When I was a young voter, Wyoming had political parties. And by that, I mean rational political parties. There was a large, rational, Republican Party and a smaller, but actually viable, and rational, Democratic Party. You could be a member of either and not be ashamed of it. Indeed, you could and would have friends in the other party and you weren't embarrassed for them.
They both put people in office too. The Democrats, the minority party, put Governor Ed Herschler, Governor Mike Sullivan and more recently of course, Governor Freudenthal in office. Wyoming also sent Democrat Teno Roncalio in the U.S. House of Representatives. Roncalio, who had served in the Army during World War Two, was a southwestern Wyoming born man of Italian extraction who came from solid blue collar, coal mining roots who had won the Sliver Star during World War Two and who came home to become a lawyer prior to becoming a Congressman.
My, I miss politicians like that.
Roncalio was a solid Italian American Catholic and even if you weren't Democratic in your politics, you'd like him. Ed Herschler was a hard bitten tough lawyer from western Wyoming who'd been a Marine Corps Raider during World War Two. There was nothing light and fluffy about him. Even Gale McGee, who tended to be pretty darned liberal by our definitions, was a solid character who taught at the University of Wyoming before we sent him to the U.S. Senate.
And there were local Republicans and Democrats all in this mold as well. I can recall at least a couple of middle of the road Democrats serving in the Legislature from Natrona County. Now hardly any Democrats are in the Legislature, although there are a few.
The old Democrats all dropped out of activity or they fled their party for the Republicans, where they would have been middle of the road Republicans but we don't hear much about them now. At least two really prominent former Democrats have made runs at higher office in the last ten years as members of the GOP. Something happened, although I'm not really clear what, to the Democratic Party during the Clinton administration that just killed it here. It's darned near dead. And with all the old Democrats departing, the party now can't help but lash itself to the decks of the Democratic Ship Delusional and Nutty ever two years. Even when it has some solid candidates, and it does this year, by the time November comes around it will have officially gone out in public in its tie dyed t-shirt with some bizarre announcement such as "ban the guns!, ban the soft drinks! multi species marriages!" Right about that time some Democrat will have been doing well and they will have done the functional equivalent of shooting him at dawn.
Not that the GOP is all that much to brag about now days either. Something has really happened to it as well.
Indeed, a member of the Legislature I know told me that he'd watched the infusion of money from an outside interest group really alter Wyoming politics, and it really has changed. We always had some Republicans who were Oligarchical Conservatives, but not many. Now the Wyoming GOP has taken a giant lurch towards the Tea Party, including taking positions that are actually downright hostile to the real interest of the average Wyomingite. Twenty years ago there are opinions I hear now routinely expressed that the average Republican here would have regarded as downright nuts, but now they're commonly held to be unquestioned truth. Hostility towards any type of spending, a belief that the Federal government is engaged in a giant conspiracy against Wyoming and the common man, a belief that scientific matters are mere political opinions, a disregard of world economics and an outright hatred of the Federal Government and the current President are all commonly held Wyoming Republican Canon. This year in runs for Congress and for the Legislature we've seen some open discussion of ideas in Republican quarters that have no place in an educated, intelligent, society.
Oh, would that there was a viable third party, and not something like the Uber Conservative White People's Party, the I Know The Secret Constitution Party, The We're Really for Anarchy Party, or the Squirrel Nut Zipper Party. The Republican and the Democrats are broken. If they aren't, they ought to be.
Bringing this squarely in the forefront was the news this past week of two things. One was that Dr. Rex Rammell dropped out of the House race. Good riddance, and I hope he goes all the way back to Idaho where he's from. His slogan was "It's time to take America back", by which I assume that he was sponsoring the concept of a Crow and Shoshone uprising to toss people like him out off the continent. Hmmm. . . . probably not. Anyhow, he was far to the right and was in the race far too long. In getting out he's endorsed somebody named Darin Smith who is far behind in the polls (Rammell was as well) and no matter what the deal is with Smith, the mere fact that Rammell endorsed him should be sufficient reason to question him, and even he seemed a little uncomfortable with the Rammell endorsement.
Having said all of that, perhaps this race isn't as weird as it looks like it is, as really only two candidates Tim Stubson and Liz Cheney, stand a chance. Cheney is far ahead in the polls. Stubson is a sharp guy I sort of know, and a really decent guy, and I'm hoping he wins. He's had the good sense, by the way, to back away from the crazy unpopular land transfer concepts that floated in the Legislature last go around, even though he sponsored one of them. Cheney has the appearance of a slick professional politician, which she probably acquired from her father as she isn't a career politician, and is massively funded. I don't really grasp why we would need to send somebody with as thin of connection as she as to Congress, but then I've had enough of political dynasties and don't feel like Wyoming out to encourage the creation of another one.
The second thing was the spat between "Chuck" Gray and Ray Pacheco, or more pointedly Chucks' silly right wing tantrum. They're both running for Wyoming House District 57 and Gray, who has only lived here four years and who holds the position of political commentator on one of his father's radio stations is blathering about how Ray used to be a Democrat and has been caught by the Tribune, according to the Tribune, misrepresenting Pacheco's history in a mailing. So what if Pacheco used to be a Democrat? Lots of Republicans from the central part of the state were Democrats, and frankly the Republicans could use a few people who aren't out to sell all the public lands, don't believe that the President has a long list of Wyomingites he's personally out to harm, and who doesn't think that the price of coal and oil is personally directed by the White House. In other words, the Democrats who left that party were center right Republicans to start with, in their views, and the center right Republicans in that party are mostly crying about the sad state things have come to, with one of those being the overburdened Governor Mead who occasionally has to defend himself against the Tea Party elements of his own party.
Would that there were viable third options.