Guest column by Matt Micheli
(Former Chairman, Wyoming Republican Party)
Over the last several years, Wyoming has experienced a new political phenomenon. Some of this mirrors what we have seen nationwide, but with a unique Wyoming twist.
Living within our own social media bubbles and having only our worst inclinations and preconceived ideas reinforced and never challenged has led to the well-documented division and isolation of political thought.
This unique set of circumstances has helped give rise to what, on the conservative side of the political spectrum, has been called the “alternative right” or the “alt-right.”
Much of the division happening right now in Wyoming politics and within the Republican Party can be attributed to the rise of this “alt-right.”
The Oxford Dictionary defines the “alt-right” as “a right-wing ideological movement characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by use of online media to disseminate provocative content, often expressing opposition to racial, religious, or gender equality.”
The division in Wyoming, then, is between this new wave of “alt-right” voices and traditional Reagan Conservatives.
Many of the characteristics of the alt-right are described above — rejection of the normal political discourse and philosophies, dissemination of provocative content that is usually based on misleading information, and relying on fear to motivate voters.
However, the single best way to identify the “alt-right” in Wyoming is that its members never have any actual solutions.
The “alt-right” is not interested in the real problems facing our state. It is much easier to make a meme or distribute misleading content online based on oversimplified generalizations or flat-out lies than it is to actually try to make Wyoming a better state.
It is much easier to manipulate voters with fear, lies and half-truths than it is to honestly look at the problems we are facing and try to resolve them.
The alt-right would much rather yell and scream and throw stones than try to figure out a path forward. Its members care far more about controversy and shouting down their opponents than advancing Wyoming’s interests.
If you think about it, the alt-right and the far left actually have a lot more in common than either would ever admit. Both are intent on silencing any opposition and bullying anyone who tries to speak out in opposition of their tactics.
Both love free speech that perfectly aligns with their own beliefs but hate and try to silence speech that they might disagree with. And most importantly, both have the same ultimate goal — accumulating power for themselves.
Let’s be honest, that is really what this is about. The alt-right cares first and foremost about its own power and will go to any means to try to obtain it, just like the far left.
The divide between the alt-right and the traditional conservatives in Wyoming has nothing to do with political philosophy. The dictionary rightly points out that the “alt-right” is defined by its rejection of mainstream politics.
I have yet to meet any person associated with the alt-right who is more conservative than me on any actual issue. The alt-right has no political philosophy at all — other than to drive controversy, fear and division.
In fact, I have yet to hear a single member of the alt-right ever even try to articulate how Wyoming can resolve its fiscal crisis.
Instead of addressing the real and very difficult issues facing Wyoming, the “alt-right” continuously builds strawmen and beats the living daylights out of those strawmen to distract you from the difficult issues its members are too afraid to address.
The “alt-right” is far more interested in creating false issues than addressing the real and complicated problems facing Wyoming.
Which brings me to my final point. All of us can fall into the “alt-right” at different times. All of us are susceptible to be motivated by fear. All of us tend to believe things that fit our preconceived internal narrative.
The only way we overcome the influence of the alt-right is to continually ask ourselves if we are feeding the divide or if we are working toward solutions. Whether we are giving into fear or actively working to improve our state. Whether we are listening to all voices critically to find the best ideas or shouting down anyone who dares think differently than us.
I am not asking anyone to compromise their political philosophies and ideals. That is the opposite of what I am talking about.
Apply those ideals to our real problems and work toward a solution. The alt-right mentality is a growing cancer in our state that is something all well-intended citizens of Wyoming should affirmatively work to extinguish.
Matt Micheli is a Cheyenne attorney and former chair of the Wyoming Republican Party.