Saturday, November 7, 2015

1960-Wyoming Made History

The Presidential campaign is rather meaningless to Wyoming. It doesn’t matter whether the Republican nominee is Donald Trump, Bobby Jindal, or Deez Nuts, Wyoming’s three electoral votes will be in that column come November. Getting worked up about it is fruitless whether you’re a Wyoming Democrat or a Wyoming Republican.

So then, why is our lone Congressman endorsing a candidate who has no chance to win her Party’s nomination? Lummis is quoted on Senator Rand Paul’s website saying it’s because “Rand Paul will do what he says.”

He says he’ll limit the number of terms Lummis and other members of Congress can serve. Wyoming’s voters won’t even do that. Paul says he’ll repeal the tax code and replace it with a 14.5% flat tax, privatization of Medicare, and a 70-year-old retirement age. Great news for Lummis. She lives in the rarified air of the wealthy. Not near so good for most of Lummis’s working family and elderly constituents as Lummis’s tax burden is shifted to them even as the federal budget deficit is increased by hundreds of billions of dollars.

Aside from that, Deez Nuts and Jeb Bush have better shots at the nomination than Senator Paul. Wyoming voters might ask, what’s in it for us to have our sole Congressman endorse him? Lummis says, “He believes in the right of states like Wyoming to manage their resources without Washington obstruction.” Which GOP candidate doesn’t? What would the Republicans talk about if a President stopped trying to “manage” the resources of a state whose lands are more than 50% owned by the feds.   

Maybe that endorsement does as much for Wyoming as Lummis’s membership in the House Freedom Caucus. Has that done anything for you lately?

Most Wyoming politicians shy away from endorsing Presidential candidates. It’s not often helpful to them or Wyoming. Although Bill Clinton came with a 5% margin of defeating George H.W. Bush in Wyoming, some might argue that endorsing Clinton in 1992 cost Governor Mike Sullivan and Secretary of State Kathy Karpan their bids for higher office two years later, Sullivan for the U.S. Senate and Karpan for the Governorship.

The real problem is that we have as close to no leverage as a state can get. There are 2,470 delegates to the GOP national convention. Wyoming has 29, slightly less than 1.2% of the total.

If that paucity of delegates ever means anything, it might be toward the end when only a few candidates remain and a handful of Wyoming delegate votes might make the difference. That happened once. It was 1960. It was the contest for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President. The convention was held in Los Angeles. The candidates were many. Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, George Smathers, Stuart Symington, Adlai Stevenson, Robert Meyner, and Ross Barnett.

The roll was called in alphabetical order. Wyoming was last. In those days, national conventions were not orchestrated around preordained candidates. As the roll was called, no one could predict the winner. Wyoming had a miniscule 15 votes, slightly fewer than 1% of the total. By the time the clerk got around to asking for Wyoming’s vote, John Kennedy was 11 votes short of the nomination. Seven of Wyoming’s delegates were already committed to Kennedy. He needed just four more to become the nominee.
 If Kennedy didn’t win on that first ballot, LBJ was certain he could win on the second. JFK’s youngest brother Teddy stood among the Wyoming delegation urging them on. Until that very moment Wyoming Senator Gale McGee had refrained from endorsing a candidate despite the full-court press each had put on him.
 McGee was a historian with an appreciation of the significance of the moment. He understood the importance of the opportunity for Wyoming. There he was. Standing on a chair, holding four fingers high in the air was Senator McGee.
 John Kennedy got those four votes and with them, the nomination. The President and his family remained grateful to Wyoming for the rest of their lives.

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