No matter how you spin it, it has been an interesting summer for Idaho’s voters. Reagan’s “big Republican Party tent” is splitting apart. Attorney General Raúl Labrador’s attempt to define the Open Primaries Initiative was brought up short by Idaho’s Supreme Court. The common thread linking these stories is that extreme elements within the Republican Party want to control our political discourse so that alternate perspectives are silenced. This smells like authoritarianism and should scare us straight to the voting booth.
Columnist George Will once said, “The Republican Party today lives in terror of its voters, and that’s, again, a very dangerous political condition.”
Extreme right-wing ideologues demonstrate over and over that they fear the young, the feminine, the immigrant and the library book. They fear what might happen if primaries were opened.
In June, the Republican Party held its state convention in Challis. In what has been described as a “purge,” the organization voted to remove the executive voting privileges of the Idaho Federation of Republican Women, the Idaho Young Republicans and the Idaho College Republicans. If one takes away representation from women, young people and students, who’s left? Well, other than the leaders of the purge.
The Idaho Supreme Court has unanimously instructed the attorney general’s office to rewrite the language describing the Open Primaries Initiative. The court agreed with Reclaim Idaho and Idahoans for Open Primaries that the description as written by the attorney general’s office was misleading and inaccurate. Mr. Labrador is far from unbiased on this issue. Earlier this year, he opposed the initiative claiming in a tweet that our homegrown initiative comes from outside groups. Most of the money for these grassroots issues comes from inside the state. On the other hand, we have only to look at these extremist right-wing PACs to see the influence of outside dollars. Labrador uses “liberal” cities as boogeymen, claiming failures while ignoring the success of open primaries in states like Maine and Alaska, which have Republican majorities and are renowned for their independent voters.
The attorney general is the chief law officer of our state. His office represents the government in litigation and serves as its principal legal adviser. He and his staff should represent the interests of the government, not of one party or ideology. A citizen’s initiative which meets all other qualifying criteria must be represented accurately. Informed voters are smart voters. They alone can decide on the proposal’s merits. Fortunately, the court saw through Mr. Labrador’s misinformation ruse.
Idaho’s voters are witnessing firsthand what happens when a single ideologically driven group assumes too much power. This is happening within Idaho’s Republican Party leadership and our state’s government. Those who did not agree with the prevailing ideology controlling the party had their voting rights removed. Those responsible for ensuring fair representation of a proposed citizen’s initiative are trying to misinform voters as a way to cling to power. We should be worried.
But are we scared enough to vote differently and make a change?
Todd DeVries is a local mental health expert and the state committeeman for the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.