Rod Miller: Uinta County and Federalist #10

Columnist Rod Miller writes: "We have so bought into the Republican / Democrat dichotomy that folks drinking coffee in Farson or Alladin read about the Uinta County kerfluffle, convinced that the outcome has importance to them."

Rod Miller

April 27, 20214 min read

Rod Miller
Rod Miller (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A political shoving match within the Uinta County GOP over an internal election was recently referred to the Wyoming Secretary of State and the Attorney General for resolution. I’ll repeat that: a private political organization that can’t decide how it should function has appealed to the sovereign State of Wyoming for help sorting itself out.

James Madison, writing as Publius, warned us about this sort of nonsense at the frayed edge of popular government in the Federalist #10, except he didn’t call the culprits Republicans or Democrats, he called them “factions”. Madison cautioned that, unless our republic protected itself through its very structure, factions would act as a metastacizing cancer within.

He described: “By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Today, these factions are our organized political parties.

Madison realized that his countrymen are complex human beings, capable of great subtlety of thought and divergent opinions. To reduce their political activity to nothing more than blind adherence to the maxims of one party or another would be to reduce them as citizens. This was his stern warning against factionalism in Federalist #10.

He would be heartbroken, I’m sure, if he could observe the political climate today in both Wyoming and the nation, and realize that love of party has supplanted love of country or state. And what a sad commentary that is upon us all, Wyomingites and Americans.

Here we find ourselves in 2021, in Wyoming (describing ourselves as the most inde-goddam-pendent state in the Union), so ensnared in partisan dogma that we define ourselves first as Repuplican, Democrat or member of another party.

We have forsaken that independence of thought so treasured by Publius, and we have replaced it with blind obedience to a couple dozen or so planks in a party platform.

And we have established a body of law that protects and coddles these factions. Partisanship is so integral to our public life today that Uinta County felt justified in bringing their private, intramural food fight to the attention of Wyoming’s public officials with a plea for help.

We have so bought into the Republican/Democrat dichotomy that folks drinking coffee in Farson or Alladin read about the Uinta County kerfluffle, convinced that the outcome has importance to them.

Were it not for the profile and political power that Wyoming has given to these factions, their private squabbles would mean about as much as the Elks Club in Worland arguing over what to have for supper.

To their credit, the Secretary of State and Attorney General both passed on reviewing the Uinta County case, tossing it back to the county for resolution. But I don’t think that’s going far enough.

The State of Wyoming should extricate itself from the clutches of political parties, and repeal any statute that governs partisanship.

All that we require of them, if they are so inclined, is to present candidates on public ballots in public general elections.

We, the State, should not dictate how primary elections are conducted, nor how internal party discipline is administered.

While we may have convinced ourselves otherwise over the years, we really don’t have any dogs in those fights. The parties are big boys and girls, eating at the adults’ table and they should act accordingly.

If Wyoming can liberate itself from the clutches of organized political parties, then it can direct its attention to the really important work. But if we continue to let the tail wag the dog, we doom ourselves to a future where nothing gets done except the business of the party.

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Rod Miller

Political Columnist