There was a time when I thought highly of Brad Little, but that was some time ago. In recent years and, especially during the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Brad disappointed those of us who have long thought of him as Butch with less charisma, but a much better brain.
Most discomforting were his broadsides at “illegals,” a term I abhor, and his utter unwillingness to take a stand on the most important issue facing the state – health care, specifically implementation of Prop 2. Moreover, his commercials promoting “traditional marriage” were offensive in their appeal to increasingly obsolete prejudice.
Now, having been elected to the state’s top job, Little can step out of Otter’s Stetson-topped shadow and be his own person. We will see what he’s truly made of. Will he be more open-minded and less ideological like the Little of old, or will he tack to the right and cater to the more extreme elements of his base as he did in the campaign?
In a recent interview, Little suggested that – in looking to fill his cabinet – he might appoint a Democrat or two. If Little isn’t just musing aloud and actually follows through, he would be taking a page from an excellent book on statesmanship, one written by former governor Cecil D. Andrus. “Cece” didn’t hesitate to recognize talent outside his own party, and he built bridges with many Republicans that lasted a lifetime.
The governor-elect would do well to follow the Andrus model. I found a ray of hope in Little’s comment: “Last time I checked I’m governor of the whole state of Idaho and even Democrats count.” That statement would read better if he had dropped the “even,” but at least there was a glimmer of recognition that members of the minority party are also Idahoans and merit a place at the table.
Little won his party’s nomination against two formidable opponents by a relatively small margin. We’ll never know how many Democrats registered as Republicans to vote for Little in the GOP primary, but if my facebook news feed is any indication, the answer is “quite a few.”
I was not among these because, for me, registering – however briefly – as a Republican would have been a lie. I couldn’t associate myself, even for a nanosecond, with the party of Trump. But I understand the impetus of those who did. They saw Little as by far the most reasonable choice in the GOP field and, assuming (correctly) that the Republican nominee would go on to become governor, opted for the candidate they thought likely to do the least harm.
As Little assembles his transition team and begins the process of naming appointees to key positions in state government, he would do well to reach out to some of those Democrats who helped him win the GOP intramural contest. Idaho has had enough partisanship. Real leadership is inclusive and requires at least some amount of bipartisanship. Here’s hoping our new governor rises to the occasion.