The Republican Party has nominated a racist for President of the United States during the month marking the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the most important achievements in this nation’s history. Voting against it cost Barry Goldwater the presidency. He even lost Wyoming.
Fifty-two years ago, by a 57-43 margin, Wyoming’s electoral votes went to a Democrat for the last time.
One reason was Senator Goldwater’s vote against the Civil Rights Act. Racism was out of vogue in 1964. Ninety-four percent of blacks voted Democratic. Mr. Goldwater wasn’t a racist but he aligned himself with those who were. Previously the “Party of Lincoln,” enjoyed the support of African-Americans the “Goldwater effect” ended that forever.
In 2016 Wyoming Republicans have a worse problem. Donald Trump dissed POWs (“I like people who don’t get caught”), ridiculed a disabled reporter, smeared all Muslims, disdains women, and believes U.S. soldiers should kill the families of suspected terrorists. He tweeted an anti-Semitic attack about Hillary Clinton.
He said a judge with Mexican heritage was inherently unable to render fair decisions and slanderously claimed Black Lives Matter members called for a “moment of silence” for the anarchist who killed Dallas policemen.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is worried. Mr. Trump’s campaign may have what Mr. McConnell called the “Goldwater effect” on the Hispanic vote. Senator McConnell believes his party could, in 2016, leave the same bad taste in the mouths of Hispanics that Senator Goldwater left with blacks in 1964.
That doesn’t trouble Republicans like Matt Mead, John Barrasso, or Mike Enzi. They endorsed Mr. Trump. So did David Duke, one-time KKK Grand Wizard. Mr. Trump may be a racist but, for them, at least “he’s not Hillary.”
In what libertarian James Bovard calls an “attention-deficit democracy,” the epithet “racist” used to be a deal breaker for American voters. It may still be for some Red states like Arizona. What about the Equality State? Is being a racist so wrong that it disqualifies one from winning the votes of good Wyoming people?
Wyoming’s “Code of the West,” adopted formally as the law of the land by nothing-better-to-do legislators in 2010, isn’t clear on the subject. Nonetheless Cowboy ethics don’t condone racism and a few of the Codes’ 10 provisions apply. “Live each day with courage,” “Ride for the brand,” and “Know where to draw the line.”
Governor Mead and Wyoming’s congressional delegation know exactly what Mr. Trump is about. Still they’ve made their choice. Wyoming’s highest elected officials decided that they couldn’t do both. They can’t live each day with courage and, at the same time, “ride for the brand.”
Like Pontius Pilate, they washed their hands of the inconvenient truth. Why would they live even one day with courage? After all there are more tea partiers in Wyoming than all Hispanics and blacks combined? They are Republicans first and, though stained by bigotry, Mr. Trump is a member of their tribe. They don’t share Mitt Romney’s fear of “trickle-down racism.”
Unlike them, Wyoming’s voters know where the line is. It’s black and white, not black versus white. The question is whether they will “draw” the line. Wondering whether to vote for a racist because “at least he’s not Hillary,” is like asking Mrs. Lincoln, “Other than that, how was the play?” What really matters?
In the beginning it could be reasoned that not all Trump supporters are bigots but it becomes harder to understand why a non-bigot would support him. Jennifer Lim, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce employee founded “Republican Women for Hillary.” Much of her life she volunteered for Republican causes and campaigns. Not this time. “We're trying to convince people,” Lim said, “that your vote has a political and moral purpose." Indeed.
In 1964, Wyoming Republicans voted against a candidate because he was an opponent of the Civil Rights Act. In 2016, the Republican Party’s nominee is actually an avowed racist. Will Wyoming Republicans ride for the brand or will they draw the line?