Advertisements

Wyoming, the reddest and most rural state of all, was once a bastion of equality and freedom

We talk a lot about the division between the rural and urban parts of states — heck, it’s in our name. But there is one state where no such divide exists: Wyoming. Of course, the reason there is no rural urban divide in The Equality State is because there simply aren’t any large urban areas. The least populated state — and second least densely populated after only Alaska, which at least has a couple of large cities — the largest city in Wyoming is the capital, Cheyenne, with fewer than 60,000 people, which would make it a moderately sized town at best in most other states. Heck, it isn’t really even a flyover state, as most air traffic through the region goes through Denver International Airport 100 miles south of the state’s boundaries.

The landscape is dotted mostly by ranches and farms, though there are a significant number of energy producing plants such as oil drilling operations and wind and solar farms. There is also a lot of wilderness and parkland — it is home to the nation’s crown jewel of Yellowstone national Park as well as the most impressive landmark to be named after a woman’s breasts, the Grand Tetons.

512px-Oxbow_Bend_outlook_in_the_Grand_Teton_National_Park
Show us your Tetons!

Its sparse population makes Wyoming uniquely important in the electoral college, though you might not think so at a glance. It carries the bare minimum of 3 electoral college votes, but due to the peculiarities of the system, a vote for president in Wyoming carries more weight per voter than any other.

Not that any of that matters much, as Wyoming has long been a Republican stronghold. In fact, President Trump’s victory here was stronger than in any other state, having won by a whopping 46 points. A cursory glance at the demographics would make that seem obvious to most observers, but a look at the history of the state might raise a few eyebrows for some.

Wyoming was, after all, the first state with an elected female governor, as well as the first to allow women to vote and participate in the process. Nellie Ross, a Democrat, took office after a special election following her husband’s death in 1925. For the most part, she carried on her husband’s policies with little controversy, though she did lose reelection thanks in large part to her support for prohibition.

Nellie_Tayloe_Ross
Nellie Tayloe Ross, the nation’s first elected female governor

This history of supporting women’s rights earned the state its nickname, “The Equality State.” So how then did they go from that to supporting Donald Trump more than any other, a man whose entire campaign was built upon sexism and the support of white nationalists and other racist groups? Simple: It wasn’t a race thing here.

Wyoming, by and large, is a working-class state. Largely white, largely poor or lower middle class, and generally made up of people who have either earned or inherited everything they own by the sweat of their own or their forefathers’ brow, telling them that they posses any type of special privilege due to their race will be met with laughter at best, angry backlash at worst.

It’s the same problem that has plagued progressives and liberals heavily over the past few years nationwide, even worldwide. When you tell working class people of any race, gender, or religion that they have not fully earned what they have will result in losing their vote. Forget whether or not you believe the argument has merit, attacking an entire identity group for something they have no control over, like race, is never going to win you more friends than enemies.

The other seeming contradiction in their support of Donald Trump is the strong libertarian streak which runs through the state. For the most part, people here are live and let live types: They don’t give a damn what you do so long as you don’t mess with anybody else. But like many other rural areas, religion is fairly important here: Bolstered in the west by heavy mormon pockets along the Utah and Idaho borders. This makes for a moderately pro-life state, though much less so than other heavily religious areas.

Oh, and that opposition to prohibition way back in the 1920s? That apparently doesn’t extend beyond good old-fashioned booze, as they have been enforcing marijuana prohibition ever since neighboring Colorado legalized the stuff. Weirdly, most people in the state don’t care if anybody smokes it at home, but they sure know they don’t want it to be legal.

512px-CheyenneWY_downtown
Downtown Cheyenne, the largest city in Wyoming

But perhaps the most telling reason they voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton or a third-party candidate is the question of national security. Fear of foreign attacks, though unlikely to ever take place here, has driven a rabid support for increased military action overseas. Additionally, they fear illegal immigration from an economic standpoint as well as a crime one, even though the crime problem from the southern border would mostly be solved by killing off the failed prohibition of marijuana and many other softer drugs.

In any case, Wyoming is probably the lowest risk state of turning blue any time soon. They have voted Republican in all but eight elections, and the last time they did so was in 1964 during Lyndon Johnson’s landslide victory over Barry Goldwater. If President Trump is willing and able to run for reelection in 2020, these are 3 electoral votes he almost certainly has in his pocket no matter how much further down his popularity slides.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: