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Posts published in November 2023

Communism, not libraries

It seems the Freedom Foundation warriors have library porn in their cross hairs. Who would oppose protecting children? The sweet little things.

I just had a long afternoon with some difficult, not very sweet granddaughters. They were not at their best. But I would still sacrifice to protect them from harm. So why not use this as a dog whistle? Those Freedom Foundation strategists have me beat by a mile.

What I’m confused about is all the communism they are avoiding.

Yes, communism right here in this deep red state. State-sanctioned, written into our sacred Idaho code, communism is in our laws. And our Freedom Foundation warriors are just looking the other way.

What, you say you are unaware?

I wasn’t really. But I was inspired about this from a newspaper article. Remember those? They are so quaint.

This article was announcing multiple grants to North Idaho hospitals and clinics with practitioners who needed help with loan repayment. It turns out the Idaho legislature authorized taxing Idaho supported medical students up to 4% a year of what the state chips in for their medical education. (Math: 140 students X 4% of $30K= $168K. The state is supposed to chip in another $84K). This money, collected from all the students is then distributed to those working in Idaho in underserved areas. That sure sounds like communism to me, doesn’t it? Taxing everybody to then send money off to the poor folks?

Not that family docs in small town Idaho are poor. They make at least twice what a teacher makes. But it is a marketplace, that cartel of MDs, also a state-sanctioned restricted market. Getting the not-so-smart ones like me to serve in needed areas with taxes on their classmates sounds at least socialist, if not outright communist.

But it’s everywhere. I’ve written about the Idaho Potato Commission before. If you want to sell your potatoes as “Idaho Potatoes” you have to pay a tax to The Commission. And Idaho law has empowered The Commission to inspect your books, and bring you to court over your small, or very big potatoes. It’s an arrangement the potato farmers seem to appreciate. But jeez, state-sanctioned taxation of potato farmers? Next, we’ll be requiring them to swear allegiance to The Party. We all know what party that would be.

Health Care is not immune from the communist infection. All (except five…that is a very deep story) agreed to pay an “assessment” (soft for “tax”) back to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare for every Medicaid dollar they received. The tax was set at 10%. This agreement was offered by the hospitals during the 2008 downturn, and they could see big Medicaid cuts on the horizon. They knew the magic of the Federal Medicaid program. Every dollar Idaho spends on Medicaid is matched with three Federal dollars. If Idaho hospitals send ten percent of their money back to the IDHW, they can expect a three to one match in return. Can you say Ponzi? Some states had a much higher “assessment”. This spiral was cut short by the feds about 12 years back, and Idaho was not the worst schemer in this plot.

Idaho nursing homes also pay a Medicaid “assessment”.

When the “assessment” was enacted into Idaho law it was strongly endorsed by the Hospital Association. And it still is.

So, sometimes, interested parties choose to tax themselves for their benefit. All of themselves. And they seem to believe the tax serves them all, even though some of them get more money than others.

I guess this kind of makes sense. But it’s still not free market capitalism. Why hasn’t the Freedom Foundation taken on the Potato Commission? Or the Wheat Commission? There’s communism everywhere, not just in our libraries.



From the seemingly endless list of "grassroots" organizations these days, one that has lately piqued my interest is "Moms For America" and its apparent offshoot, "Moms For Liberty."

"Moms" has been around since 2004, though only sprouting up in our Northwest neighborhood in the last year or so.  Website for the group is very professional with lots of patriotic verbiage and an online store where you can buy a "Christmas plaid apron" for $28 or a "long sleeve" hoodie for $31."

There are some "hot button" words among the offerings.  Like "truly American curriculum" and "biblical citizenship workbook."  But, the descriptive words that caught my attention were "A voice to counter radical feminists" and to "end gender confusion."

"Moms" has popped up in a few Idaho school districts.  Though scant now, you're sure to hear more about them.  Local chapters of a movement to end "gender confusion" while selling "Biblical Citizen workbooks" can't fly under the radar very long.

The "statement of purpose" for "Moms" says it all:

"Moms for America is reclaiming our culture for truth, family freedom and the Constitution.  We activate, empower and mobilize moms to promote and advance freedom in our homes, communities through our vote."

"Moms" also says it's working to "restore patriotism" by "raising patriots."

With talk of "restoring our patriotism" and reclaiming "family and freedom," there's a sense of confusion at our house.  Have we lost all that?  Does it really need it need to be "reclaimed.?"

All sorts of right wing groups are coming out of the woodwork these days.  School and library boards, county commissions and city councils are "under attack."  In some cases, members of these "do-gooder" groups are running as a "team" hoping to get one or more of their members elected so those folks can work to get others "inside."

This outburst of local right wing energy can be found in numerous states.  And, these folks aren't being shy.  They're announcing their purpose(s) right up front.  "Hot button" words and more.

We've seen these types before.  Their objectives are known to anyone paying attention.  What's different now is (un)social media.  The electronic connection making us all a connected neighborhood.  Whether one nutcase or a hundred, with the ol' I-net, the messages all look the same.

Such is the case with "Moms."  Yes, there's that professional website presence.  Yes, they've got those "hot button" words front and center.  But, is it truly a "national" movement?  Or just a few folks out to stir up local trouble?

What's needed is a lot of local "push back" before anyone claiming to be a moderate is swept out of office.

Stay tuned.  Oh, and don't forget those long-sleeved hoodies for just $31 emblazoned with  "Moms for America."  Catchy.


Winder has had it

Senator Chuck Winder, the leader of Idaho’s Senate, is a good and patient man. I often disagree with him on issues coming before the Senate, but I don’t question his ethics, temperament and dedication to serving the public. He has watched a decline in civility in the ranks of the Senate and recently took action to bring some of the instigators up short. He deserves the support of fellow Senators and of the wider public. Legislative business suffers when there is continual internal sniping among the members.

Winder reprimanded Senators Scott Herndon (R-Sagle) and Glenneda Zuiderveld (R-Twin Falls) in a November 6 letter for taking potshots at other Senators. He then called out Sen. Brian Lenney (R-Nampa) for attacking and degrading other Senators and the public. Zuiderveld and Lenney were stripped of leadership positions.

It should not have been a surprise that the three conducted themselves in a disgraceful manner. They won primary races against reputable incumbents in 2022 with ugly, truth-deprived campaigns. Herndon won by running a smear campaign against incumbent Senator Jim Woodward, a Navy veteran and highly regarded legislator. Lenney won by smearing incumbent Jeff Agenbroad, a reasonable, effective Senator. Zuiderveld’s campaign against Jim Patrick, an accomplished legislator, was not much better. The Idaho Freedom Foundation and its affiliates joined in trashing the incumbents, employing generous amounts of out-of-state money.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) really scored with the election of these three to the Senate. They all get a 100% rating on IFF’s education index by doing IFF's bidding on every education measure coming before the Idaho Senate. To get a 100% rating, you must oppose almost every education funding bill, while supporting measures that would require taxpayers to pay for private and religious schooling. The three even voted against legislation funding their own community colleges–North Idaho College, the College of Western Idaho and the College of Southern Idaho. Loyalty to the IFF takes priority over support for their communities.

The three also scored near the top of IFF’s freedom and spending indexes. It is usually a given that legislators will support those who put their lives at risk to serve in the US military. Yet, the IFF disapproved of funding services for Idaho veterans so the three naturally voted against our veterans.

In addition to their steadfast support for IFF on the Senate floor, the threesome has stood up for IFF’s goals in their local communities. Herndon proudly supported the appointment of Brandon Durst as superintendent of the West Bonner County School District. He gave cover to Durst as that former IFF employee tried to methodically destroy the District’s schools. Luckily, the school patrons woke up and kicked Durst out.

The IFF has come out strong against the Open Primaries Initiative, so the threesome must also oppose it. Zuiderveld kind of misfired on the issue, claiming on social media that the initiative’s sponsor, Reclaim Idaho, is a “communist PAC.” Her tweet had a screenshot of contributors to Reclaim Idaho, including Rich Stivers, a well-regarded Twin Falls Republican whose father served as House GOP Speaker back in the 1980s. She implied that Rich, a Vietnam veteran who put his life at risk fighting the communists, was a commie supporter? Ignorance must be blissful.

I must come to Rich’s defense. I served in Vietnam and had access to communist propaganda. I can attest that the commies never supported open primary elections. In fact, the only elections they supported were ones where the party bosses controlled who got placed on the ballot. If officials departed from the party line, they were severely disciplined. That doesn’t sound like Reclaim Idaho, but it does have a definite flavor of the IFF-supported Dorothy Moon branch of the Idaho GOP.

Zuiderveld has drawn an opponent in the 2024 GOP primary who might be able to explain to her the horrors of communism. Alex Caval knows firsthand. Her family escaped communist Romania and immigrated to the US in 1988. She has done well in Twin Falls and will be a marvelous replacement for Zuiderveld. The other two in the threesome will have a rematch with their 2022 opponents and may also be replaced. Woodward and Agenbroad both say they will be prepared to defend against the smears this time around. Chuck Winder may be able to rest easy by this time next year.

(image/Idaho Capital Sun)

A union forges its own path

Is Oregon’s largest private-sector union going its own way politically?

It’s too early to say conclusively, but as it’s said in journalism, three instances make a trend, and a string of instances this year suggest the organization is already there.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 represents more than 30,000 workers, the core working at grocery stores but many in other businesses as well. Over the years, its political activities usually have aligned with those of most other Northwest union organizations in generally supporting Democratic candidates. It has been going through some changes, including by expanding.. It has long covered Oregon and southwest Washington, but in 2021 it merged with the local in southern Idaho, so that it now reaches from the Pacific to Jackson, Wyoming.

It also has sought to expand into the legal cannabis business sector. Since Oregon’s legalization, the local has tried to organize its workers and has pressed legislation to mandate cannabis businesses sign “labor peace agreements” as a condition of licensure.

When the local took the idea to the Oregon Legislature as House Bill 3183 (Cannabis Workers Rights), it drew questions about whether it would survive a court challenge. Rep. Paul Holvey, who chaired the House Committee on Business and Labor where the measure was assigned, shared that concern and, with time running out in the session, diverted the rules committee, where it died.

That result came amidst what probably felt to the local like a reversal of fortunes. As one labor newspaper noted, “from 2015 to 2017, Local 555 was a big player in a string of wins in the Oregon Legislature, including the 2015 paid sick leave law, the 2016 minimum wage law and the 2017 fair scheduling law. But in the last few years, Local 555 has had a tough time getting its proposed legislation passed.”

After the cannabis measure failed, Local 555 officials struck back. They targeted Holvey, a Eugene Democrat long close to the strong labor organizations in his district, for recall. Local 555 cited “a long list of Holvey’s anti-worker actions and questionable conduct that warrant his removal, including Holvey’s dishonest framing of his opposition to pro-worker legislation, his long-standing double standard advantaging big business interests over those of working people, a chronic lack of engagement and other instances of poor conduct.”

But they got no real support among other labor organizations. While umbrella groups like the state AFL-CIO stayed out of the fight, 14 other labor organizations in the area – including the Ironworkers Local 29, Lane Professional Fire Fighters (IAFF Local 851), Oregon AFSCME, Oregon and Southern Idaho District Council of Laborers, Oregon Building Trades Council, Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs and the Oregon Nurses Association – sided with Holvey.

With the help of paid signature gatherers, Local 555 did get the recall on the ballot. But the voters supported Holvey by a stunning margin: About 90% voted not to recall him, a number far larger than that in most contested races.

But even before that election the local was back into ballot issues, saying on June 23 it would try to reverse the recently passed House Bill 2426, which opened the door to self-serve gasoline dispensing across the state.

Oregon was known for many years as one of two states – the other is New Jersey – requiring that attendants pump gas, a rule imposed in 1951 and long thought to be immutable. It has been eroded steadily in recent years, however, first with exemptions for rural areas and then broader pandemic-era allowances. Polling showed steadily growing support for self-serve gas.

HB 2426, passed and enacted this year, did away with the self-serve ban statewide, though it still requires businesses generally to provide a staff-service option. That latter provision may keep some service positions intact. Advocates also point out that Oregon has been experiencing a labor shortage in recent years.

Local 555 does have an interest in this issue, since it said it represents “nearly 800 workers at 63 grocery store fuel stations in Oregon,” though there’s little clear information on how many jobs have been lost through the law change, and in its statement on the initiative the local didn’t offer an estimate.

Local 555 spokesman Miles Eshaia said, “We have fuel stations within some of our bargaining units and we have seen not necessarily layoffs, but job loss to attrition so people who quit, they just don’t replace them because they don’t necessarily need to, because the new law allows for half of what they had before.”

Local 555 would need to collect about 117,000 signatures by next July to get a proposed reversal on the ballot. If it succeeds at that,  the odds of passage are not good, especially considering that other organizations haven’t jumped on board. While it probably would get more than 10% support, the measure seems to be trying to swim upstream.

The local also is taking on the statehouse with a series of other ballot proposals, which aim to revamp the ethics commission, end some closed door meetings, require some financial transparency for hospitals and pass into law a measure along the lines of the cannabis worker bill that failed in the last session.

Local 555 appears to be going its own way. Will others join in?


Fascist government in waiting

“It’s in vain to recall the past, unless it works some influence upon the present.”

– Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

American democracy increasingly resembles the frog placed in a pot of tepid water not realizing that as the water temperature slowly rises it’s being boiled to death.

Our temperature is rising. Too few of us are paying attention.

Just in the last two weeks the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has broadly outlined the authoritarian agenda he will implement if he gets another grab at power. The agenda – and don’t buy the nonsense that what Donald Trump says differs from what he does – is profoundly un-American, combining the worst of Know Nothing nativism from before the Civil War with the innuendo laced radicalism of Joe McCarthy’s Communist witch hunts of the 1950s.

Increasingly the con man who would be president again sounds like a beer hall agitator in Munich. And a vast army of enablers are goose stepping to his commands.

As widely reported and confirmed by Trump advisers in numerous interviews and documents, the former president, and this is a partial list, intends to:

  • Dismantle the federal civil service system that has been in place since James Garfield was president
  • Conduct wholesale deportations of millions, including people who have been living in the United States for years, or in some cases their entire lives
  • Create vast detention camps
  • Populate the federal government with thousands of cranks and seditionists who, unlike his first time, will not be dissuaded by the Constitution or law from targeting political opponents through a totally politicized justice system
  • Purge the U.S. military of officers unwilling to carry out illegal orders
  • Dispatch the National Guard to patrol major American cities and use the power of the federal budget to direct local policing
  • Eliminate the federal Department of Education and exert unprecedented control over local schools and colleges
  • Enact – again – a ban against Muslims entering the country
  • Pardon the guilty of January 6 and lock up any resisters
  • Re-evaluate – read withdraw – from NATO, the western alliance that has provided security for much of Europe in the post-World War II era
  • End U.S. aid to Ukraine, ensuring that his Russian authoritarian role model, will be able to do to Poland and the Baltic states what he has tried to do to Ukraine

Meanwhile, Trump – a profoundly ignorant man, but at the same time a highly skilled propagandist – is continually conditioning his most ardent followers to their own embrace of his distorted and deeply dangerous approach to American politics. He no longer walks to the edge of inciting violence, but routinely destroys any boundary.

In what the Atlantic called a “dystopian, at times gothic speech” that “droned on for nearly 90 minutes,” Trump told a crowd of his Florida followers recently that he will eliminate the “liars and leeches” who have been “sucking the life and blood” out of America.

Who are these people, these liars and leeches? Mitt Romney? Career prosecutors in several states and the federal government who have investigated Trump’s actions and proven corruption – stands indicted 91 times – and attempt, as the law and our Constitution demand, to hold him accountable? Are the judges charged with administering justice the liars and leeches? Is he talking about former four-star generals who have pronounced him ignorant, unstable and unfit?

Like a Mussolini praising Hitler, he touts as role models the murderous Putin and the strongmen of Hungry, China and North Korea.

This must be called what it is – a fascist government in waiting. The supreme leader’s language no longer hints at the prospect of fascist actions to come, but rather confirms them.

“In honor of our great Veterans on Veteran’s Day,” Trump said on social media, “we pledge to you that we will root out the Communists, Marxists, Fascists, and Radical Left Thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country, lie, steal, and cheat on Elections, and will do anything possible, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America, and the American dream.”

“This is straight-up Nazi talk,” writes New Republic editor Michael Tomasky, “in a way he’s never done quite before. To announce that the real enemy is domestic and then to speak of that enemy in subhuman terms is Fascism 101. Especially that particular word.”

That word would be vermin. What decent, Constitution loving American calls other Americans “vermin?”

Whether Trump knows it or not, and one suspects he does and certainly his speechwriters know this language – down to the same words – were often employed in Nazi Germany in the 1930s to justify the wholesale eliminate of European Jews. This is solely the language of division and hatred. The language of a man and a movement willing to jettison any respect or deference to the rule of law and the Constitution. It is the language of fascism.

A singular feature of fascist governments through modern history is to demonize a class of people as “subhuman” – Jews, indigenous people, migrants, LGBTQ individuals, Muslims, on and on. Demagogues must have a target. Anyone “different” from their mass of followers or any critic is fair game. The fascist leaders of history – in Italy, Germany, Spain – required an enemy, even one casually defined, to focus the hatred and channel the grievance and fear of his followers.

During a recent rally in New Hampshire Trump pledged to “root out … the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country … The real threat is not from the radical right; the real threat is from the radical left, and it’s growing every day, every single day. The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave than the threat from within. Our threat is from within.”

The threat is from within. Really? But who, exactly? Who are these vermin? Career educators trying to teach history? Librarians who reject book banning? Newspaper columnists who deplore the ugliness and historical import of such deranged, unhinged talk from a person in a position of power and influence? Maybe you are the “vermin” – watch yourself – lest you be intimidated and frightened into silence. This is how the authoritarian consolidates his power.

“He’s telling us exactly what he intends to do — like it or loathe it,” write Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen in Axios. “And this time, he’ll have prefabbed institutional muscle to turn pugilistic words into policies and action from the get-go.”

This is not a new story, but it may be history too many Americans have failed to understand or heed.

The pot is boiling. There can be no mystery where this is headed. Recall the past. Fight against un-American words and actions by hateful, ignorant people. Embrace democracy and the Constitution.. Influence the present.

A democracy is too important to lose.


Higher ed in the community

The dividing line used to be clear between community colleges as one thing, and four-year colleges and universities as another.

Community colleges were two-year institutions. People sometimes used them to take lower-level collegiate courses, and then transfer to a four-year college or university, sometimes getting an associate degree in the process. Or they might take technical and vocational courses and training there, or do other preparatory work.

The four-year institutions, in this frame, would be where you find “higher education,” courses specifically leading to undergraduate or graduate degrees (“college degrees” in the usual sense).

The lines seem, of late, to be blurring.

It’s a national development, but it’s becoming increasingly visible in Idaho, and lately has erupted into some controversy. You can expect talk around the subject to grow.

Part of it has to do with community colleges beginning to offer bachelor’s degrees, which traditionally are the province of four-year institutions. The College of Southern Idaho at Twin Falls offers an Operations Management BAS Degree, which is a bachelor’s (intended for people who already have completed qualifications for an associate degree), but has been an outlier.

On November 9 the board of the College of Western Idaho (Meridian-Nampa, founded in 2007) voted to provide a business administration bachelor’s at the community college - now Idaho’s largest college by overall enrollment, and its fastest-growing. The decision would be effective only if the state Board of Education agrees.

The addition was in a sense market-driven. The Idaho Ed News reported that, “trustees pointed to a workforce demand. Within the past year, employers within 100 miles of CWI’s Nampa campus posted 18,000 listings for business-related jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree.” Idaho higher education isn’t meeting nearly those numbers.

The four-year institutions apparently do not approve. All four of Idaho’s four-years offer comparable (not exactly the same) business administration degrees, and three of them (Boise State University, the University of Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College) specifically asked the Board of Education to deny the request. (Idaho State University seems not to have weighed in.) BSU said that some of CWI’s arguments for the expansion were “inaccurate, unsupported and frankly outright misleading.”

This has turned into a squabble, with the institutions starting to throw shade at each other over graduation rates and other data points. (The objection from the University of Idaho, given its proposed affiliation with the mostly online University of Phoenix, is of special interest.)

Whatever happens in this specific issue, social and economic pressure is likely to move toward the community colleges in expanding their offerings, and this pressure point may become an education and political flash point in years ahead.

One reason is money. Community colleges almost always are far less costly for students to attend than are four-year institutions, and that seems to be true (speaking generally) in Idaho as elsewhere. CWI has reported that its estimated tuition cost for a student to obtain the bachelor’s would be about $20,000, well below the four-year institutions.

Writ large - imagine this proposal for a bachelor’s degree expanding into a number of others over time - this could start to have a serious effect on the older Idaho colleges and universities, with overall ripple effects unclear. But one of them is likely to be money, if students begin drifting away toward the less-expensive and more convenient community colleges. If you can get many of the same results at the less costly community level, why not?

The state Board of Education is expected to consider, and probably decide, on the College of Western Idaho proposal at its December meeting. There are some indications it’s favorably inclined, but some of those indicators came before the other institutions began weighing in.

But this could mark the start of a reshaping of Idaho higher education. In the shape of college to come, the lines between different institutions, and different kinds of institutions, may become less clear.


Give thanks

It was over six years ago I asked for a spot on this medium. The editor looked through my blog and said I could slip into the Thursday slot. He was aware of my political past. Maybe he thought I had something to offer. I am thankful for his generosity. But I had no concept back then that the Thursday slot meant Thanksgiving, year after year.

I needed to have an annual Thanksgiving post.

I have not always observed the holiday in my posts. I have mixed feelings about both the holiday and large family gatherings. So, some of my fourth Thursday of November posts have not mentioned Pilgrims.

Not that anybody reads this when they are thawing turkeys or greeting relatives. But I have taken this task to heart. So, I post today for your and my Idaho Thanksgiving.

I don’t really know if those east coast Pilgrims were thankful. Lincoln made it a national Holiday 200 years after the Mayflower landed. He had a wise political mind. National Holidays in the midst of a brutal civil war might have just been him playing a public sentiment chip when his hand was weak after the Second Bull Run. And it really boosted the turkey farmers.

It is said the Pilgrims ate turkey and corn and shared a table with their fellow settlers and the natives they were soon to displace. It sure sounds like a wonderful scene, and we all grew up with that image, didn’t we?

But our Idaho natives did not share turkey and corn with the whites with the guns. The Nez Perce shared camas and salmon with the starving Corps of Discovery as they stumbled out of the North Idaho wilderness. These welcoming natives saved the Corps’ lives. And then we displaced them from their lands, despite a treaty. And they have not pursued their war against us. I am thankful for their generous nature and troubled to be living on their land.

So out of reverence for the concept, the worthiness of such a wholesome and spiritual practice as these indigenous people demonstrated, I give thanks. May we all be so welcoming, and forgiving.

I offer thanks to my family, that they tolerate my odd moods and thoughtless behaviors. I can be hard to live with. But they have not kicked me out yet. I am thankful.

This beautiful land, this place I live, I appreciate deeply. I give thanks. I don't mind the dark, the cold, the rain or snow. I know it triggers life in the seeds as they lie awaiting warmth and the sun of a new season. The blazing red-purple sunset, the golden low light of autumn carries me through the gray days and chill nights. I can abide and do so with gratitude.

But the newcomers and the traffic have me perplexed. I greatly appreciate solitude. That is part of what drew me to Idaho. Though I have come to understand I needed more than myself to be healthy. So, I live in community.

It is hard to accept this change, though all of you might not feel it. Some of Idaho is exploding, some stays about the same. A few communities shrink. I should be as welcoming as the Nez Perce were. But then…

I hope these newcomers too have gratitude for this place. Despite the fact that one of the things that made Idaho wonderful for me was that they hadn’t moved here yet. But then, I did. I moved here from another too-crowded place.

This is a wonderful place, this state. We are made up of the leftovers of the states around us as they were carving out their borders. I love leftovers, don’t you? Happy national holiday to you and yours. May you be blessed with gratitude.



House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel of Boise has an invitation for those who are fed up with right-wing politics, or the continued divisions within the Republican Party.

“Join the Idaho Democratic Party,” she says. “We are the party of common sense. The goal of our leadership is to be the adults in the room.”

Well … let’s be honest. Idaho is not about to become a blue state, or even the lightest shade of purple, anytime soon. Former Gov. Cecil Andrus made serious inroads in the power structure, helping the Democrats to a tie for control of the Idaho Senate in the early ‘90s, but the Gem State quickly swung back to the Republican side after that. The Republican stronghold seems secure, with the new people moving to Idaho being at least as conservative as those who live here.

But with the constant strife within the GOP – between the libertarian wing and those traditional Republicans who are not viewed as “not conservative enough,” it shouldn’t be surprising to see Democrats trying to attract those who are more centrist in their political thinking.

“People who were Reagan Republicans or Romney Republicans should be thinking hard about whether they should be switching over to support Idaho Democrats,” Rubel says.

Today’s Republican Party is not the GOP that existed 30 years ago, she says. “Republicans used to stand against government overreach … you don’t have the government micromanaging every aspect of your life – telling you how to raise your kids, what clothes to wear or what books to read. The Democratic Party is opposed to all of that. We’re very much in favor of freedom of choice.”

She chides Republicans for spending so much time on issues such as banning drag shows and certain library books. Democrats, she says, are more focused on the basics – such as making sure bridges are safe, that roads are repaired, that schools are providing a good education and that teachers are being decently paid.

“That has been our agenda all along,” she says. “Of course, that’s tough to penetrate through the right wing, because they have a much bigger megaphone. What we’re bringing is middle-of-the-road stuff that just about every Idahoan would support – providing hearing aids for deaf kids, sealing court records for non-violent minor offenses so people can get jobs and housing, loan forgiveness for teachers to go to rural areas and dental coverage for those in extreme poverty.”

Rubel suggested this year’s session would have been more productive if the Legislature approved Gov. Brad Little’s budget in January, then gone home. Of course, nothing like that was going to happen. And the drama is continuing with Republican central committees calling out legislators for actions that violate the party’s platform.

Rubel says such activity does not happen on the Democratic side.

“It’s profoundly inappropriate,” she says. “These folks were elected by the people in their districts, not the central committees. Who needs to have elected officials if all they are supposed to do is be a rubber stamp for the party central committee, or the state chair? You might as well have a robot there.”

Democrats get called out by pro-life advocates for “extreme” positions on abortions. But Rubel argues that people, at least on that issue, would be better served under Democratic policies. Idaho women, and fetuses, are not served well by Republican-led bans on abortions, which already have driven some doctors and specialists out of the state.

“The perception is that Democrats want abortions through the eighth month, and that’s total nonsense,” Rubel says. “Even with that, there are extreme health conditions that even the most pro-life of people would support for an abortion – finding out there is no skull or brain, or no possibility of a fetus surviving. But they have the microphone. They control talk radio and the right-wing news outlets, and we get very few opportunities to defend ourselves.”

And those dynamics won’t change at any point soon; the culture is on the side of Republicans, regardless of the brand. But Rubel makes convincing points to folks who are more in the center of the political spectrum – the ones who do not have the loudest voice in the political process.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at