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Opinion | Republicans in Wyoming See Clearly What’s Happening


Conservative intellectuals should take this sort of Republican plea seriously, but they haven’t. In recent years, many of them have been seduced by national conservatism, a movement that claims to be working to preserve America’s best traditions. Organizers of an annual National Conservatism conference, for example, call for the “revival of the unique national traditions that alone have the power to bind a people together and bring about their flourishing.” But the national conservatives forget that one of our nation’s proudest and longest political traditions is its history of decentralized parties and governance. Those institutions and practices bound Americans together in a world below our more divisive national politics. They allowed everyday Americans to define their values and interests at the community level, where genuine populist power and democracy were often strongest.

Already, you can see how a fully nationalized politics might backfire on Republicans. It creates a false sense of what the state governments can actually achieve. Even if there is a border crisis, for example, the State of Wyoming can’t do much about it. As Landon Brown, an establishment Republican in the State Legislature told us, “We have spent more time debating a nonissue than fixing our state budget issue.” And as Cathy Connolly, a former House minority leader, noted, “There is no solution to a nonproblem.” Whipping up people’s passions may be galvanizing for now, but at some point, people will realize that their government hasn’t done anything to improve their day-to-day lives.

Republican establishments in other states have been quietly resisting the nationalization of their party. In some — including Texas, Ohio and Alaska — old guard conservatives have even joined their fellow Democrats on certain issues, much as they have in Wyoming. And in Florida, there is still a divide between the MAGA crowd and the “Tallahassee” people, despite Ron DeSantis’s popularity there.

But the Wyoming case is itself important for a simple reason: It’s the most pro-Trump state in the union. Despite that obstacle, the old guard is having some success defending its own way of doing politics. It has defeated many bills that reflect national obsessions and fought to preserve some semblance of the old decorum. In fact, just last year it stripped its Trumpiest state senator of his committee assignments for a pattern of intimidating, intemperate speech. Of course, on their own, such rear-guard tactics won’t be enough to save the Wyoming way. Champions of the old way must also do the hard work of aggressively recruiting local candidates and precinct committee chairs.

Fortunately, such efforts are already paying off in Wyoming. In 2023, thanks to strong candidate recruitment, the establishment reclaimed county party organizations in four of the state’s solid-red counties. And while the establishment fared less well in legislative races, it prevailed against some of the most ultra-MAGA candidates and won enough critical races to maintain control of the State Legislature.



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