Wyoming conservatives are embracing identitarianism. They are Becoming Who They Are. They are embracing White identity politics. It is just that … their identity ISN’T Nietzscheanism or Apollonianism.
“Wyoming politics began to change beneath their feet, slowly at first, as the Tea Party rose to power, and then rapidly during the Trump years, as a new guard waged war with the establishment, making politics less about ordinary governance than about identity.
We’ve spent the last year traveling Wyoming, from Cheyenne in the south to Sheridan in the north, from Evanston in the west to Wheatland in the east, talking to local political activists and leaders. This obsession with identity left a mark everywhere, but nowhere more obviously than at the recent Republican state conventions. Just a decade ago, few delegates would have attended party meetings with guns strapped to their hips. Now many do. That wasn’t enough for one delegate at the last convention: He reportedly strutted about with a gun fully cocked. In another departure from old norms, many delegates have taken to wearing their cowboy hats inside the convention center. “That’s not a Wyoming thing,” noted JoAnn True, a patron of the old party. This is mostly because there is no need to wear a cowboy hat indoors — unless your goal is to sport a costume that signals a conservative social identity.
Virtue signaling is also on the rise. One convention delegate argued that Wyoming schoolchildren should not be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance, since the word “indivisible” suggests that states can’t secede from the union. Another Republican Party figure was criticized for allegedly failing to adopt an appropriately respectful posture during the pledge.
Acting the part of a true Wyoming conservative is a delicate art. It’s not only about signaling that you belong to a rugged, rural working class, but also about highlighting your conservative bona fides, which often means exiling anyone who doesn’t toe the line. Now a conservative cancel culture as unforgiving as its progressive rival is sweeping over the Wyoming G.O.P. …
Plenty of the new insurgents are themselves comfortable members of the professional class pretending to be “one of the people.” Some, like Ms. Hageman, simply seem opportunistic, while others sincerely share cultural affinities with Wyoming’s working class. But to its credit, the new identity politics has also done something rare in this gilded age of American politics: It has elevated genuinely working-class citizens into positions of power. For example, Tom James, elected to the State Senate in 2018, grew up in a foster home and campaigned for office as he delivered pizzas. Meanwhile, Frank Eathorne, the current chairman of the state party, previously worked as a Terminix pest exterminator. As Tim Stubson of the old establishment acknowledged, “It’s a much more blue-collar party.”
These candidates are starting to reshape the G.O.P. beyond Wyoming as well. Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado earned a G.E.D., having left high school after she got pregnant. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, a truck driver won a State Senate seat on a shoestring budget. And in Arizona, Rusty Bowers — who resisted pressure from Donald Trump to overturn his state’s election results — was just badly defeated by David Farnsworth, a small businessman and former crane operator with an A.A. degree …”