Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT


Not all columns herein need to be lengthy to make a point. To prove ‘tis so, just consider this brief set of facts from the National Journal’s vote ratings of members of Congress.

“For the third consecutive year, no Republican Senate member had a more liberal voting record that ANY Democrat. No Democratic Senator had a more conservative score than the most liberal Republican.

“In the (435 member) House, just 10 Democrats had a more conservative score than the most liberal Republican. Just five Republicans were more liberal than the most conservative Democrat.”

Put another way, there are nearly no ideological crossovers anymore. Democrats are “liberal” – Republicans are “conservative.”

For three decades – the Journal started this annual survey in 1982 – it was the norm to find a handful of ideological crossovers in the Senate. Even more in the larger House. Now, the norm is “purity.”

No more middle ground in which to seek compromise. No middle ground in which to exchange positions. No more middle ground. Period!

With those findings, you’re going to have a breakthrough? You’re going to find reasoned solutions to our immense national problems? You’re going to find political leadership?

That’s it. Short and sweet.

Gridlock explained in 60 seconds.

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idaho RANDY

Last week a veteran of Idaho Republican politics pitched to me a simple case for a big reason the outsider candidates – insurgent or Tea Party-aligned by other verbiage – are unlikely to do well in the May primary elections.

The idea is that many pro-Republican voters do not self-identify as Republicans.

They may consider themselves “conservative” (a slippery term these days, but employed in self-definition) and may vote for Republicans, but they don’t really consider themselves part of the party. These people are individualists and by inclination not joiners. Many of them may decline to sign a paper identifying themselves as Republicans.

And that could impair the base of support for the insurgency campaigns, such as for Russ Fulcher for governor and Bryan Smith for Congress. The self-identified Republicans may be more establishment in temperament, may be more willing to sign the paper (as may some Democrats who become “primary Republicans”) which may help people like current Governor C.L .”Butch” Otter and Representative Mike Simpson toward re-election.

There’s certainly good reason for taking this line of argument, which seems to be accepted wisdom among many Idaho Republican leaders, quite seriously, as at least some people associated with the insurgency campaigns certainly do.

One reason is that in 2012, when the Republican primary was closed to declared party members only, insurgent candidates (mainly for the legislature) did poorly at the polls.

Another, more subjective reason but evidently quite real, is the description of the insurgent base by other Republicans as “a herd of cats” – the standard description, and often spoken in frustration. It makes sense. These are, after all, people who don’t like to organize, aren’t big on strong commitments to groups (their most in-common complaint, after all, is against government and regulation generally) and aren’t notably trusting of political types.

There may be some significant limiters on the theory. One is that many people may have Republican-registered in 2012 and never changed away from that, which would mean they can vote in the May Republican primary.

There’s also the relatively short primary season, just a couple of months, to try to familiarize voters with a bunch of names they’ve not seen before. Otter and Simpson are known quantities; the outsiders will have to convince votes not only that they should not vote once again, as they have so many times before, for these candidates; they will have to make clear who they, the challengers, are, and why they would be better.

It’s a tall order.

Whoever is right may matter a lot. Idaho this season has a string of these insurgent/establishment contests for offices running from the U.S. House and governor to lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, and a bunch of legislative seats (not that the list stops there). If one side or the other sweeps the contests – which on balance seems a more likely outcome than an even split – not only the tone but some of the substance of the way Idaho is governed would be affected.

But it’s difficult to engineer that kind of change by changing the election laws. The new edition of the magazine Governing points this out in looking nationally at the new rules many states have imposed on voting requirements: “Adding obstacles to voting is clearly something that’s a problem for individual voters. However, the cumulative impact of voting-rule changes on determining the winner of key races looks more likely to be hit and miss in 2014.”

So it may be, in the area of Republican primary election closure, in Idaho.

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Idaho Idaho column


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Many pro-exchange legislators not primary-opposed (Boise Statesman)
Many Idaho colleges will again raise tuition (Boise Statesman)
SAT may match up to Common Core (Nampa Press Tribune)
Reviewing 2014 legislative session (TF Times News, Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello has no panhandling rule (Pocatello Journal)
Simpson gets NRA support (Pocatello Journal)
Schools get some funding boost (TF Times News)

Questioning future of Chambers businesses (Eugene Register Guard)
Idaho wolf hunting on private land (KFF Herald & News)
Wyden forestry bill draws criticism (Medford Tribune)
Roseburg medical pot store plans dropped (Roseburg News Review)
Who takes over at Cover Oregon? (Salem Statesman Journal)

Big Stillaguamish mudslide at Oso (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald)
Huge pubic records request via BPA (Kennewick Herald)
Alcoa, Reynolds cleanup plan reviewed (Longview News)
New businesses rely more on tech, less on workers (Seattle Times)
Limited funding for mentally ill (Tacoma News Tribune)
No transportation package: back back to locals (Vancouver Columbian)
Reviewing elk damaging property at Yakama (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take