Anyone notice the irony here? Malcontents and the arch-rightist, “Get Little” crowd are still trying to clip Gov. Brad Little’s emergency powers and will take more pokes at the governor this week when the Legislature comes back from a two-week COVID recess.
But again, they’re a day late. They call for extreme legislative action just as the real viral COVID emergency fades. Legislative hysterians moan about state mandates, restrictions, Little’s “tyranny.” Except here are the big-picture facts:
COVID infections are dropping state wide, as they are nationally. Health districts and others are loosening restrictions, while still advising people to exercise cautions, but not mandated actions.
A state appointments online program has almost 100,000 signups in its first few weeks. (IdahoPress, 3/25) There was never a state mandate to wear a mask. So much for Little’s alleged “tyranny.”
So now what do average Idaho citizens think? If the rising vaccinations are any indication, hundreds of thousands of Idaho citizens have already been vaccinated and are implicitly rejecting the rightists’ hysteria.
People are voting their choice by rolling up their sleeves for the preventive shots. In a recent poll of 1,000 Idaho Republicans, two-thirds (67%) said they thought Gov. Little was handling the pandemic just about right. And that’s among regular Republicans. How do the Legislature’s extremists explain that? They can’t, so they ignore it.
Here are the real numbers. As of a week ago, nearly 700,000 Idahoans had received at least one COVID-19 vaccination shot, with close to 300,000 fully vaccinated. (Statesman, 3/30). Tens of thousands more have signed up or are waiting for appointments. About a third of Idaho adults had received at least one shot, with the rollout continuing apace week by week. Among seniors, two-thirds of Idahoans over 65 are now vaccinated, as are one-third of those 55-64. (Associated Press, 3/25).
Little said that by tomorrow, the day before the Legislature reconvenes, Idaho would expand availability of vaccines statewide to anyone over age 16, as some health districts have already done. (Pos-Register, 3/25). Again, where’s Little’s “tyranny” in that?
Sure, there are some who won’t take vaccine shots, ever, for anything. They’re mostly “anti-vaxxers” (IdahoPress, 3/24), a noisy, small group that is beyond trying to convince. If they had their way, we’d all be back in the medical Dark Ages with people dying of smallpox and polio. We take for granted too much of medical advances; perhaps these nay-sayers should migrate to the many such places in the world with contaminated water and poor public health.
They see national and even international conspiracies in every public health measure, as if a vaccination program somehow pushes Idaho toward a world-wide, globalist order. To them, Bill Gates and other “globalists” are devils incarnate. Medical professionals, to their way of thinking, are just pawns in this vast conspiracy. Idaho’s “sovereignty” is at stake. Got that?
They hold Governor Little in the same low regard for multiple reasons, only a few of which have anything to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. Mostly, they’re sour and bruised that Little defeated their rightist candidate, Raul Labrador, in the 2018 Republican primary.
Since that loss, they’ve vowed to make Little a “one-term” governor. They’ve already settled on their candidate, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who has spent her time in office coddling up to rightist, militia toy-soldiers and even put one of her anti-police adherents, Parrish Miller, on the state’s payroll in her office. (IdahoPress, 3/2; 3/16).
These extremists attempt to thwart Little at every turn. In the Legislature, they intimidate others by fear of bill “rankings,” which Miller gathers for his Rasputin overlords at the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a secretive rightist Idaho group with ties and money from oligarchs both and outside Idaho. (IdahoPress, 1/20; Post-Register, 5/20/2020)
Little, much to his credit, has mostly ignored these ankle-biting Pomeranians. He’s got a state to run; they just carp, whine, complain and Bible-thump about how world is going to hell in a handbasket. But Little’s nobody’s patsy. He’s learned that if he turns the other cheek to these malcontents, he just gets slapped again. Sometimes you have to quit trying to find common ground. You just get run over. That’s the way it is with fanatics.
So Little just keeps on doing what he was elected to do, that is to take measured, appropriate actions on behalf of all Idahoans. Again, no tyranny in that.
The COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to fade in Idaho’s mirror, and perhaps with it, we’ll see a decline in the extremism Little has had to face. It would have been better if he had a working partner in the Lieutenant Governor’s office across the Capitol hallway, on issues like economic development and transportation. Instead, he has the opposite today in McGeachin who cow-tows to kooks and other destroyers of civil order.
So Little has had to turn to others for support and has found it among reasonable, common-sense Republicans, state-wide leaders in all walks of life and average citizens. He may not get the credit he deserves for defeating COVID-19, but he and Idaho’s medical and public health community and legions of common-sense Republicans have done so nonetheless. That’s called leadership. Average Idahoans won’t turn him out to be replaced by ideological fanatics and charlatans.
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 can be reached at Stephen_Hartgen@hotmail.com.