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It’s Hard to Have a National Referendum in a State With Only 585,000 People

Revenge politics: Kevin McCarthy exaggerates the importance of Wyoming without acknowledging its outsized power.

4 min readAug 17, 2022


House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was right. On Tuesday, August 16th, 2022, Liz Cheney lost the Republican primary for her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. That was easy to see coming given all the polling that showed Cheney behind her Trump-endorsed opponent, Harriet Hageman. But where McCarthy is wrong is to say that the outcome of that election is a referendum on the work of the January 6th Committee.

Wyoming has 585,000 people. In a nation of 330 million people, any election held in Wyoming is hardly a national referendum. What McCarthy means to say is that a state as small as Wyoming has far more power than it should have. If Wyoming were run by Democrats, that is.

It’s easy to see that the GOP has a pretty hard lock on the sparsely populated states in the middle. We can characterize those states. They have fewer people, so fewer jobs. Fewer opportunities for advancement. Greater opportunities for isolation. More time for Fox News.

And every study that has ever been done on humanity shows that humans need other humans around just to keep from losing their minds. I’m still thinking of Wilson the volleyball from the Tom Hanks movie, Cast Away. Every time I see the electoral maps or political maps of the United States, I see that big red band in the middle and I see the low-hanging fruit of America.

I see a concerted strategy on the part of the GOP to appeal to those small states for each of their two powerful seats in the Senate. In those sparsely populated states, rugged individualism rules because there are so few opportunities for people there. Unless you have some recurring passive income, it’s hard to live in the big red band.

Think of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s a favorite second home for many celebrities who make their money mostly off of royalties from the entertainment they produce. That might make a few of my favorite stars “Republicans”.

The GOP (and a few conservative Democrats) know that it’s much easier to appeal to a few big…