Gasp, So Much of It Government-Owned!
We are constantly prone to referring to ‘the national discussion.’ But what really makes up the national discussion? Are we, as Americans, discussing the same issues in relatively the same ways, as the media might have us believe? The national discussion, or how different issues and events will be perceived nationally, receives particularly heightened attention during election season. What will American voters think about Romney’s refusal to disclose his tax returns? How will Americans perceive Obama’s stance on gay marriage?
Frankly, the whole concept of things being perceived ‘nationally’ is wishful thinking. The United States is just that—a collection of states that are all undergoing their own struggles for power, political debates, and election season jockeying. Every state will see national events through its own lens, colored by local issues and local political races, which are how voters most directly interact with the issues. And even if none of that mattered, local politics is where the power and resources are really doled out—it’s local and state governments handing out contracts for patronage, making policies that hurt or soothe unions, or massaging local interest groups and lobbyists.
Given my views on local politics being the real dominant source of wrangling for power, we can only really determine what course the big, old, wooden skiff of national politics will take if we examine state politics. State by state. So I’m diving into a research and writing challenge. I’m going to write fifty posts, each one about a race, either for senate, house, or the governor’s mansion in each state. Consider it a fifty stop tour of this country in order of electoral votes.
I’ll start with Wyoming, with three electoral votes. On August 21, 2012, Wyoming will be holding its Republican primaries—for all intensive purposes, this is the election for heavily-Republican but sparsely populated northwestern state. Republicans make up 63% of Wyoming’s registered voters against just 24% identifying as Democrats.
There’s three candidates—the favorite is incumbent John Barrasso, who has never actually faced the voters in a regular senate election. A former orthopedic surgeon, Barrasso was appointed by former Wyoming governor Dave Freudenthal to serve out the remainder out the remainder of Craig Thomas’ term after Thomas passed away from complications from leukemia.
Dave Freudenthal May Look Unexceptional, But a Jewish Democratic Governor of Wyoming? OK, Fine, He’s Episcopal.
With less than a full term under his belt, Barrasso has proved an able player of the political game—he’s maneuvered his way onto both the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Both committees are key to Wyoming’s economy, as the state is the fifth largest crude oil producing-state, the second largest natural gas-producing state in the country, and, cue the drumroll, the largest producer of coal in the United States.
As a reliable keep-your-taxes-and-regulation-away-from-me conservative with a stake in natural uses and land use, it should come as little surprise that his campaign is bankrolled by oil and gas companies. His campaign has only raised $6.5 million, but that’s no small sum when you remember Wyoming has only half a million people.
And yet oil companies aren’t nearly the largest campaign contributors to Barrasso’s coffers—health care cand pharmaceutical companies have contributed almost twice as much to Barrasso’s campaign as oil and gas companies, reflecting the nearly unlimited sums that the health care and pharmaceutical industries pour into lobbying across the board. I guess it shouldn’t come as a shock that Barrasso voted against the Affordable Care Act (although the man was pro-choice until changing his tune somewhere down the line—sound familiar, Mittens?).
Even with Barrasso providing a fascinating microcosm of special interest politics, one of his opponents in the primaries provides a much more interesting look into the colorful cast of characters that make up the political landscape of the United States. Although the 36-year old real estate agent and Republican challenger Emmett Mavy deserves a special tip of the cap for attempting the real estate business in a state where 48% of the land is owned by the government, my interest is far more piqued by the other challenger.
He goes by the name of Thomas Bleming. While Barrasso worked as an orthopedic surgeon and Mavy toils as a real estate agent, Bleming has put together a long and illustrious career as a mercenary. There’s plenty of folks in the Senate who fought in Vietnam. But how many joined guerilla armies in Burma and Panama? A rabid anticommunist, Bleming fought as a soldier-for-hire against a Rhodesian communist uprising in the 1970s.
What Did You Expect?
Sure, Bleming is a gun nut and a strident defender of the second amendment (and actually has the background to start a well-regulated militia). But the camo-loving conservative is also a fierce enemy of the Patriot Act, an ardent supporter of civil liberties, a firm believer in public education, and a defender of pensions.
And hey, he’s also visited 72 countries and fought in 12 wars. That’s 11 more than lazy war heroes like John McCain.
Oh Thomas Bleming, you’re so charming. Except for the little tidbit about agreeing with Hitler and Goebbels about the destructiveness of the Jew.
Here’s to you, Wyoming, Wyoooo: