How realistic is the idea of moving a bunch of liberals to Wyoming?
November 7, 2020 7:24 AM   Subscribe

For a while I've had this daydream that, if I were the CEO of a tech company, I would move company headquarters to Wyoming to increase the amount of Democratic voters there and thus greatly increase the chances of adding 2 Senate seats to the Democrats. Wyoming because it's the least populated state.

Then today I come across this twitter thread where people are discussing a very similar idea:

Only without the whole Tech CEO part, which would probably be for the best. Their idea would be for people on the left to move there on their own accord (especially folks who can work remotely).

How realistic is this plan? What are potential complications and obstacles? Has anyone ever done something similar historically? If so, how did that turn out?
posted by overglow to Society & Culture (34 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The Free State Project is an (surprisingly successful) attempt at doing this with Libertarians in New Hampshire.
posted by saeculorum at 7:29 AM on November 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

People are more likely to move somewhere if they know there’s a community of like-minded people; I think it would work best to start a lefty / youthful / creative / etc industry. Tech company, film studio, arts college, kibbutz...
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:35 AM on November 7, 2020 [3 favorites]

It might be a heavy lift, since only 18% of voters there are currently registered D, you'd need tens of thousands of voters. And you can't be sure that once your posse gets there they won't enjoy the low taxes.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:49 AM on November 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

ive recently come to the conclusion that it is probably easier to move americans than fix our representative democracy problem, although neither are easy.

I dont think were looking for like on Tech CEO to do this, like nouvelle-personne says this is about more of the whole social ecosystem. Then again, given the tens of millions of dollars we pour into elections that wont ever change the fundamental mismatch between our form of government and our nation, I don't think its impossible.

Like, could you move tens of thousands of likely D voters to wyoming for the 60M (in Q3!) that didnt get Jamie Harrison a senate seat?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 7:52 AM on November 7, 2020

Wasn't there a recent FPP on how Free Staters in New Hampshire caused the local bear population to go wild? I guess it was successful in terms of them influencing local government but less so in terms of the results.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:08 AM on November 7, 2020 [11 favorites]

You might also consider Montana next door. The area around Missoula is trending scientific and progressive. Atlanta has definitely had a trend left impact on Georgia.
posted by effluvia at 8:18 AM on November 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

People are attracted to culture but also to weather. Winters there are harsh, and the wind is relentless. it's very beautiful, of course, but any group moving there would need to be able to deal with that. Also, bears.

Starting with a university town would be one way (I think Laramie?)
posted by emjaybee at 8:30 AM on November 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also consider the amount of effort vs. the size of the prize. This year you would have needed about 125,000 Dem votes to safely flip Wyoming's three votes in the Electoral College and at the same time capture the U.S. Senate and House seats that were up for grabs. As effluvia says above, Montana would be a better target, with 100,000 votes to flip its three votes in the Electoral College, and smaller amounts to take the House and Senate seats.

A better target? North Carolina. The skiing's not as good, but on the bright side you'd only need 80,000 votes to flip nine EVs, and if you put them in the right proportions in House districts 8 and 9 (both just to the east of Charlotte) you'd gain those two seats. And if you ran a candidate who actually had the sense to not have an extramarital affair during the campaign (déjà vu all over again?) you'd have picked up a Senate seat as well!
posted by hangashore at 8:41 AM on November 7, 2020 [22 favorites]

Maybe think about solidifying the states that juuust turned blue. They're going to have a more comfortable environment socially, and probably need fewer people.

On the other hand, NC is nice, and further north than Florida.

Here's what I think will really pay off, though: being kind and reaching out, and explaining reasoning, from a position of not-the-loser. I know this isn't a popular or quick approach, but it is better than just wallowing in victory.
posted by amtho at 8:57 AM on November 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

Georgia is now a swing state, and winters suck less here! <3 BTW, we could use people's help in getting both senate seats in January
posted by heathrowga at 8:58 AM on November 7, 2020 [15 favorites]

Everybody’s already moving to North Carolina, y’all. I can’t blame them, but it’s getting nearly impossible to buy a house anywhere in the Triangle. If y’all move here, you’ll want to look in more rural areas.
posted by snowmentality at 9:01 AM on November 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

Wisconsin has been losing a lot of people.
posted by NotTheRedBaron at 9:45 AM on November 7, 2020

What's to say that when you got there, you wouldn't turn Republican yourself?
posted by kingdead at 10:11 AM on November 7, 2020 [7 favorites]

We'll have to see where the senate voter power index ends up after votes are counted, but it's worth thinking about how stable they are. Smaller number of inelastic voters matter more in smaller states, even if they aren't especially close this year.

Big population shifts can happen, but it's hard to see what it would be for the mountain west. Oil/NG booms are the best recent example, and still not that many people (they also happen to be ideologically the opposite direction from what you'd like). Tech companies would have huge problems moving to e.g. Cheyenne. There is a very small local population to recruit from (Cheyenne, the largest metro, has fewer than 100k people), so you would be dependent on continuous recruiting from elsewhere. Offers would have to be extremely generous to attract workers to locations where there are almost no alternatives. There are lots of people who like the freedom / space of the west, but probably less so among the younger and educated crowd they're interested in attracting. A manufacturing complex wouldn't have consistent voting patterns and also is really hard to make viable.

They could donate $1B to create a large private university with low tuition. The largest private universities in the US could create 20-30k voters (but it is alot easier to attract 18yo to USC, NYU, BU ...).
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:13 AM on November 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

There are a lot of problems with this plan that others have mentioned, but I think you are vastly underestimating the scale of the political backlash, social hostility, and possibly outright violence that would be directed at you and your employees. Tech wealth from the coasts is currently viewed at best suspiciously even among people on the left. Also, there is already a lot of resentment against tech workers leaving expensive metro areas and importing “Californian values” to nearby-ish places with lower costs of living, like Boise. Regardless of how this move might serve the ultimate aim of fairness in national politics, to explicitly and intentionally terraform Wyoming into a blue state could be seen as an act of aggression that would radicalize people across the country.

If you are going to move strategically (and I do think Democrats should do this to some extent) then I think the best way to do this is in areas that are already organically changing and that are close to the knife’s edge. Wyoming’s total population may be low, but Georgia was decided by mere thousands of votes. Also, Atlanta or Columbus or Houston are going to be a way easier sell for the majority of your hypothetical employees, since they already are major urban area with a lot of other job opportunities. Finally, big urban areas in swing states will mostly tend to be neutral-to-excited about attracting new employers and lefty voters. I’m not saying the local Republican Party would love it, but it will at least come off as emigration and not colonization.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:39 AM on November 7, 2020 [9 favorites]

I'd rather we put this time and energy into getting rid of the Electoral College--it's still going to be evil and unfair even if Dems are winning it. My (Massachusetts) vote should count as much as anyone else's.
posted by chaiminda at 10:47 AM on November 7, 2020 [17 favorites]

Spreading the gospel of enlightenment to heathens? What could go wrong?
posted by Ideefixe at 11:06 AM on November 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

For a Wyoming case study, visit Lander, WY. A 5-decade long experiment of a large business bringing outdoor educators (generally very liberal) in to coexist in an old mining/ranching/mill town. I've heard stories that there was some hostility early on, but now so many folks have settled in, had families, and served in city government, etc. that the Lander Pride Picnic every spring feels safe and joyous.
posted by grinagog at 12:50 PM on November 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

I've been to Lander. Very nice town. Start there!
posted by Rad_Boy at 2:12 PM on November 7, 2020

political backlash, social hostility, and possibly outright violence

Yeah, this. The last time "settle an area with your political allies" was an active strategy in US politics was after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which explicitly mandated that the question of slavery in Kansas and Nebraska be voted on by the populations of the territories. By 1856 both sides had more-or-less decided that bringing more of their own side to in to increase their numbers wasn't nearly as easy as simply killing people on the other side to decrease theirs.
posted by jackbishop at 2:47 PM on November 7, 2020 [4 favorites]

On the scale of the national population, 100,000-125,000 people is just not that much. If people want to move to Wyoming and Montana, they should go for it.
posted by medusa at 2:48 PM on November 7, 2020

> [...] Free Staters in New Hampshire caused the local bear population to go wild?

oh my:

> [...] the Free Towners spent years pursuing an aggressive program of governmental takeover and delegitimation, their appetite for litigation matched only by their enthusiasm for cutting public services. They slashed the town’s already tiny yearly budget of $1 million by 30 percent [...] Grafton was a poor town to begin with, but with tax revenue dropping even as its population expanded, things got steadily worse. Potholes multiplied, domestic disputes proliferated, violent crime spiked, and town workers started going without heat. “Despite several promising efforts,” Hongoltz-Hetling dryly notes, “a robust Randian private sector failed to emerge to replace public services.” Instead, Grafton, “a haven for miserable people,” became a town gone “feral.” Enter the bears, stage right.

-- The Town That Went Feral -- When a group of libertarians set about scrapping their local government, chaos descended. And then the bears moved in. (new republic)
posted by are-coral-made at 3:22 PM on November 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

A variation of this kind of plan could be to identify what could be done to improve the lives of people already living in these states, and then helping them with that in a way that also builds local Democratic support. So it's less an us-vs-them of locals against an invasion of cosmopolitan liberal technocrats and more win-win. Pragmatically, that might give more leverage (fewer people would need to move) and also produce a community that's more pleasant to live in for everyone involved.

E.g. how could you do this in a way that helps increase the number of opportunities for people already living in the state, in terms of education, stable jobs, etc (or whatever the pertinent local issues are).
posted by are-coral-made at 3:31 PM on November 7, 2020 [5 favorites]

If the company was known for promoting that strategy, their employees would have a lot of social ostracism, even in cities.
posted by Candleman at 4:30 PM on November 7, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is my Ted Danson theory. Ted Danson should move to some rural purple county in a swing state and do like Carnegie did in Pittsburgh. Settle down and just start spending money locally all day every day like he has only a week to live. He should get all his rich friends to move, too. Get local builders to build their houses. Throw money at the local schools so they can hire good teachers and buy good books. Build parks, museums, and libraries. Open small grocery stores that sell fresh produce in every neighborhood and hire all the teens at vastly over minimum wage to staff them. Have a festival every year with fun contests and rides. Buy everything and every service locally. Soon everybody's comfortable and nobody's terrified they'll starve. Then start Ted Danson Community College and allow all locals to attend free and hire excellent faculty and gradually grow the college and then change the name to Ted Danson University and offer crazy reasonable in-state tuition and sprinkle scholarships around like beads at Mardi Gras. And start Mary Steenbergen college with free tuition to locals, so now there's a college and a university. Open hospitals and research parks. Ta-daaaa, blue county. The surrounding counties are still dirt-poor and amenity-free and people are commuting from those counties to work at Ted Danson U. That's when Wallace Shawn, seeing Ted's success and wishing to finally put his money where his mouth is about wanting to share his wealth and avoid the guillotine, moves to a neighboring purple county and opens a vast and sumptuously appointed My Dinner with Andre theme park.

Of course this is impractical as I've laid it out. The two couples I've targeted to seed this, Ted Danson and Mary Steenbergen and Wallace Shawn and Deborah Eisenberg, they couldn't do this with their relatively piddling movies money. Carnegie had coal and steel money that let him do what he did and not even feel a pinch. But what if it became A Movement? All appallingly rich people with liberal politics should do this; there's no reason to live in the cities now anyway, now that we're all zooming for a living.
posted by Don Pepino at 4:43 PM on November 7, 2020 [14 favorites]

As someone who has actually BEEN a liberal who lived in Wyoming...well, I'd have to be offered a pretty sweet deal to get me to move back. I felt very, very alone out there - and I lived in Laramie, a university town that theoretically should be more liberal than other cities. Part of it was probably culture shock (a liberal Minnesotan plops down, all alone, in the reddest state in the nation) but looking back, it just seemed like the conservatism was just kind of baked in. It ran deep. I think that even the people my age (I was in my early 20's) were as unaware of how deeply conservative they were as I was unaware of what a thick Minnesotan accent I had. It's something one doesn't realize until they're out of their usual environment - and I got the feeling that most Wyomingites stayed pretty close to home.
posted by Gray Duck at 6:18 PM on November 7, 2020 [7 favorites]

As a liberal POC who also lived and worked in Wyoming...I wouldn’t do it again. People move out to Wyoming so they can live their libertarian dreams or be on a ranch with nearly no neighbors and a live a quaint, small town life where the name Obama would be downright a curse word. (This is not to say everywhere is like this, like Jackson is very liberal compared to the rest of the state, and Laramie is moderately there.) In my experience, I only met a few openly liberal people in Cheyenne, and one was a representative, so that was nice, but it was increasingly rare as I travelled around the state. I don’t know if I would have much incentive to go back, especially with the lack of diversity in many parts of the state. But Wyoming is also home to a few big reservations and though I’m not sure about Wyoming, I know that the Native vote swung for Biden in Arizona and Wisconsin. I guess an incentive might be that any efforts to bring good to Wyoming would positively affect Native communities the most.
posted by buttonedup at 7:50 PM on November 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

It was -26 degrees Fahrenheit in Laramie a week or two ago. And it snowed there in June. Good luck finding 100k people who want to move to that weather.

My (gay) brother and his boyfriend lived in Laramie for almost 5 years, and they had a lovely time. Laramie is a college town with fairly liberal politics. It's walkable, has a lively downtown with local shops and restaurants, and it was relatively affordable. However, it is in the middle of nowhere. The nearest Target or mall was either in Cheyenne or Fort Collins, CO, both about an hour away. They are both relieved to be living nearer to civilization in Cape Giraudoux, MO, but would've preferred landing in an east coast city. Such is life in academia.

I think something you need to realize is living in Wyoming or Montana is vastly different from living in a liberal city. A big difference would be gun culture. People have guns for different reasons in Wyoming than they do in New York. Gun laws that work in NY wouldn't fly in WY, and they don't have to. States making their own laws about some things will always make sense because of the size of America.

We're better off getting to know the Republicans that live in Wyoming, and finding out why they vote the way they do. We need to understand people who vote differently than us, and come up with a message that can show we're looking out for them too. If we just up and move a bunch of liberal Democrats to Wyoming to try to change the state blue, the long-time Wyoming residents are just going to dig their heels into the dirt and not change the way they think. With proper messaging and outreach, we could make steps in converting traditionally red areas. Infiltrating those areas isn't going to help anything.
posted by DEiBnL13 at 10:05 PM on November 7, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'd look at places where this is already underway. Pile on to the tech influxes underway in Texas or TN.
posted by slidell at 11:54 PM on November 7, 2020

A completely different take here:

There is a large Korean community in New Malden, which is a district in London, UK. There are Korean shops, Korean restaurants and Korean schools etc. If you watched Killing Eve, season 3 starts with filming in New Malden (Korean restaurant). Some say the Korean population is as high as 20-25%.

The reason for this specifically is that Samsung used to have their European headquarters in New Malden until 2005 (yes, 15 years ago!). People attract people; there was a core group of expatriates, who mildly swayed the decisions of their friends, family, in choosing where to live. The families grow up, start their own restaurants, grocery shops, schools, which in turn influences the future expatriates on where they should stay, etc.

I will also say that I'm not Korean myself, but New Malden (or vicinity of) would be one of the places I would consider when moving out of central London because of the Korean restaurants, grocery stores, etc. Also, it's a nice place to live.

So to your original question, yes, if a Tech CEO with some capital to burn is interested in creating a sizeable community of smart, educated, people, by creating jobs, establish good schools, build homes to live, then yes, they would have an attractive place for people to come and live and work, which would in turn attract other people to come and live and work.

The BURNING BLEEDING OBVIOUS QUESTION here obviously is this is clearly a job for an organisation who have access to capital and is interested in making people's lives better, so really it shouldn't be the job of a Tech CEO (whose job is to make as much money as possible), but of the GOVERNMENT. Americans more so than others rely on tech companies to make their lives better, when it really should be the organisation you are paying taxes to.
posted by moiraine at 2:00 AM on November 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

There is a long history of rich people funding new colleges. It may not be the most efficient method.
posted by eotvos at 6:52 AM on November 8, 2020

You are going to have some two-body problems. Your tech workers are going to come with spouses and children who will need acceptable jobs and schools. This is already a problem in academia with so many schools in smaller towns, and academic jobs are hard to come by. Tech jobs are much easier to find, so people will be less motivated to take your job if it's inconvenient.

If you move to a bigger city in a red state, you may find that it's already very blue, but is vulnerable to gerrymandering. Georgia's 4th and 5th districts (Atlanta) are super blue already, so if you move to Atlanta you might make a difference in the presidential race but no change in Congress, state, local, etc. If you try to move to a suburban district, so you can split the difference, some of your employees are still going to live in the gerrymandered district (either for spouse's job or other amenities) or even close to the gerrymandered district where they will be redistricted in the next redistricting.

Better would be to let your workers work remotely, but offer some kind of incentive to work in redder areas. One company probably can't make much difference that way, but given the remote work COVID trends that we're seeing...
posted by anaelith at 4:41 PM on November 8, 2020

I would like to gently suggest that you may consider supporting local Native American reservations instead of moving more people out to Wyoming if your goal is to blue up the politics.

I am not Native American myself, but a movement to get (mostly college-educated) white people "out west" (or "out east," depending on your coast) has ...questionable optics. On top of local red resistance. Your intentions are good, but I think you would be better off building up the communities that are already present. Your hypothetical company could build a partnership with a local tribe or reservation, perhaps.
posted by snerson at 8:43 PM on November 8, 2020 [5 favorites]

Late to the party, but it's patently absurd. There are reasons people live in the places they do. The most inhabited parts of WY are frankly quite unpleasant for a big chunk of the year, there is no infrastructure to support much in the way of population increase (including all-important water infrastructure - the bulk of the state is arid). So in addition to the environmental concerns about water, there's the environmental impact of a supply chain for food etc. to all these theoretical migrating liberals, the infrastructure for which also doesn't exist. There's also a ton of social factors that make it unpleasant to move there, ask me how I know.

There are democrats in WY, although sometimes I feel like I know all 10 of them. There are also a big chunk of people who vote Republican because it's a fait accompli, and a bunch of people who don't vote.

Supporting voting rights in the state, advocacy for Wind River, and outreach in general is a far better place to spend your time.

Even shorter term/quicker payoff would be advocating for DC and Puerto Rican statehood. DC's EVs are tied directly to those of the least populous state, currently WY. We are wildly underrepresented compared to Wyomingites, and fixing that tips the balance leftward more quickly than trying to impose a radical culture and population shift in a place that is fundamentally resistant to that.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:19 AM on November 13, 2020 [1 favorite]

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