If there’s one thing politicians of every stripe agree on it’s turf. The good ones - and the not-so-good-ones - will do almost anything to grab and protect turf. Once the oath of office has been regurgitated, extreme possessiveness takes over and defenses go up. From sewer districts to Congress, turf protection is an absolute.
The bitching about someone else intruding on one’s turf is not necessarily localized. Members of Congress - the good ones and the not-so-good-ones - protect their domains and authority with mother hen-like zeal every bit as strong as your town council. Turf - politically speaking - is the most prized possession of the political animal. Someone once said of academic battles “The fighting is so fierce because the prize is so small.” So it is with most political turf wars. The protectiveness of one’s domain and its authority knows no bounds.
We, who watch the political machinations of our nation, are seeing a recent, more driven up-tick of a senior level of government stepping on a junior levels turf. I assign this increased violation mainly to legislatures being whipped into far right form by ALEC - the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is sponsored by a number of large companies, but the energy to use its perceived power comes largely from the Koch boys. Legislators of most states - especially those clinging to the fantasies of the far right - serve as the in-house distribution body for the oft-copied legislative packages coming out of ALEC.
For years, the Koch’s focused their pollution of America’s political system on Congress. Having achieved some dubious success at neutering that body, they’ve turned their attention to statehouses and governors. Using ALEC as a conduit, their self-serving ideas are shaped, printed, and copies made for those member legislators to carry the political pollution back to state capitols.
ALEC has not been terribly successful in Oregon and Washington. But Idaho has become a poster child for the Kochs. Recent legislative sessions have seen an increase in ALEC-created garbage and, far too often, passage and implementation of it. In fact, ALEC has been so successful in spud land that lobbyists with their own legislative missions have joined forces on bills of common interest.
One Idaho “success” both entities achieved this year was prohibiting cities and counties from stopping the use of plastic grocery bags. Seems like a weird topic to use your outsized legislative clout on until you consider the lobbyists involved largely represented oil and chemical companies that produce the bags. And the Kochs, whose vast fortunes include mining and - wait for it - chemicals. So, if Pocatello, Lewiston or Moscow want to require only paper grocery bags to help clean up their local environments - they can’t. Unless, of course, they pony up some big bucks and go to court to challenge the state ban.
This intrusion on local turf was quickly followed up by another lousy ALEC-Koch idea to write into law a provision that local governments - cities and counties - can’t adopt local laws prohibiting discrimination against LGBT individuals. Several cities had done so in the past but enforcement, again, would mean another court test to see if local turf is protected on this issue.
Idaho was not the only successful target for that. North Carolina has a new law almost word-for-word the same as Idaho’s. But in NC, some major American companies have told the governor to get rid what he signed or face the loss of some very large dollars that flow from manufacturing, sales, sports, tourism and other big buck entities. There’s a touch of irony there. Dow Chemical is one of the loud voices telling the governor to get rid of the law. The irony? The governor - in a former life - was a long-time vice president of Dow and lead lobbyist for its state and federal interests.
Idaho’s legislature has been known as a patsy for special interests for decades. About 70% of Idahoans live in cities but the legislature is run by people representing the 30% or so rural residents. The tail wags the dog and the majority folk lose many legislative battles. So, the minority can stick it to the majority on issues like human rights and environment protection. American Falls - population 4,376 - can thus stymie the Capitol City of Boise - population 214,237 - when Boise departs from what’s “acceptable” in American Falls. Boise’s LGBT non-discrimination ordinance appears to be one of those. Republicans - many rural - hold about an 80-20% legislative majority as well.
Other minority-driven bills made it into law this year while some went into the shredder. The issue of outside footprints steping on local turf was found in many.
Seems to me we could take one of the Koch’s strategies, tweek it and turn it back on ‘em. They started their cancerous attack on our politics at the top - Congress. With some success there, they’ve fanned out into statehouses. In this year of absurd national politics, we need to pay more attention to the “down-ballot” races for both Congress and our legislatures. Pay more attention to the bottom. After all, state legislatures and local governments are the breeding grounds from which a lot of members of Congress come.
As it stands now, the national GOP is going to produce a presidential candidate unacceptable to most voters. That’ll weaken the political capital of many of those “down ballot” cretins who’ve become impediments to dealing with our many problems. If voters can do some house cleaning in the lesser races, the tide might turn with pressure building from the bottom up. With enough pressure from us - over a couple of elections - we might send some of the flow back up the hose.
As voters, our “turf” has been tromped all over by politicians pandering to moneyed special interests and billionaires determined to buy this country for far too long. Let’s get a little more turf protective out there.