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Posts published in February 2021

Tax cuts


After weeks of huffing and puffing about Gov. Brad Little’s so-called tyranny, wiser heads in the Idaho Legislature finally turned attention last week to the substantive matter of reducing citizen’s taxes.

It’s a good first draft, incorporating the critical principles of leaving money in Idahoans’ pockets, while maintaining sales taxes on consumer goods but reducing the overall rate by close to 12 percent. The tax you pay on most consumer purchases would decline sharply. What’s not to like about that?

House bill 199 which runs some 17 pages, was introduced in the House Revenue & Taxation Committee, where it will get closer scrutiny, but as it has House leadership’s blessing, key Senate support and is close to what Gov. Little has proposed, its broad outlines seem more or less secure.

Sure, there will be critics who have their own ideas of what Idaho’s tax profile ought to look like. Many Democrats want to see an Idaho economy more like California’s, with bigger and more expensive government programs to help the needy, pay educators more and expand numerous social services. (TN, 2/17) A fair amount is either waste or coddling of special interests.
Rightists generally want to shrink government, reduce law enforcement, legalize “recreational” drugs, force the needy further onto the backs of churches and non-profits, eliminate public schools, slash state and local government pensions, limit health care and generally and impose a you’re-on-your-own economic Darwinism on everyone.

But neither of these extremes are dominant in the Idaho Legislature, where common sense conservatism usually carries the day. We do what we can afford to do, being neither chinczy nor spend-thrift. Both liberals and hard-rightists complain, but this middle course has served us well.
That measured, pragmatic approach has given the state one of the best economic growth profiles in the nation, with a nice $600 million surplus despite the COVID pandemic and a balanced, three-legged stool of taxation spread among sales, income and property assessment.

One key part of the proposed tax reduction would drop income tax rates across the board, for all income taxpayers, to 6.5 percent. Sure, this would help high-income folks more, but they now pay proportionately higher taxes for top incomes. Reducing the rate benefits all.

The proposal follows an income tax reduction in 2018, which like this plan, left more money in people’s pockets rather than funding bigger government as many liberals want. Many studies show that driving down tax rates attracts new residents, new business and expansion and thus propels further growth (Rich States, Poor States, 2020 report).

Another section would decrease the sales tax on consumer purchases from 6 percent to 5.3 percent (Associated Press, 2/16) A $15,000 auto bought at 6 percent carries an Idaho tax of $900. Under the new plan, the tax would drop to $795, a savings of more than $100. Who wouldn’t like that? Taxes paid on groceries would remain in place, but the overall rate would drop along with other purchases. Tax committee chairman Steven Harris, R-Nampa, is right when he says most Idahoans would pay less tax overall in the new proposal. (Idaho Press, 2/16).

In the Bernie Sanders world of sick-it-to-the-rich and among some rightists, eliminating the food tax” is a Holy Grail of tax reform. But a significant percent of so-called “grocery tax” is spent on fast foods and sodas. Dropping the tax would only encourage their consumption and would give out-of-state travelers a “free” trip across Idaho. You can observe this pattern at any travel store with customers buying both gas and armloads of travel snacks to go.

House Bill 218 offers another tax reduction plan, to phase out the personal property tax over a decade. Known as the ‘pots and pans” tax, its usefulness has declined over the years and the record-keeping is immense.

It’s time to let it expire.

While the House works on income and sales tax reductions, senators are looking at ways to reduce local property taxes, which have escalated rapidly in many places and threaten to drive fixed-income residents from their home taxs. Several main ideas are under consideration, including allowing higher home-owner deductions, collecting so-called “impact fees” on new construction, and tightening government spending limits for cities and counties.

It’s a tougher nut to crack because local entities, including schools, depend on property taxes for much of their operations and local bonding for capital expenditures like jails, courthouses and education facilities.

Yet, with valuations of property increasing, residents are rejecting more bonding proposals.

Proposals to tighten or cap costs has been sharply opposed by local entities, but there’s plenty of evidence that local government spending needs firmer controls. Legislators are heeding a rising cry by homeowners and others about huge local tax increases, but finding the right balance isn’t easy. Too little control would likely spark tax revolt initiatives, but too much control would harm local government’s many services. Idaho generally has lower property taxes (34th in 2020 Tax Foundation report) than many other states, but that’s cold comfort when annual increases are often over 15 to 20 percent.

The good news is that the state remains near the top for fiscal responsibility and prudent handling of tax policy, both revenue and spending. We should count that as a decided blessing.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He is the author of two new books on Southern Idaho, “Tradition & Progress: Southern Idaho’s Growth Since 1990.” and “Spirit of Place: Southern Idaho Across Generations.” He can be reached at

Law and order (with an *)


The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. No, no, never, never, uh-uh-uh.

Period. Full stop. The Second Amendment is explicit and absolutely absolute. If you insist on continuing this silly conversation about gun control, well, you leave my no choice but to shoot you. I have that right.

What's that? Murder laws? Please. Try reading the Constitution for a change. It says nothing about murder. Why give me the right to own firearms but prohibit me from shooting people? That would be stupid.

Sure, there are other laws regarding murder, but they're not in the Constitution. So I choose to ignore them. Yamhill County Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer has my back. She wants to turn the county into a Second Amendment Sanctuary.

At last! We're finally applying the concept of "sanctuary" to deadly weapons instead of poor people.

In Lindsay's lurid fantasies, no county employee could enforce state or federal gun laws -- including background checks, regulations on sales and transfers, and restrictions on ammunition and accessories. Some state law says you can't pack a rod because you're "dangerous"?


County officials won't hassle you. They get it. You go out on a blind date. The dame gets mouthy. You need to be prepared. Don't like it? Take it up with the Second Amendment.

Lindsay can be a bit mouthy herself at times, what with taking a man's job and all, but under that ritzy $10 hairdo of hers, she has a point. She knows her stuff. It doesn't matter what they do in Salem or D.C. The Constitution is the final word on everything.

So I personally look forward to Lindsay taking down the stupid metal detector you have to pass through just to attend a county commission meeting. You know those guys won't even let you bring so much as a pocket knife in the courthouse? I once had to walk all the way back to my car and put my machete in the trunk.

This is what happens when you elect Democrats. Suddenly, you're no longer allowed to bring a machete into a county courthouse just to give your legal argument a little extra oomph.

As a respected member of Fourth Estate, I never go anywhere without my pen, notepad and machete. Not only is the Second Amendment absolute, so is the First Amendment.

Congress will make no law abridging the freedom of the press. None. Zero. Zip.

That means that I, as a credentialed member of the news media, can do whatever I want, whenever I want. If I want to show up at Lindsay's doomsday bunker (you know she has one) at midnight with my machete and 50 of my closest newsroom buddies ... hey, freedom of the press. Look it up.

Once you embrace the Constitution, you can cherry-pick whatever laws you want to obey. The Oregon Constitution, for example, says legislative sessions should be open to the public.

If that public happens to be in the mood to break doors and windows, attack legislators and spread the plague, you know what they say in the GOP. You can't make the omelette of freedom without bashing a few eggheads.

When the Oregon Constitution was chiseled in stone in the 1850s, the wise white men who wrote it said absolutely nothing about Zoom meetings or attending meetings and submitting testimony electronically.

Why? Obviously, they disapproved of 21st-century technology.

They wanted the public in the building, regardless of even the most extenuating circumstances. So when a mob of respectable lunatics came kicking and screaming Dec. 21, state Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, did what any patriotic idiot would do. He let them in.

Mike and Lindsay obviously got their political science degrees from the same chewing gum wrapper.

They realize they must obey inviolable constitutional absolutes and ignore all those weak-need feather merchants and their incessant whining about public safety, common sense and baseline sanity.

The state and federal constitutions supersede all of that and establish edicts that give no quarter to interpretation by anyone other than Lindsay Berschauer, Mike Nearman and a few hundred of their gun-toting, window-smashing friends from the National Alliance of Angry White Mobs.

Booyah, I say because I'm macho.

We live in dangerous times. And dangerous times call for dangerous people. Otherwise, everything would be a lot less dangerous. Why is this so difficult for people to understand?

Mike Nearman articulated it at a town hall Feb. 16 in way only Mike Nearman can that doesn't at all sound like he just chugalugged a quart of cough syrup.

“A republic is based on the rule of law," he said. "That means we have a Constitution. There’s one transitional state. It’s between a republic and an oligarchy, and it’s a whatever-you-want-to-do-ocracy, or a whatever-you-can-get-away-with-ocracy and that’s kind of what we’re in right now."

Wow. If that isn't straight from the horse's ... I better say "mouth."

Such impassioned political oratory reminds me of a simpler time, specifically my boyhood days at Barnett Elementary School when Marvin Klomp realized his 3-minute oral report on civics was actually supposed to be eight minutes.

More importantly, Mike is right.

We live by the rule of law. What kind of country would we have if people in public office simply did whatever they wanted or could get away with? What if they took it upon themselves to decide what laws we should follow and what laws we should simply ignore?

God only knows what kind of anarchy we would be allowing to flow through the Capitol doors.

We must follow the Constitution. And the Constitution says grab your guns and clubs. It's a free for all. Apparently to have law and order, we have to have anarchy.

Channeling 60s southern Democrats


On a Monday night 56 years ago next month, Lyndon Johnson ambled his way on to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to play the role, as one of his biographers has written, of “one shrewd heartland politician finishing what another had started.”

“The galleries were jammed with whites and blacks, some in street clothes fresh from demonstrations and others in business attire,” historian Randall Woods wrote of the scene. The president’s wife and a daughter were in the crowd, so was FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. But the entire Mississippi delegation was boycotting the speech. Those unreconstructed segregationists Democrats, still embracing the grievance of a lost cause, knew what was coming.

“At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom,” Johnson said in his low, familiar Texas drawl. “So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.”

The week before – forever etched in American memory as “Bloody Sunday”- voting rights advocates had been routed and brutalized in Selma, Alabama. The next day’s coverage on the front page of the New York Times ran under the headline: “Alabama police use gas and clubs to rout Negros.” A four-column photo showed Alabama state troopers beating a young marcher – future Georgia congressman John Lewis – leaving his skull fractured and blood on his white shirt and tan raincoat.

The ugly, un-American state terrorism at the Edmund Pettus Bridge – the bridge still carries the name of a Confederate general and Alabama leader of the Klan – was a hinge moment in political history, and LBJ seized the moment. He would push a Voting Rights Act (VRA) to finally make real the promise of that earlier heartland politician, Abraham Lincoln, martyred in his pledge to guarantee equal rights for all Americans.

“The real hero of this struggle is the American Negro,” Johnson told the country and the Congress in 1965. “His actions and protests, his courage to risk safety and even to risk his life, have awakened the conscience of this Nation. His demonstrations have been designed to call attention to injustice, designed to provoke change, designed to stir reform.

“He has called upon us to make good the promise of America. And who among us can say that we would have made the same progress were it not for his persistent bravery, and his faith in American democracy.”

Writing recently in The Atlantic, journalist Vann R. Newkirk II correctly asserted that passage of the VRA “finally delivered on the stated ideals of the country,” but now in state after state across the country that ideal “hangs by a thread.”

From Georgia to Arizona, Montana to Idaho, Republican dominated state legislatures are attempting to do what southern segregationist Democrats did in earlier days: make it more difficult, if not impossible for some Americans to vote. It is no accident that this wave of new era vote suppression and denial comes on the heels of a record vote in a presidential election where a Democrat won the White House over a man who over and over perpetuated a big lie about elections being stolen, dead people voting and ballots being manufactured.

By repeating time and again that some Americans are “skeptical about the integrity of our elections” Republicans, including the former president, have manufactured a malicious assault on American democracy. It quite simply amounts to the biggest lie ever told about American politics.

Minnesota’s secretary of state Steve Simon described recently what is happening: “Some folks bring these proposals forward and say, ‘Well, we just need to address confidence in our election systems,’ when it’s some of those very same people, or at least their allies and enablers, [who] have denigrated our election system by either telling lies or at least leveraging or relying on other people’s lies to justify some of these policies.”

This tactic is the voting rights equivalent of the fellow who murdered his parents and then insisting on leniency because he’s an orphan.

The Republican floor leader of the Idaho House of Representatives, a guy so cynical that he blasted federal efforts to provide financial assistance to businesses whacked by the impacts of the pandemic and then ended up taking the aid himself, is a champion of the “many people are saying” logic of voter suppression.

“There are a lot of people in this country looking at what happened in other states — some of those states had ballot harvesting — that feel like they were victimized by the outcome of this last national election,” Mike Moyle said recently as he pushed a bill to restrict your ability to pick up and drop off your elderly grandparent’s absentee ballot.

In the face of precisely no evidence of abuse, Moyle said the quiet part out loud while pushing an earlier even more restrictive bill. “You know what? Voting shouldn’t be easy,” Moyle said. Other legislators are seeking to ruin the ability of voters to take action using the time-test initiative method.

The gentleman from Idaho won’t appreciate the reference, or likely understand it, but he’s a latter-day version of Mississippi segregationist James Eastland who resisted the Voting Rights Act by claiming his state had a right to disqualify certain voters and, after all, some communists must certainly be mixed up in this push to get more people to vote.

In the 56 years since Johnson framed the basic right to vote as a “battle for equality” rooted in “a deep-seated belief in the democratic process,” the two political parties have traded places on voting rights. Democrats, believing that making it easier to vote and easier for more people to vote, have embraced policies like motor voter registration, mail voting and same day registration. Republicans, looking fearfully at what high turnout portends for their long-term electoral success, now broadly reject inclusive policies and endorse conspiracy theories about stolen elections. In 2013, a conservative majority on the Supreme Court gutted a key enforcement provision of the landmark 1965 law, and the GOP resists efforts to address stronger enforcement.

In politics the truth is often hiding in plain sight. Georgia voters, including record turnout among African Americans, elected two Democratic senators in January, one, the state’s first black U.S. senator, the other, the first Jewish senator in the state’s history. More people voting is good for democracy. Attempting to keep more people from voting is good for Republicans.

The important people


The theory is that public officials are supposed to stand up, and work on behalf of, the whole public - everyone in their area: The people of the United States for a president, the people of Idaho for a governor of Idaho, and so on. We all should be considered equally important to the officials we elect.

Of course, things aren’t quite that simple. Smaller groups of people can petition to their government for laws they think beneficial for them, too. Such laws are passed on a regular basis, and often create no real controversy. But what about a proposed law that pits a small minority against the clear, significant, definable interests of a much larger majority?

Then, apparently, it depends on who that minority is. And you can tell a lot about a Congress, or a legislature, when you observe who it caters to.

This brings us to Idaho House Bill 140.

Proposed by Representative Priscilla Giddings of White Bird, it would add a new chapter to Idaho law called the "Medical Consumer Protection Act." This sounds good, except that protecting medical consumers is quite a reach from what it does; very much the opposite, in fact.

Its core language is simple, and says this: “The state of Idaho and any political subdivision in the state may not enter into a contract with an employer or company that engages in discrimination against un-vaccinated persons. No employer or company having entered into a contract with the state or any political subdivision in the state may engage in discrimination against unvaccinated persons. An employer or company that violates this section is in breach of its contract with the state or respective political subdivision in the state.”

In other words, any company doing business with the state or any local government would run into legal trouble if it tried to require that employees, even those dealing with people who are at risk for serious illness, be vaccinated. The Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions related to it clearly are the trigger for the bill, though they aren’t mentioned and the bill would apply much more broadly.

Giddings said the bill “just takes taxpayer money out of the equation, so taxpayer money isn’t being used to endorse 100 percent compliance (with vaccine mandates).” Combatting life-threatening pandemics evidently is, then, something governments shouldn’t be in the business of doing. It would also, as Representative Fred Wood of Burley (a physician, and a no vote on the bill) said, create a new class of protected people under civil rights law . . . and not a very good choice for one.

Putting that aside, there are practical issues.

Representative Lauren Necochea of Boise, cited one of many: “Imagine a cancer treatment center, where everyone who comes in for care is immuno-compromised. That’s a place where you want to make sure employees are vaccinated during a bad flu outbreak.”

Or imagine an assisted-living or nursing center - the kind of places where Covid-19 gained such purchase - or even prisons.

Giddings’ bill is a response to the anti-vaxxer groups who, not content with putting their own lives at risk, want a legal guarantee that they can endanger the lives of anyone else they choose.

It pits one small group determined to make a point against the well-being and lives of lots of other people.

The Idaho House has passed this bill, 49-21, and it goes now to the Senate.

You will be able to learn a lot about the Idaho Senate, and maybe the governor as well, and about who and what they consider important, from what happens next.



Courage isn’t something you think of when you’re talking about politicians. Indeed, if politicians are just supposed to be mouthpieces of their constituents, what courage is called for?

But some of our problems demand a greater perspective than a single constituency. There can be little incentive for a politician to take a broader view. Just keep the district happy and toe the party line seems to be their marching orders. Indeed, nowadays, most proposed solutions seem to gather support depending on your side of the aisle. Breaking rank may be political suicide.

So, when an elected representative does just that, voices dispute with his partisan colleagues, it gets noticed. And depending on the position taken, and the conviction of the speaker, it is judged foolish, petulant, disloyal, but rarely courageous.

I judge Idaho Representative Mike Simpson courageous.

He has proposed breaching the lower four Snake River dams in an attempt to restore a signature and endangered Idaho species: native salmon.

His proposal attempts to address the concerns of all parties. The port jobs in Lewiston and Clarkston, and further downriver will need support. The cheap transport costs area farmers have gotten will need support. Hydropower users will need support. He has a long and comprehensive list of the affected parties and how they need to be addressed. It is a very detailed proposal.

But judging from the immediate backlash from many of his fellow Republicans and conservative voices he’s catching a lot of heat. It takes some courage to get yelled at. And he knew he would. Despite that certitude, he has spent three years meeting with the affected players and crafting a solution. He stuck with his vision.

It’s not easy getting a controversial subject in front of a reluctant audience. I know from experience. And, indeed, my attempts to do such got me unelected. And this stance may do this for Representative Simpson. But what better use of public office than to take a principled public stand? That’s what I call courage.

I have been reading the criticisms of Simpson and his proposal. They run the gamut from partisan dismissive insults, to “hey, he’s not guaranteeing it will work”. The line of critics is long and predictable, from the Idaho Governor’s office down to the Farm Bureau, with many Republican legislators in the middle of the line. Most critics acknowledge that what has been done ($19B spent for “salmon recovery”) has not moved the needle.

Some argue that hatchery stocks are just fine. Others point to native harvests, or ocean conditions as excuses to not take this action. But if any critic wants to be honest, they need to answer this question: does the survival of Native Idaho Salmon matter to you? I hear clearly that it does to Representative Simpson. I respect a clear, principled public statement.
We elect people to represent us, not lead us. I always cringed when someone referred to me as a “leader”. I just wanted to work on problems.

But we have lots of problems that most of us don’t want to do the work to solve. And many of the problems in this crowded, complicated world require more than a change in a single person’s behavior.

I heard a man speak about the loss of Idaho salmon at our church some twenty years ago. Reed Burkholder held no elected office, but he sure wanted the runs of native salmon back. He proposed breaching the lower four Snake Dams back then. That’s about when I started seeing bumper stickers: “Save our Dams”. I asked local representative what they thought of the dwindling salmon runs. It seemed the Democratic candidates bemoaned the loss but couldn’t voice any solutions. The Republican candidates dismissed the problem and voiced support of the vital interests of their constituents: Palouse wheat farmers who needed cheap grain transport. The lines were drawn back then.

It takes courage to step across a line. Mike Simpson has courage.

Party recruiting


Although the GOP continues to be the party of Donald Trump, at least one prominent Idaho Republican has put the former president in his rearview mirror.

Tom Luna, the state’s Republican Party chairman, is not distancing himself from Trump by any means. He’s just focused on other matters, such as preparing for the next election and expanding the GOP’s base in one of the nation’s fastest-growing states. On the Trump-front, all is peaceful in this state, with Idaho’s two House members voting against impeachment and the two senators voting for acquittal.

“As a state party chair, we’re looking at a year from now,” Luna says. “We’ll be in the middle of a primary election campaign and we will be recruiting candidates to make sure we have quality people running.”

Republicans, as usual, have a lot of success stories from the last election, with Sen. Jim Risch and Reps. Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher winning by wide margins. The GOP, which was expected to lose some seats in the Legislature, ending up gaining some.

But Luna warns that Democrats also have made gains, with 2020 numbers increasing by about 100,000. “The Democrats are a growing party. We exceeded our previous numbers as well, but we shouldn’t assume that the future is going to continue to be bright if we take our eye off the ball.”

The party’s strategy is simple: Grow the base and reach out to the throngs of people moving into the Gem State. Luna offers plenty of selling points. “We have the No. 1 economy in the country and a huge surplus when most states are experiencing a fiscal downturn. When the Legislature goes home, we will see historic steps to invest in infrastructure and parental choice in education. The first time they hear about the Republican Party will be from one of us. We have a strong economy and quality of life and it is built on the principles of the Republican Party.”

Luna knows that the politics can change, especially in a growing state.

“It wasn’t too many years ago that Colorado was considered a safe red state,” he said. “But it all flipped, literally, in just a few short election cycles. What’s similar to Idaho is that Colorado is a fast-growing state. Democrats came in with resources and began to engage. They are doing the same thing in Idaho.”

Luna wants a unified party that focuses on core principles such as a smaller government, fiscal responsibility, strong families and second-amendment protection. “Anybody who believes in those values are welcome to be part of this big tent. The biggest threat to what we value is not our fellow Republicans, but the liberal socialist agenda that the Democrats are unashamedly now embracing and not even trying to hide.”

One of Idaho’s leading Democrats, House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel of Boise, has a far different viewpoint – based on divisions she sees with the GOP.

“A big tent is not what I think about when I see that,” she says. “It seems more like an effort to purge anybody who is not towing the line. If our senators had voted to acquit, they would have been very rapidly on the receiving end of some very vicious censuring from the state party.”

Rubel sees more Republicans than Democrats moving to the state, but attitudes can change over time. She says that the Democratic Party is the place to be if people are looking for a middle ground politically.

“It could take some time, maybe a year or two to see, but a lot of people will realize that the landscape here has shifted to the far right,” Rubel said. “In time, people will be dismayed to find that we are 50th in education, don’t offer full-day kindergarten and are only one of four states that don’t have early childhood education. In time, they may find that the Democratic Party is closer to their liking than the Republican Party on bread-and-butter issues.”

People such as Luna and Rubel will give new Idahoans something to think about when they move to the Gem State, and a lot of political philosophy to process.

When the welcome wagon comes, newcomers shouldn’t be alarmed to see elephants and donkeys on their front lawn.



A GUARDIAN reader tells us they talked to a retailer who claimed to have a letter notifying them the legacy newspaper would soon cease delivering papers to the store. The reader took that to mean the paper was ceasing to publish. Whether true or not, the end is clearly near.

Both Salt Lake papers–Deseret News and Tribune–have gone digital except for a weekly weekend edition. The Idaho Statesman has been struggling for years. First they went through a rapid succession of owners, then abandoned their printing press. The Idaho Press printed it for a while, but then geared up and started covering Boise news. That forced the Statesman to find a printer in Twin Falls. Meanwhile owner McClatchy went bankrupt and the Boise staff has revolted over the firing of the managing editor.

Between having the pages and headlines created in Sacramento and the paper being printed in Twin Falls, the early deadlines precluded timely coverage of city council meetings and BSU sports.

Since the Statesman even sold its office on Curtis Road for a storage facility, we didn’t attempt to make the call to confirm the “folding” rumor. It is just a matter of time for the formerly great news institution to print its final edition. The transition to a digital product is clear to readers and staff alike.

GUARDIAN editor Dave Frazier said, “We need a free and vibrant press in Idaho and America. IF the rumor is true, the passing of the once-great newspaper would be a loss to all Idahoans.”

This article previously appeared in the Boise Guardian.

Hard right



So, Senate Republicans, like Pontius Pilot, are busy washing their guilt-covered hands of the Trump trial. An adventure in failure to live up to the various oaths taken - before God and the rest of us - to rule impartially on the massive evidence of wrong-doing presented.

So, let’s move on.

There’s an important political story developing in this nation that, while right out in the open, is being largely ignored. In state after state, Republican Central Committees seem to be taking a fresh new turn to the right. Make that hard right!

In fact, some are conducting purges and issuing censures of folks we’ve believed to be upstanding members. Here, in the desert, Cindy McCain, former Senator Jeff Flake and even our rightward-tilting governor have been dragged out for verbal abuse and censure.

State committees in Idaho, Oregon, Montana and more are following suit. Seems what had been previously accepted GOP conservatism is gone, replaced by storm trooper marches to the edge of their flat earth beliefs. Anything less than full acceptance of Trump and his oft-proven lie that he won the 2020 presidential election seems to be cause for humiliation, censure and/or expulsion.

Oregon’s state GOP committee even went so far as to publish a “manifesto” trying to tie “Benedict Arnold-like actions” to those wanting to see DJT face impeachment and trial. Nasty bit of messaging on a recognized political party’s letterhead.

When the current cleansing is complete, imagine the types of candidates that’ll be on the 2022 off-year ballots. Marjorie Taylor Greene springs quickly to mind. Imagine her being the “poster child” for several hundred like-minded political wannabees coast-to-coast. Scary stuff. Qanon and all that.

Republican conservatism is nothing new. Many practicing that brand of politics have made important contributions to the nation. But, what can be seen currently in many GOP organizations is anything but “conservatism.” It’s more cult-like. And growing.

I’m not sure what their common litmus test is but it seems to involve Trump. While it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever, again, be a serious candidate for any public office, his influence is sure to linger for a long time.

The January 6th attack on Congress was a foretaste of things to come. While my blood boils at the sight of White House and Capitol Hill fencing, it’s almost certain there will be future confrontations in both locations. Even out of public office, Trump’s influence will keep the pot boiling. He’ll see to it. It already is in some of the words and actions of state GOP organizations.

All this would seem to be a mile-wide opening for Democrats. As state Republican parties move rightward, the Dems might also make a slight shift. Just a bit. Think of all those disaffected Republican and Independent voters looking for a new - and more moderate - home. If Dems can show less AOC influence and more Joe Biden centrist thought, the “family” might grow in number.

But, while Dems could see their rolls increase, they also face a real challenge. And, that is to find new candidates and fill those empty ballot spaces. The aforementioned Ms. Greene successfully slipped through the cracks by winning a primary and filling an uncontested general election spot for the U.S. House.

For many years, about a quarter of the Idaho Legislature has had no primary or general election competition. That can’t continue. The state is a growth state; the legislature is attacking the powers of the governor; statewide politics are becoming more hard rock conservative. Without moderation from an increase in the number of Democrat office holders, one-party domination will continue unabated.

Republicans are under attack. By Republicans. Trumpers are trying to eliminate non-Trumpers to “purify” the Republican Party. And, it appears they’ll attack anybody.

Two weeks ago, the Republican-dominated Arizona Senate came within one vote - just one - of sending the Maricopa County Elections Board to jail for not surrendering 2020 election ballots for an unauthorized recount. The illegality was never considered or discussed. Just “Hand ‘em over or jail.” One vote.

We’re not alone in seeing this kind of lawless behavior by a branch of government. No matter who you are, it seems, you can easily become a target of the far-right. Legal or not. Oklahoma, Arizona, Idaho and others are seeing dangerous efforts of GOP-dominated legislatures literally attacking governors of their own party and other duly-elected officials.

The mean-spirit in our politics is not going away anytime soon. It’ll take some guts to jump in the ring and go toe-to-toe. But, the time seems right for Democrats to make an all-out effort to find, educate and nominate new faces for the fight. If they don’t, and if the rightward shift continues in state Republican politics, these attacks on legitimate government will intensify.

Bet on it. (photo/Anthony Crider)

A question, with no good answer


A guest opinion by Matthew Meador, a long-time writer and political staffer in the Northwest.

My lifelong friend called to ask the saddest question I have ever been asked. It was rhetorical, mind you — my friend knew I wouldn’t have the answer. But I understood the need to ask sometimes outweighs the existence of an easy solution.

In this time of nationwide turmoil, my friend’s sister was a well-known attorney in St. Louis, an arbiter who had the gift of gab and a fiery temperament to back it. For 15 years, her radio show captivated and motivated Midwesterners to reject the status quo and advocate for positive change. During the Ferguson riots in 2014, my friend’s firebrand sister was all over the national news, her lucid commentary offering an alternative to what had always been, before — what had never worked. But then, unexpectedly, my friend’s sister died. She died, leaving behind an 11-year-old son.

And my friend called me.

“How,” asked my friend, “am I going to raise a Black male child in this world?”

It pains me that I need to spell it out but my friend is a Black man. And he asked, “How am I going to raise a Black son in this world?”

It’s weird how you’re hit with it — hit with the magnitude of a question that doesn’t have an answer. You know it the moment it’s asked and you know no one will ever ask you a sadder question — a question with so many wrong answers.

“How am I going to raise a Black child in this world?”

What my friend meant was: how am I going to shepherd this Black youth through the labyrinth of complicated lessons that makes a Black man thrive in a world that doesn’t seem to want him to even survive? These are lessons white men don’t ever see. The term white privilege has been bandied about in recent months but it might be better described as Black non-privilege. If you find the term objective, please keep reading — I’ll explain it in terms that are clear and deeply personal.

Recently, I listened to a white person lament her upbringing. “I was raised in an alcoholic home, my entire childhood was ruined by alcoholism — I had no privilege!” she exclaimed, angry. “My early years are proof there is no such thing as white privilege,” she insisted. Everyone, she said, has their own hurdles — because her early life sucked, white privilege can’t possibly exist. “I had no privilege!” she insisted. “There is no white privilege!”

Actually, she did and does have white privilege and she is totally missing the point.

White privilege has nothing to do with how difficult a white kid’s childhood was, how hard a white child had it growing up. White privilege is not related to an abusive childhood, to general poverty, to awful parents — it’s not related to any experiences transcending race, religion, color, culture or any other grouping. People from any origin can experience a difficult upbringing or a trying adolescence. Rather, white privilege manifests itself in the details you never thought about because you didn’t have to — details Black people face constantly.

White privilege isn’t anything to be ashamed of — you didn’t ask for it. White privilege isn’t something you can give up but, to understand your friends of color, you should be aware of it. It makes your life easier in ways you never thought of — ways through which my friend must now shepherd his unexpected Black son.

White privilege starts very small — it’s me crossing a crosswalk as the older white woman in the Lexus waiting for the light to turn green ignores me. White privilege is the same older woman hitting the loud electric car door locks when she sees the Black youth crossing six feet behind me.

White privilege is me shopping at Nordstrom, free to wander without scrutiny while the security staff is closely watching the Black teenager who came in right after me. White privilege is another department store offering a wide variety of makeup colors for white women but few for women of color. White privilege is a white woman entering a boutique with a large shoulder bag and being allowed to browse at her leisure while the Black girl behind her is asked to surrender her bag at the counter before she can shop.

White privilege is me enjoying excellent service at my favorite bistro while the Black couple three tables over experience lousy service because the waiter incorrectly assumes they’re lousy tippers.

White privilege is another resident holding the lobby door of my secure apartment building open for me even though he doesn’t know me but him quickly pulling the door shut behind me because a Black man is heading in next.

White privilege is me relaxing poolside at a resort, unmolested by security staff while the Black family two rooms down is repeatedly asked for their pool pass, their parking permit or to show their room key to prove they are legitimate guests.

White privilege is me ordering the Grand Slam at Denny’s, settling the bill when I’m finished while the Black party seated across the dining room is asked to pay in advance because the white manager thinks they look “suspicious.”

White privilege is me applying for a loan to buy a house and getting approved, even without stellar credit when a Black family of similar means is denied repeatedly. White privilege is a Black home appraised well below its market value but increased by a full third when the bank orders a second appraisal before which the homeowners “whitewash” or remove all objects indicating the occupants are Black.

White privilege is me able to win a seat in our state legislature and freely canvass neighborhoods in my constituency while the Black woman elected in the next district has the police called on her repeatedly as she hands out reelection campaign leaflets in her district neighborhoods.

White privilege is me carelessly fumbling with my documents when a police officer stops me for a minor traffic violation while the Black man the cop stopped earlier had to very carefully maintain awareness of where he slowly moved his hands, asking permission each time he did so, trying not to appear to be reaching for a weapon. White privilege is the same cop allowing me to remain in my car while he writes me up when the Black motorist would have a much higher chance of being handcuffed — emasculated, humiliated — detained and left to sit on the curb before being released and handed his ticket.

Remember when I said my white privilege was deeply personal?

White privilege is me getting busted on federal cocaine charges in the early 1990s and enjoying a complicated adjudication that included six months in a cushy federal halfway house instead of jail time when my Black friend would likely still be serving his prison sentence for the same crime, even as I type these words.

That, my friends, is white privilege.

People like George Floyd pay for alleged minor crimes with their lives, a permanent sentence that white privilege would almost certainly spare them. That’s white privilege.

Each of these examples I have witnessed myself. I have felt pain in my heart when I’ve looked at the eyes of a Black man who is asked for the thousandth time to prove he belongs in a place where some nosy white person thinks he shouldn’t be — it’s a look of utter resignation. And most Black people I know bear this burden with grace and good humor even though doing so must be immensely difficult.

My friend must now teach his new adolescent son how to behave in a world that gives me a free pass in a thousand ways I never consider even as it has already tried and convicted my friend’s child before he leaves his home. If you’ve been unfairly asked to show a parking permit or to leave your purse at a shop counter, please remember these things happen to Black people with mind-numbing regularity — way more than happens to white people. Next time you hear the term white privilege, don’t dismiss it or mock it — it’s not a personal condemnation. Instead, please think of my friend who asked me the most heart-wrenching question I’ve ever heard: How can I raise a young Black son in this world?