George Washington, America’s first President and one its greatest, was born on the 22nd of February 290 years ago. Lacking Methuselah’s longevity, he is no longer with us. But the wisdom he left with us has turned out to be right on the mark. We can save our State and Nation if we heed his warning against extreme political partisanship.
In his Farewell Address, which was first published on September 19, 1796, Washington warned that political parties can “become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.” Extreme partisanship, he cautioned, “kindles the animosity of one part against the other, foments occasionally riot and insurrection” and can bring about “disorders and miseries” that “gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual.”
It is uncanny that America’s Founding Father could have predicted how extreme partisanship would have brought us to these ugly times, where blind party loyalty trumps the public good, even to the point of insurrection. The American people are faced with a stark choice–continue down the road where political extremism rules our lives, or choose to put the good of the country and state above poisonous partisanship.
The next opportunity to choose between chronic governmental dysfunction and responsible, pragmatic governing is May 17, Idaho’s primary election day. Being a one-party state, where the selection of most officeholders will occur in the Republican primary, those not registered as Republican voters by March 11 will have no say as to the character and direction of our government.
Just two sample races demonstrate what is at stake. Senator Jim Woodward of Sagle, a former nuclear submarine officer, respected businessman and well-regarded Republican legislator, is being challenged by a political extremist who calls Idaho Child Protective Services “a well-funded federal racket”. CPS saves kids’ lives, period!
Rep. Laurie Lickley of Jerome, who is knowledgeable on agriculture and education issues and has shown herself to be a competent legislator, is running for a Senate seat. She is challenged by a person who claims to have founded the extremist “Real 3%ers of Idaho” militia group and is known as the Bundy Ranch Sniper.
Idaho’s almost 310,000 independent voters, who comprised 35% of total Idaho voters two years ago, would have no say in the selection between these types of candidates if highly-partisan Republicans have their way. The House approved legislation on Presidents’ Day to prevent independent voters from registering in the Republican primary after March 11. They have always had until election day to make that choice.
From the time I first became eligible to vote in Idaho in the early 1960s, any voter could go into the polls on election day and vote the ballot of any party with candidates up for election. The open primary served us well, producing reasonable, responsible officials. A decade ago, GOP zealots closed the Republican primary to ensure the election of the most extreme candidates. It has worked beyond their wildest dreams, producing some of the most divisive, dysfunctional Legislatures in the State’s history.
George Washington would have been appalled by the tight grip that GOP extremists have on the selection of public officials in Idaho. All taxpayers pay for the Republican primary and they all should have the opportunity to participate in selecting our leaders. House Bill 439, which would prevent independents from participating after March 11, should be defeated in the Senate or vetoed. That would be a giant step toward following Washington’s sound advice and depoliticizing the poisonous politics that have plagued our great State for the last decade.
Just to play it safe, though, each and every person who wants to have a vote in the future direction of our State should contact their county clerk’s office to register in the Republican primary before the March 11 date.