Dave Simpson: Have The Republicans 'Gone Off The Rails'?

Columnist Dave Simpson writes, "Nah. The labels have changed, but the debate in the Wyoming Legislature isn't that much different from what we saw decades ago."

Dave Simpson

March 25, 20244 min read

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“The Republican Party in Wyoming is off the rails,” a friend who once reported on the Legislature said last week.

“There aren't enough Democrats to fight with anymore,” he said, “so they're eating each other.”

Heartwarming as it was to hear a Democrat expressing deep concern for the Republican Party, I begged to differ:

“The Legislature isn't that much different from when we were covering it,” I replied. “A lot of the moderate lawmakers who were Democrats in the '80s now get elected as moderate Republicans. They are the Wyoming Caucus people, while the Freedom Caucus people are what we used to call conservative Republicans.

“It just gets fought out by people who all call themselves Republicans.”

Too simplistic?

Then 'splain to me this, Lucy, how the governor's $9.9 billion budget evolved into a $10.8 billion budget, which the House cut to $10.75 billion, but the Freedom Caucus wanted to reduce by $700 million, but the Wyoming Caucus put $300 million back in, even though the Senate wanted to cut $800 million, but the House wouldn't cut anything, and when the smoke cleared, the final budget was – Shazam! - $11.1 billion.

And they're almost all Republicans!

What's different today is you have Republicans who want to spend less, and Republicans who are OK with spending more. There's nothing new about that tug of war. The labels have just changed. And we'll see who prevails in the November election - the spend-more or the spend-less Republicans.

(Could be worse. We could all be Democrats.)

Me? I like Republicans who want to spend less. (Don't hate me.)

If you think there's more turmoil today, I recall the House once spending much of an afternoon debating a water cooler in the Secretary of State's office. The governor's plane was once a hot topic. And I was there the last year they unplugged the clock at midnight to extend the session beyond the 40-day limit. The next morning, Gov. Ed Herschler vetoed every bill passed after midnight. Highway Patrol officers intercepted lawmakers heading home, sending them back to Cheyenne for a special session to pass the vetoed bills.

I think the fight among Republicans is like the mess when the painters come to your house. It's chaos for a while, but it will be better in the end.


About Those Natives

MEANWHILE, I received feedback to last week's column about who is, and who isn't, a true Wyoming Native.

A reader said he lived in Laramie for 10 years, working as a cowboy, a sawmill worker, and a student, when he asked an old timer “how long you had to live in Laramie before you were considered a local?

“He said, 'I don't know. I've only lived here 35 years.'”

My fellow Cowboy State Daily columnist Sally Ann Shurmur posted this on Facebook:

“Born in Detroit, got here six years later, but would never pretend to be 'from' here.”

(So you can't even claim native status if your dad was coach of the Wyoming Cowboys.)

A recovering Nebraskan (been there, done that) wrote that after moving to Cody, he was in a cafe with his three-year-old child when an old timer stopped to talk. When he told the guy he just moved to Cody from Nebraska, the old timer “snarled, 'Damn easterner,' and walked away.”

And I heard from the daughter of my friend of 55 years who grew up in Casper but was born in South Dakota. While her dad was born in a South Dakota hospital, she explained, his parents lived in Wyoming at the time. Wouldn't that make him a Wyoming native?

We'd have to submit that question to the Official Wyoming Native Rules Committee, but my guess is no.

Close, but no cigar.

Seems to me that when sizing up a person's love for Wyoming, the operative question shouldn't be where dear old Mom was when the blessed event took place. No, the essential question should be this:

Where do you want to be buried?

(For a long time I wanted my ashes put in the Medicine Bow River, by my cabin. But then I realized part of me might end up in – the HORROR – my native Illinois.)

(Scratch that plan.)

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Dave Simpson

Political, Wyoming Life Columnist

Dave has written a weekly column about a wide variety of topics for 39 years, winning top columnist awards in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska.