When I was given the chance to work for a right-leaning organization that elects local candidates to state Legislatures across the country, I looked at it just like any other job opportunity. This was a real chance to learn.
I’ve been a liberal my entire life, but I also believe that it is important to learn what the opposition thinks. Getting into the minds of people who think differently from you is a severely underrated skill to have in this modern discourse.
It’s honestly an art form.
People these days have lost the ability to connect with others from different backgrounds for this reason. It’s not their fault either because we really do live in completely different universes. A person born and raised in NYC or LA would have a hard time understanding why anyone would choose to live on a ranch surrounded by wilderness, 30 minutes from the nearest neighbor.
It isn’t enough to just say what you believe in, you must also be certain of what the other side believes and why they are wrong.
Beyond that, I wanted to learn about the culture in the wild west. Do people really ride on horseback with a six-shooter on their waist? Does everyone have their own secret recipe for cooking buffalo?
More importantly, what makes the people out there so conservative?
Wyoming clocks in as the most Republican state in the nation as a percentage of voting population.
Now that you understand my motivation, I should talk about the elephant in the room. Of course I was worried about the COVID situation. Considering the fact that my team and I were going to be traveling all around the state going from house to house and talking to voters, I expected most people to take the pandemic seriously.
This assumption was the furthest thing from the truth, however. People out there are incredibly skeptical of what the government says. If you mention to a local what scientists and officials recommend, the tone of the conversation changes and they will assume you think you’re better than them.
Honestly, I should not have been that surprised. Since no one really visits or leaves the state, cases remain relatively low. There are currently around 3,000 reported cases and a total of 30 deaths since the beginning of the year.
Some preliminary things about the people of Wyoming that I learned from just three weeks there:
- No one knows what TikTok is
- They really hate solicitors/trespassers
- Its a “live and let live” kind of place, so fairly independent
- If you’re not from around town, you WILL be stared at
- The locals are not afraid to start a random conversation with you
Folks out there are also keen on maintaining their privacy and take it a ridiculous degree. Most of the houses we came across were either gated up or had “keep out” signs.
And then there were the dogs.
People apparently train their pets to scare away any trespassers that may step foot on their driveway. Once, my friend was walking up to a house when four dogs ran up to him. They were initially friendly, but started to bite at him as he made his way to the front door. We promptly marked down the house as restricted and left.
Another example of this involved my team and some locals who lived just outside the college town of Laramie.
It was our third day on the job so we were not yet fully accustomed to canvassing. If you are unfamiliar with the canvassing process, it’s basically where you go to different houses and ask people for their support for a candidate.
One of the final houses on the list for the day was about 15 minutes off the main road. After several winding trails and hills, we finally arrived. It was more like a trailer combined with a shack, and there were several broken and crushed up cars scattered around the driveway.
I took it as a sign that the economy was not doing particularly well in that area.
Two men were outside and one was inside a white pick up truck. The other man was next to it, yelling about something that we thought was directed towards the two dogs that were right beside him.
As it turns out, this guy was actually yelling at us.
The dogs started chasing us at full sprint once they noticed me and my friend. Now, I’ve never been afraid of dogs and it honestly reminded me of my own one back at home.
As the two came closer, their razor sharp teeth became visible and I realized they were nothing like my friendly beagle. The two of them caught up to us and sniffed around intensely, as if they had never seen another human being besides their owners before.
The man slowly approached, but kept a far enough distance from us that we had to yell to hear each other. Among other explicit things, he angrily inquired why and how we were out there.
My friend tried to explain, but the man refused to entertain us any longer. We then started to walk back to our car. The dogs followed us the entire way.
The second person who was in the truck drove in front of our car and prevented us from driving off. At this point, I was back in the car while my friend was outside. I could see a gun rack in his passenger seat with his hand resting right on top of a 12-gauge shotgun.
The two of them talked for the next 10-15 minutes before the man eventually left. I asked my friend what took so long and as it turns out, they were from the same hometown in New York.
How a New Yorker/college kid and a man in rural Wyoming would be able to find common ground in the middle of nowhere is beyond me, but I’m convinced that it helped us get out of there in one piece.
This situation could have easily gone south had it not been for some quick thinking on our part. In the end, we ended up leaving with two more votes for our candidate so I suppose it was worth it.
To an east coast liberal, this ordeal would sound completely crazy. On the other hand, Wyoming locals wouldn’t really think too much of it. To the two ranchers, it didn’t matter if we were a conservative or liberal, all they saw were two out-of-town foreigners who were trespassing on private property.
Despite all this, I have even more of a motive to understand the ways of the modern conservative in hopes of being able to form EFFECTIVE arguments that will change their minds and hearts someday.
I learned a few reasons as to why people are so conservative out there:
- They feel left behind with the social progress that liberalism champions
- Their parents are conservatives
- Social pressure to conform
- The independent lifestyle rejects collectivism of any kind
The MOST important reason is because they fundamentally do not understand the programs that real progressives want to get passed. People will listen only to One America News or Fox and assume that’s all the Left is.
A world where people’s first instinct isn’t to reach for a weapon when a stranger approaches is something that would be ideal. Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking from a “bleeding heart” liberal, but it won’t stop me from doing my part to make it a reality.
And to answer my question from before, just about everyone out there has a six-shooter and horses.