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Democrats, Republicans tackle issue of civility

CHEYENNE — Erin Taylor joked that there were movie stars present in the Little America Hotel and Resort ballroom early Wednesday afternoon during the Governor’s Business Forum.

She was preparing the guests, around 600 in attendance, to watch a 20-minute pilot episode of “High Noon in America,” a planned series that will show two conversations between two sets of people with opposing political and ideological viewpoints.

One of the major points of the episode was how people with different points of view can still be civil toward each other during discussions.

The first episode was shot in Wyoming and featured appearances by former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.; state Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance; Teton County Commissioner Natalia Macker and University of Wyoming professor Jacquelyn Bridgeman.

In the episode, the four are featured at their homes, talking about why they have certain beliefs and their background as a Democrat or Republican. Then, Bridgeman and Lummis, and Lindholm and Macker had one-on-one conversations at the Historic Governors’ Mansion about certain topics, like safe spaces, the electoral college and the federal government.

“Life doesn’t have any safe spaces,” Lummis said to Bridgeman. “If I was at a football game and someone came up and began to tear into me for my views, would I be able to put my hands up and say that this was a safe space and I was off-limits?”

Bridgeman responded that Lummis was also a public figure, unlike the majority of people who discuss wanting a safe space.

Macker and Lindholm delved into their beliefs about the federal government and taxes. Lindholm stated that he felt the government was too invasive, while Macker believed it allowed people to have a chance to be heard by elected officials. Lindholm also noted that he didn’t like federal income taxes, and the two discussed whether people in a higher tax bracket should pay more in taxes.

Following the screening of the pilot, the panelists gathered on the stage (minus Lindholm, who attempted to video call into the forum, but was only able to answer one question that wasn’t quite audible) with Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, and Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson, acting as moderators.

During their talk, Ellis asked the three women if they felt that by occasionally defecting from their liberal or conservative platforms, they were less of a Democrat or Republican.

“I love this question because I think before ever labeling ourselves as Democrat or Republican, we would label ourselves as human beings, first and foremost,” Macker said. “We can start from the place that we’re human, and humans evolve and grow. I think what we’ve lost lately, maybe because of social media or sound bytes, is our ability to let people learn and grow.”

Lummis told the crowd that a political party shouldn’t mold a person, but the person should mold the party.

Ellis also asked how each of the women felt about their approach to communication, and if it was effective. They all had unique viewpoints, from Lummis noting that keeping salutations formal in writing kept her from ever trying to write anything snarky, to Bridgeman stating that her ability to listen made her a good communicator.

The final questions were geared toward national politics and whether they felt Wyoming was mimicking the hostile attitude between parties. Participants were asked if people have focused on name-calling, rather than having civil discussions.

All three agreed that Wyoming was actually better than the rest of the country when it came to hostility, but it’s still an uphill battle regarding civility.

But even though these types of conversations can be tough, all isn’t lost.

“The woman who does my nails is a pretty staunch Republican, and I have decided that we’re going to form our own political party and solve problems for everyone else,” Bridgeman joked. “It’s been fun and rewarding for both of us. We’re tired of that discourse, and we want something really good and positive.”