Rod Miller: Drugstore Conservatives in Wyoming’s Freedom Caucus

Columnist Rod Miller writes: "The Freedom Caucus wraps themselves in scripture and preach about a battle with Satan, and how Wyoming must be saved from atheist, baby-eatin communists. They confuse the halls of our legislature with the pulpit of their church."

Rod Miller

February 24, 20234 min read

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Y’all are familiar, I’m sure, with the term “drugstore cowboy”. It is a clever pejorative for a wannabe, a town dude who dresses up in cowboy regalia, theatrically feigning the real deal, knowing the power of that image and wanting to capitalize on it.

In short, “drugstore” means fake.

The Wyoming Freedom Caucus is a collection of drugstore conservatives. Instead of behaving as bona fide conservatives like Barry Goldwater (and we’ll remove our Stetsons when that name is mentioned in my presence), the Freedom Caucus prances around in conservative costume, spouts the right words and catch-phrases, and styles themselves as “conservative” to capitalize on the power of that term.

But it’s all for show.

I would venture to say that these Republican wannabes today would call Goldwater a RINO. The irony doesn’t get more ironic than that.

Goldwater, the godfather of modern conservative thought, wrote it all down in “The Conscience of a Conservative” in 1960. Since then, Goldwater’s credo and canon have been reinforced by such conservative titans as Bill Buckley and George Will, laying the foundation of real conservatism.

Wyoming’s Freedom Caucus poseurs would do themselves a favor by paying more attention to what Goldwater said than to Trump’s “Art of the Deal” or Oral Eathorne’s “Little Black Book”. Until then, they will remain drugstore conservatives.

When Barry Goldwater said “limited government,” he meant just that. He understood that government’s role in American life is minimal, confined to the bare necessities of a republic. When he said “individual liberty and responsibility,” he wasn’t just blowing smoke. Goldwater placed more faith in the individual citizen than he did government.

These precepts formed the foundation of the modern conservative movement that emerged in post-WWII America as a counter-balance to the subtle collectivism of the New Deal.

Drugstore conservatives in the Wyoming Freedom Caucus turn this notion on its head. They co-opt conservatism and bend it to their own theocratic needs. Their mouths speak of limited government while their hands craft legislation that increases government’s intrusion into the private lives of citizens.

On the campaign trail, they say that they’ll get government out of our lives. In the capitol, they write legislation to allow government to tell citizens what they can read, what can be taught in schools, how their bodies can be treated medically, whom they can love and marry, how and when they can vote, how we are to think and speak and many other intrusions of government into the private lives of citizens.

They justify this hypocrisy by invoking God. They wrap themselves in scripture and preach about a battle with Satan, and how Wyoming must be saved from atheist, baby-eatin’ communists. They confuse the halls of our legislature with the pulpit of their church.

They risk being called drugstore Christians too, but that’s a topic for another column.

Another cornerstone of Goldwater’s conservatism is the strict separation of church and state, and I quote, “One of the great strengths of our political system always has been our tendency to keep religious issues in the background. By maintaining the separation of church and state, the United States has avoided the intolerance which has so divided the rest of the world with religious wars. “

This mixing of religion and politics is about as un-conservative as it can get, and is only practiced in drugstores. Folks need to see it for what is – a theater of opportunism.

Wyoming is a conservative state, and real conservatives shouldn’t put up with this nonsense. I suppose I could put a little thought into a clever nickname for these Freedom Caucus wannabes. CINO (Conservative In Name Only) might work, but it doesn’t roll off the tongue like WINO (Wyoming In Name Only).

But why bother? “ Drugstore Conservative” says all that needs to be said.

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Rod Miller

Political Columnist