In Idaho, general elections have been rendered nearly irrelevant for most offices because enough Idaho voters reflexively vote Republican (or in a few neighborhoods reflexively Democratic) , whoever the nominee and whatever the nature of the opposition. With rare exceptions you can say the decision was made half a year earlier, in the primary election.
There is now an effort afoot to render the primary election meaningless as well. Who then, if this happens, would effectively appoint Idaho’s public officials, instead of the voters?
That would be a collection of several hundred Republican Party functionaries - members of local and regional central committees, which in many places have become increasingly extremist.
This weekend, the state Republican Party will hold a winter meeting and consider a rule change intended to allow candidates to appear on the Republican primary election ballot only if they receive sufficient support from their Republican central committee.
The idea, being promoted most strongly through the Bonneville County GOP group, is legally iffy, and former state justice and attorney general Jim Jones said that if the party approves it, his advocacy group would “take a serious look at going after it in court.”
But it’s already prompted a fierce internal debate.
On New Year’s Day, Trent Clark, a former Idaho Republican chair (and currently a party regional vice-chair) compared the proposal to something that would fit neatly into the structure of the Communist Party in China (citing a rule change made there last fall). “Just as in China, this gives a handful of party insiders a veto over which names can be printed on the ballot,” he said on a Facebook post.
He went on: “Changing how candidates get onto ballots serves only one purpose: Pod-people don’t trust Republican primary voters. Fearing they cannot sell their candidates to the thousands who vote in Republican primaries, they hope to claim power by winning a few dozen votes on a county or legislative district central committee. It is tempting for Democrats to watch this disaster with grim delight. And, yes, such a power grab by central committees would inevitably cause a GOP implosion. But not overnight and not without significant damage to both public trust and representative government.”
That post drew a heavy and passionate response on both sides.
Here’s one of the critical responses (in his version this was in capital letters): “Im ashamed of the idaho ruling class ...we no longer enjoy a representative form of government in Idaho. When a select handful of rinos or, to be blunt communist sympathizers control all legislative proposals, your tax dollars, money without audits, we the people are in deep trouble folks. Only a small handful of our legislature are constitutional conservatives.”
Apparently, according to many of Clark’s critics, the Idaho Republican ballot, and its officials including the majority caucuses in the Idaho Legislature, have been infiltrated and overrun by Democrats - and extremist socialists at that. Another respondent: “We currently have several republican representatives with voting records left of Bernie Sanders and this is not ok.” (Their names were not noted.)
Who knew Idaho was such a liberal state politically?
Few states in the nation are as dominated politically by extremely rightist political officials and organizations as is Idaho, which leads you to wonder if some new dynamic is taking place: The farther right you go, and the more thorough your power dominance, the more your advocates come to think they’re losing control to the (nearly non-existent in Idaho) forces on the far left. (From my observation in Portland and Seattle, there doesn’t seem to be a counterpart dynamic on the left wing in those places.)
This isn’t about “liberal” or “conservative,” whatever those words mean any more. This is about power, And concentrating it ever more narrowly in the hands of a small group of ideological activists.
All other Idahoans need not be consulted.
Watch carefully what the Republican Party officials do, or don’t, with this.