Dogs that don’t bark in the night-time tend not to get as much attention as those that do.
Same with political conventions.
The 2014 Idaho Republican convention got plenty of media splash, and for reasons that made party leaders grimace. That was a convention that ran on ground so bitter that much of its basic, normal work could not be done, and it adjourned in chaos. And led to lawsuits and worse, even a dispute about who was or wasn’t the state party chair.
This year’s convention, held in Nampa a week ago, saw none of that. It ran quietly and smoothly, saw the approval of party leaders – re-election without dispute of those in place – and of party platform and resolutions, with only the mildest of argument. It was closer to the way conventions were run 20 or 30 years ago, apart from the lack of enthusiasm for the presidential nominee.
Not that it was entirely an era of good feelings; new ideas were largely blocked and the platform was simply that of 2012. But it still ran far smoother than 2014.
Some of that may have to do with care and effort on the part of some of the party leaders. But some other factors were almost surely involved too.
One was the relative lack of a big rift within the party. Obviously, the Idaho Republican Party was home to plenty of legislative primary battles, concluded only a few weeks ago. But these were local and generally small in scale, and in many cases specific personalities were key to the battles involved. While both U.S. House members had in-party challenges, they didn’t come to much, and many voters probably were surprised even to see the extra names on the ballot. Almost all of the real conflict was at the legislative level, and these conflicts didn’t much spill over from district to district, or around the state.
If you were a delegate from, say, Pocatello, the recent intense battles in several legislative races up in the Panhandle would have little resonance for you. There were no big sweeping bases for opposition.
In 2014, the Idaho Republican Party seemed to contain two parties in one – the insurgents and the establishment. it involved not just local races, but many of the statewide and even congressional races, and the rhetoric involved in those contests periodically ran hot. And when the establishment won the primary, the insurgents were left fuming, and had no outlet for their anger, until the convention met. Little wonder the convention that followed a battle ground.
I have to wonder if there was another aberrational factor this year, too, by the name of Donald Trump.
Trump surely had supporters in Idaho; in the presidential primary earlier this year he came in second and won a bunch of counties in the center of the state. But Idaho’s Republican establishment hasn’t exactly attached itself to him.
One story in the Spokane Spokesman-Review noted that at the convention, “When delegates were urged to rally behind Trump at the close of their morning floor session on Saturday, only a few waved signs and the cheers were noticeably muted.”
When Representative Raul Labrador was asked for his thoughts about Trump, he responded, “It’s a beautiful day in Idaho, isn’t it?”
At this year’s Idaho convention, there was plenty of willingness to get along with one’s neighbors. Maybe they were encouraged in that process by the sounds of unexpected and fearsome creatures outside the doors.