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Ever Try Reasoning With A Conservative? It Just Worked In Wyoming's Legislature


Rep. Andy Schwartz (D-Teton County, Wyoming)

There are around 1,150 Jews in Wyoming, 0.20% of the state's population. Only the Dakotas have fewer Jews. On a percentage basis, South Dakota (0.03%), North Dakota (0.05%), Mississippi (0.05%), Arkansas (0.07%), Oklahoma (0.11%), Idaho (0.12%), West Virginia (0.13%), Montana (0.14%), Iowa (0.17%) and Utah (0.17%) are even "less Jewish" than Wyoming. Wyoming even has a couple of synagogues (one in Cheyenne and one in Casper).


There is also a Jew, Andy Schwartz, in the state legislature. He represents Teton County, which is as blue as the rest of the state is red. Wyoming gave Trump his biggest victory in 2020-- 69.9%. Teton County, on the other hand, gave Biden a solid 67.10% to 29.58% landslide. The state of Wyoming is just 50% fully vaccinated. (Only Alabama is as bad off.) But Teton County is 91% fully vaccinated, not only the most vaccinated county in Wyoming, but better vaccinated than any county in New York or California!


Schwartz's district is so blue that the Republicans didn't even run anyone against him in 2020. In 2018, their candidate scored just 37.1%. When Schwartz first ran for office his campaign themes included statements like "I believe that climate change is real, and poses a significant threat to our planet. Wyoming will continue to be a leader in energy production, and I feel it is our responsibility to also be a leader in finding ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions" and "I believe that Wyoming should be the Equality State not only in name but also in deed. Women’s rights, gay marriage, affordable health care and pre-k education are examples of areas where I know Wyoming can do better."


Thursday he accomplished a veritable miracle. Let me turn to a story from yesterday's Forward about how Andy Schwartz got one of the reddest state legislatures in America to reject a ban on critical race theory. Remember, there are just 6 other Democrats in the 60-member Wyoming House. Normally, they have no impact on anything the legislature wants to do.


It seemed a slam dunk: The popular conservative cause of banning “critical race theory” in schools, being taken up for a vote in one of the country’s most lopsidedly conservative legislatures.
Then a Democrat, one of just seven in the 60-member Wyoming legislature, stood up Thursday and said he could not support the bill because he was Jewish.
“In this bill, page 9, line 19 states, ‘The teaching of history must be neutral, without judgment’,” state Rep. Andy Schwartz said during debate. “Now, how can that be possible? If I were a Native American, I doubt I could accept the neutral, judgment-free approach about the relocation, the decimation of the Indigenous population. If I were a Black American, I doubt I could accept a neutral, judgment-free approach on the enslavement of millions of Americans.
“But I’m Jewish, and I cannot accept a neutral judgment-free approach on the murder of six million Jews in World War II.”
Schwartz, whose Teton County district includes the city of Jackson, said that, to understand the depth of depraved actions, one must be discomfited by them.
“Going to page 8, lines 19 and 20, it says ‘no one should feel discomfort or distress’,” he said. “But in learning about the Holocaust, I have suffered a lifetime of discomfort and distress, and it’s essential that as students learn about this dark time in our history, they to feel discomfort in distress.”
The bill’s author, Republican Chuck Gray, said Schwartz’s interpretation was “disappointing.” The bill stipulates that “the discussion of otherwise controversial aspects of history” is allowed, Gray said.
“It can be taught in a complete and accurate perspective,” he said of the Holocaust. “So clearly, the Holocaust is something that we totally disapprove of and condemn totally.”
The bill garnered a majority of the chamber’s votes, 35, but not the two-thirds needed to advance the bill. The 24 lawmakers who voted against advancing the bill included a significant number of the chamber’s 51 Republicans.
One of Schwartz’s Democratic colleagues suggested on Twitter that his speech moved votes against the bill. “The House just defeated a bill that would have banned critical race theory in schools after a powerful speech by Representative Schwartz, a Jewish man who refuses to learn about the Holocaust in a neutral manner,” Rep. Karlee Provenza said.

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