The prevailing political “machine” in Wyoming, though “Republican” in title, has once again proven itself to represent something far different from its facade of conservatism. In so doing, it fully revealed stronger ideological similarities to the abhorrent monstrosity of government in Washington than the defining principles of the American Heartland.
While most of the U.S. continues to languish in the four straight years of Obama’s economic quagmire, and small businesses across America brace for the next debilitating phase of Obamacare to hit, the state of Wyoming has remained comparatively unscathed by the fiscal woes of the nation. The pace of Wyoming’s economy is slower than it was prior to 2009, but the job situation is certainly not as depressed as elsewhere in the country. The downside of the Cowboy State’s historical resistance to prevailing societal upheavals is that this has often given its citizenry the false sense of security that it might be completely immune to the maladies of modern America. This in turn creates a dangerous vulnerability to subtle encroachments.
Frequently touted as “the most Republican state in the nation,” it might be assumed that conservatism would be uncontested as the prevailing political force. Yet that is hardly the case. In truth, the enduring and near monopolistic dominance of the Republican Party in Wyoming politics has resulted in the inevitable pitfalls of one-party rule. Far from remaining conservative or advancing and agenda based on the concerns of the people, the Wyoming GOP long ago degenerated into a totally self-serving elitist “club,” growing increasingly corrupt and out of touch with its base. Beginning in 2010, and escalating during this past legislative session, these dynamics are now reaching critical mass.
In particular, the state education bureaucracy has over time been maliciously redirected from its original purpose, which was ostensibly the instruction of children, and has mutated into a big-money pipeline by which state funds are shuffled from one special interest to another. Consequently, exorbitant and unnecessary expenditures within the highest levels of the state government have gone largely unnoticed by the average citizen who is rightly concerned that the proper academic training of the next generation ensue, and therefore is willing to accept associated costs. The scheme has continued on this basis for years, and many entrenched politicians fully expected it to continue operating on that basis for the foreseeable future.
To the dismay of these people, a competent and courageous individual did enter the political fray, for the specific purpose of addressing the misconduct in the Wyoming education system, and implementing workable fixes wherever possible. Cindy Hill, the current Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction, ran for that office in 2010 with the sole intention of returning it to its proper function, and thereby refocusing state energies and resources on the proper recipients, the children. Yet from the start, she encountered scathing opposition from the highest levels of state government, including “Republican” Governor Matt Mead.
Despite the opposition she persisted, implementing bold reforms and cutting costs in the process, while garnering significant improvements in standardized test scores. Having been elected by an enormous margin, her popularity with the people on Main Street has continued from the beginning of her tenure, and one might presume that she would easily sail through to a second term. Unfortunately, the prevailing political “machine” in Wyoming, though “Republican” in title, has once again proven itself to represent something far different from its facade of conservatism. In so doing, it fully revealed stronger ideological similarities to the abhorrent monstrosity of government in Washington than the defining principles of the American Heartland.
During the recently adjourned Wyoming legislative session, the outrageous statute “Senate File 104” was rammed through the process, to be immediately signed by Governor Mead. Simply stated, SF 104 completely guts the office of Superintendant of Public Instruction, and transfers those responsibilities to an appointee of the Governor. The occupant of that position, previously chosen at the ballot box, has now been supplanted by just another one of the Governor’s favored minions. In a manner completely analogous to Barack Obama’s installation of unvetted and unaccountable “Czars,” Mead and his collaborators in the Legislature engaged in a brazen power grab, by which they restored their control of the state’s 1.9 billion dollar “education” budget.
Concerned citizens can expect to see their children’s academic wellbeing relegated to inconsequential status, while untold sums of tax money disappear once more down unspecified rat holes. This has been “business as usual” for many years, and its devotees and beneficiaries see no reason for things to change.
However, the good people of Wyoming, who are indeed conservative at the grassroots level, are making it abundantly clear that they have no intention of accepting this situation. Having stridently voiced their disapproval during the brief period that SF 104 was whisked through the legislative process, they are now in the process of collecting signatures for an unprecedented referendum to annul the detestable statute. And throughout the state, citizens are gathering to discuss how, in the 2014 election cycle, they can properly hold accountable those responsible for it.
Meanwhile, though Cindy Hill has been relieved of virtually all of her authority and responsibilities as education Superintendant, she is not passively accepting her fate. A lawsuit was filed to overturn SF 104 on the grounds that it is indeed unconstitutional, and she has announced her intentions of challenging Matt Mead for the governorship of Wyoming in 2014. If she succeeds in unseating him, she will be in a prime position to apply the manner of changes throughout the state that streamlined operations within the education bureaucracy so noticeably, despite the caterwauling from its entrenched occupants.
That political maneuverings have degenerated to this level in state governments is reflective of the overall breakdown of the American system, from the White House down. The fact that in Wyoming such things have ensued wholly within the GOP is evidence of where the defining battle needs to be fought and won, if conservatism is to prevail.
Establishment Republicans, shocked by the intensity of public outrage over their chicanery, have gone into a fully defensive posture, desperately attempting to give SF 104 credibility by deeming it both “constitutional” and necessary. Though they continue to make vague claims of misconduct on the part of Superintendent Hill, they have completely failed in every past attempt to officially discredit her, or the stunning successes she has achieved. Now, with the general public thoroughly angered over this flagrant usurpation of power, Mead and his cohorts are again looking to dig up any manner of “dirt” they can on Hill. In what is clearly an act of defensiveness and desperation, yet another cabal of Mead’s choosing has been empaneled to investigate her office.
It might seem surprising to those who have not lived in Wyoming, and whose primary impression of it is a land of majestic beauty and unspoiled wilderness, that this state may indeed become “ground zero” for the ultimate clash between the underhanded and self-serving tactics of the “Ruling Class” and legitimate governance, as desired by “We the People.” Yet that is exactly how the current situation is unfolding. And if Hill does prevail, her triumph could set the stage for a political sea change throughout the nation. It is therefore small wonder that her opponents are so strident and venomous in their efforts to avert such a scenario.
Christopher G. Adamo is a resident of southeastern Wyoming and has been involved in state and local politics for many years. He writes for several prominent conservative websites, as has written for regional and national magazines. His contact information and article archives can be found at www.chrisadamo.com, and he can be followed on Twitter @CGAdamo.