As Wyoming goes to caucus, an example in political tolerance

One of the voters in Saturday's Wyoming caucus will be Pete Gosar, a prominent Democrat whose brother is US Rep. Paul Gosar (R) of Arizona. How one family agrees to disagree.

YouTube/Pete Gosar
This YouTube screenshot is from a video of Democrat Pete Gosar's 2014 campaign for Wyoming governor. His brother is Rep. Paul Gosar (R) of Arizona.

America is down to 20 primary events before the general presidential election, but one voter in Saturday's Democratic caucus has a unique bipartisan perspective that could offer a lesson beyond Wyoming.

Pete Gosar is a prominent Wyoming Democrat who made an unsuccessful run for governor in 2014. His brother is Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, a conservative Republican. 

Bipartisanship has been a political necessity in Pete's work, and not just in family settings. Wyoming is overwhelmingly Republican, as Democrats represent just 20 percent of the population and have a majority nowhere, Jeff Simon reported for CNN. Pete stepped down as from his position as executive director of the state Democratic party to run for governor. He lost his campaign by 32 points and now chairs the Wyoming State Board of Education, but he said running as a Democrat in Wyoming is tough – only 13 Democrats serve in the Wyoming legislature alongside 77 Republicans.

"You immediately face 2-to-1 odds against you or maybe a little bit bigger than that," Pete told CNN. "It's tough to get money and to raise the type of funds available to be competitive."

The brothers' high-profile positions, even in separate states, complicate the traditional rule about avoiding discussion of politics and religion at dinner, the Associated Press reported. Pete said they don't even try to steer clear of controversy.

"I work on him daily," Pete told the AP. "We'll get over to looking at things a little more liberally. We'll keep working on him."

But that hasn't meant the Gosar brothers have backed off from playing hardball. Pete's politics might have made it difficult for Paul to endorse his brother in his gubernatorial campaign. 

"I refuse to go along with the status quo of more wasteful federal spending and I refuse to let the Obama Administration continue to force their misguided ideology through regulatory overreach," said Paul on his campaign website. "Our country needs more bold, conservative leaders that will actually do what they promised to do prior to coming to Washington DC."

Pete said they don't know how they ended up with such polar political perspectives. 

"I kid him about it," Pete said in 2014, of Paul's politics. "That since he was first-born, he didn't have to understand what it was like to wear hand-me-downs a decade later, so he didn't understand what it was like to be the underdog."

For his part, Paul has not given up on his younger brother.

"I wish my brother well," Representative Gosar said after his brother announced his campaign for governor. "We agree to disagree, but he is a good man. He is my brother." 

Politics can be difficult in any state or family where the views are mixed, but active discussions are some of the "basic mechanisms through which an intolerant society could become more respectful of differences," Danny Heitman wrote in an op-ed for The Christian Science Monitor. He referred to century-old writings from Teddy Roosevelt, who urged Americans to get to know each other on a human level and work together on common goals despite their partisan tendencies. 

"Any healthy-minded American is bound to think well of his fellow Americans," wrote the 26th president, "if he only gets to know them." 

[Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify Pete Gosar's position as chairman of the Wyoming State Board of Education.]​

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.