrasso.

What’s especially interesting is that two well-qualified people have chosen to skirt the normal political parties and run as independents. “Everybody look what's going down. Stop, now, what's that sound. Everybody look what's going down.” That is a far healthier development for Wyoming politics than the circular firing squad being formed by the state’s right-wingers.

What’s happening among Republicans is a symptom of what has gone wrong in American politics. We have no difficulty recognizing it when we see it in Washington. We need to be as honest when we see it here. CROW and the Country Party believe the state would best be served by purging the Republican Party of thoughtful, moderate members. “There’s battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” These are doctrinaire voters and candidates who eschew compromise and seek purity. If you like what’s happening in Congress, you’ll love it when the “all-or-nothing-crowd takes over at the state capitol building.

The emergence of strong independent candidates is something altogether different, far more interesting and healthier for the system.  This fall, Wyoming voters won’t be able to say they didn’t have a choice between partisan-purity and independent thinkers.

“Everybody look what's going down
Stop, now, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down”

“For what it’s worth” politicians love to quote Jefferson. “That government is best which governs the least.” They conveniently leave off the rest of his sentence. Jefferson actually said, “That government is best which governs the least because its people discipline themselves.” To say it another way, “Unless the people discipline themselves, government can govern neither least nor best.”

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