On the one occasion when Louise Shadduck ran for office, this being for the U.S. House in 1956, she lost, and later dismissed the experience as “a fit of temporary madness.”
On that this insightful and politically skilled woman was wrong.
Elective office – and running for it – would have suited her well had she tried again, and she likely would have handled it expertly.
Read the new book Lioness of Idaho: Louise Shadduck and the Power of Polite, by Mike Bullard (who for some years was her pastor at Coeur d’Alene) and you get both a sense of what politics ought to be, and what kind of attributes you should look for as you consider who ought to be elected to represent you in office.
Louise Shadduck had a whole lot of those qualities.
The Bullard book, you should know, isn’t a hard-edged inquiry or tough investigation; it was written more in appreciation. But the appreciation is understandable. Louise Shadduck was one of the most productive people in Idaho public affairs, notably around the 1950s and 60s, heading up the state’s economic development efforts during a a critical period and becoming involved in a wide range of governmental activities. She was a solidly loyal lifelong Republican (though she grew up in the Coeur d’Alene area back when it was strongly Democratic), and worked on Republican campaigns for decades, apart from her own run for office.
That one campaign didn’t sit well with her, and when she said “never again,” she meant it. The irony was that she had all the qualities you’d want in a candidate. She was one of the best networkers in the state, long before the term was invented. She took the time to understand the state and its people and their needs and concerns; she understood the “issues” quite well. She favored cooperation and working toward solutions that would be broadly acceptable; building coalitions was a big part of what she did. She listened to people, and she didn’t pigeonhole them; for her, Democrats were people on the other side of elections, and with whom she might agree less than with her fellow Republicans, but people nonetheless who she easily worked with. The Bullard book’s subtitle, “The Power of Polite,” is totally apt in her case.
That doesn’t mean she couldn’t be blunt. Bullard recounts several quotes with her attitude toward government and politics, and some of them show how irritated she was was at some of the political shenanigans she saw. In 1951: “I ask you to get active in politics. In fact, if it will help, I will plead with you to become active in politics. Yes, I stuck my neck out in the roughest game in the world, and brother, in Idaho it is tough. … You hear the expression ‘dirty politics.’ I’ll tell you the truth. Sure, it’s dirty … But it will never get any cleaner until you and I as individuals get down on our hands and knees with a political mop bucket and brush and scrub it clean.”
But that was not, for Shadduck, the whole story. After Watergate, and after the presidential resignation of Richard Nixon, whom she had campaigned for and with for many years, she reflected: “The government is us. The government is no better, and no worse, than we are.”
It’s a thought that cuts both ways: Polite, but also clear and to the point (as well as making sense). Few politicians today do so well.