Time for house cleaning

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

Last week’s shameful, amateurishly conducted, unbelievably arrogant and utterly unnecessarily divisive Idaho GOP convention was – is – and always should be – looked upon as the state’s absolute low point in political history. But – it should not be remembered as a surprise.

Those of us with a lifelong interest in things political can’t help but look upon that horrendous display and want to think – to say – to write something thoughtful and meaningful in it’s wake. Anyone who tries to do so will embark on a fool’s errand. But that won’t stop some of us from trying.
There was nothing in the raucous display of political throat-cutting upon which to base any thoughtful review. It was an expensive embarrassment for the party. And, as word spreads through the national political networks, equally as embarrassing for the state.

Idaho’s Republican Party has been headed off the cliff for a long time. Like the party nationally, it’s been organizationally kidnaped by narrow-minded absolutists in no way representative of either the long and honored conduct of the GOP or the mainstream of its historic membership. Both groups have created platforms filled with homophobic, racist, close-minded and hurtful language. Both are exclusionary. Both have espoused political goals antithetic to good government. Both have turned their backs on historic accomplishments of past Republican leaders who worked in the best interests of the country at-large rather than some imagined utopia of better days.

When a handful of party “loyalists” meets ahead of convention, voting to disenfranchise some 30-percent of the delegates who were to attend, it doesn’t take a great deal of political acumen to see who’s in charge and how the experience will end. This particular convention was not only doomed from day one, it was doomed years ago as unity, comity, accommodation and compromise were drummed out of the party vocabulary. The Idaho GOP has been walking along the cliff’s edge for a long time. The convention finally proved to be one foot out in space. There will be a fall. In fact, it’s started already.

Republicans have become more divisive – more likely to exclude those who differ in thought and word. The GOP has become an intolerant, narrow-minded group. Nowhere has that been on display more arrogantly than in Idaho in the past week. If one or more sheep differed on any subject from the single-minded theology presented, such sheep were quickly cut from the flock. The aforementioned organized effort to exorcize nearly a third of voting delegates was proof positive. Three entire counties were targeted for elimination in the convention process.

Idaho Republicans – and too often national Republicans – do not close ranks after the type of failed purity debacle seen last week. They either withdraw from further participation or immediately begin efforts to further institutionalize their divisions. One Idaho county has birthed four Republican central committees. Four. Compromise? Comity? Unity?

Many years ago, Gov. Robert Smylie – himself a long-serving Republican – gave me some good political thought. He said, after a certain length of time occupying power, both parties would do well to “open some closet doors and air the place out.” Despite his own failed effort to try holding onto power too long, he was right. And Idaho’s political climate has reached the point some thorough house cleaning seems long overdue.

And “house cleaning” there may be. Already there’s talk in the state of disaffected – or even embarrassed – Republicans getting behind Democrat gubernatorial candidate A. J. Balukoff in November. Republican reasoning seems to be – if elected – he would face the usual solidly Republican legislature which would hold him in check for four years. That would give Idaho Republicans time to do some philosophical “house cleaning” and be in better shape to take back the governor’s office in 2018.

Risky reasoning, that. But that’s how bad things have gotten in the Idaho GOP. That’s how badly things went in the state convention last week. And that’s just what could happen because the Republican dog looked off the bridge, saw what appeared to be a bigger bone and dropped the one he had.

Old as Aesop. As fresh – or as despoiled – as Idaho’s Republican Party.

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