One of the professional pleasures I’ve enjoyed in broadcasting and writing opinion journalism has been the freedom to occasionally chew on the nut cases of the far right. That enjoyment has been especially heightened when one or more ”targets” gets all outraged and feels personally persecuted.
That was especially true in the late 1960's when the targets were often the Birchers and Liberty Lobby as they railed against “Communists-behind-every-tree” and “big government taking away our freedoms.” They made an awful noise.
While I still enjoy targeting those “paranoid patriots,” I’ve lately begun to feel some of their pain. My pain, however, has a more solid basis in fact than those conspiracy believers.
We’re seeing more and more evidence that government, at all levels, has taken on the role of master rather than constitutional servant. It’s happening along the Potomac and it’s happening - in spades - in Idaho.
Case in point: the legally protected right of the people to make laws by referendum and to do so freely.
The traditional Idaho Republican-controlled legislature tried to make future public petition efforts nearly impossible. In plain language, to stop the public from exercising a constitutional guarantee so legislators can do their work without “interference.”
The basis for Republican efforts to castrate the public referendum process was in response to the overwhelming 2018 success of a petition drive to expand Medicaid coverage. But, with petitions still warm on the desk, Republicans quickly moved to kill the idea. And, to clamp down on future petition drives to make sure John and Jane Q. Public would face more hurdles trying again. On anything.
Gov. Little vetoed one bill but for the wrong reason. He agreed with content but feared expensive court challenges - and high defense costs sure to come - challenges that would likely be successful as they have been in other states. Little tried to mollify both Republican legislative friends and the public. Most Idahoans wanted the referendum bills killed. So, the GOPers in the Statehouse went back to work, rewriting for another try.
Little signed a Medicaid expansion bill which tries to add work requirements. Even if the feds approve, there’ll be a court fight on that one, too. More tax dollars down the rat hole. Little didn’t seem to care how high the legal bills will be on that one. Wonder why.
Utah and several other states have been involved in similar efforts to mute public input and kill attempts to expand Medicaid in their locales, even after similar overwhelming public support.
One can sense the deformed hand of the American Legislative Exchange Council in all this. ALEC. Funded by billionaires and large corporations, ALEC works with state legislatures and Congress - and some local governments - creating and passing out copies of “master” bills to do this-and-that. Nearly always something for the “fat cats” at the expense of the public.
ALEC has positioned itself as a sort of another level of government. I’d guess most of the public would be strongly opposed to ALEC if it knew ALEC existed and why. But, most folks don’t.
There are many cases in which our national government actively works against the interests of most of us. Though reliable public polling may show large majorities supporting a national issue like needing immediate action on climate change, Congress - especially the Senate - ignores it. If we overwhelmingly oppose something like the Kavanaugh SCOTUS nomination - they’ll do it anyway.
Members of Congress - especially many Republicans - have sealed themselves off from voters. Try to get Idaho Senators Risch or Crapo on the phone. Even harder, to meet with them face-to-face. When’s the last time they took questions at a constituent meeting? Or, even had a legitimate constituent meeting? Same in Utah with Lee and Romney.
Many elected officials - especially federal - have separated themselves from citizens. You see more and more instances of the “servant” becoming the “master.” Rather than responding to issues and concerns of the populace, we see governments - especially the elected portions thereof - going their own way while ignoring our input.
Added to this, we have a racist, narcissistic, chronic liar in the Oval Office hellbent on destroying any parts of government he doesn’t like. Which is most of it. And, he’s telling various authorities of that government to lie and ignore federal laws - even subpoenas - to get done whatever he wants done.
In the ‘50's and ‘60's, the Birchers and others were wrong. At the top of their voices. We’ve not been devoured by Communism, we haven’t needed the gold standard and their hero, Joe McCarthy, was a sick, loud-mouthed drunk who enjoyed destroying people.
But, they may have been onto something with their fear of government turning on the people and challenging some of our freedoms.
I’ll give ‘em that. But, that’s all.