At first glance, Wyoming is easily the most conservative state in the nation.
Republicans hold 100 percent of the statewide elected offices and 78 of 90 seats in the state Legislature.
President Donald Trump nearly swept the state’s counties in 2016, and he netted 68 percent of the vote in Wyoming – the highest proportion in the country.
But look closer, and something interesting happens: It becomes clear that conservatism means something different here than it does in other parts of the U.S.
In Wyoming, people are more interested in a “live and let live” approach. In recent interviews with the Star-Tribune and HuffPost, Wyomingites shared their beliefs – but also said they wouldn’t want to see others governed by those beliefs.
In too many other states, that is not the case. Real and damaging cultural battles are being waged over social issues, such as who should be allowed to use which bathroom.
Those serve as distractions from issues of substance, of which Wyoming has no shortage.
People here have identified the true issues, including the state’s strained finances and the balance between development and conservation, and are focused on those.
They’re not interested in trading insults and personal attacks.
They care about the big issues, but they also care about their neighbors and want to connect and build relationships with them despite their differences.
That makes us fortunate – we live in a state of independent thinkers.
Its political ranks are dominated by Republicans, but there are many ways of thinking within the Wyoming GOP. In fact, it may be one of the most diverse groups of Republicans in the country: At least some members might more closely identify as Democrats, but they belong to the GOP because being a member of the dominant party allows them to participate more in the political process.
That’s not to say no social issues have taken hold.
A couple of bills having to do with abortion passed last year, and observers say interest in anti-tax pledges and other candidate questionnaires is increasing.
Fiscal conservatism remains very strong here, too – there’s no income tax or corporate tax, and property and sales taxes are very low. When it comes to development and regulation, Wyoming politicians want as little federal influence as possible.
Those stances are similar to those of conservatives in other parts of the nation.
Still, Wyomingites have largely risen above the divisive fights that are hurting and distracting other states.
That’s a positive trend, and one worth continuing.
Our state should stay focused on the issues that really matter – and the sense of connection we feel here. It’s a uniquely Wyoming combination worth treasuring.