Democracy is under threat in Idaho, as evidenced by the past two Idaho legislative sessions. We have seen our elected officials attack the basic tenets of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities and women, and the rule of law. Once the battle to maintain our representative democracy is lost, we will be ruled through autocracy.
The idea that freedom is an exclusive emblem in America ignores our Constitution, the most conservative tool in the land. Through our Constitution, we have established a representative republic — which is a type of democracy. Our democracy adds the structure to freedom. Without the structure of our democracy, we would not have the moral order, separation of powers and traditions we do. These values used to be supported by traditional conservatives.
Two core values of conservativism are centered on eliminating bureaucracy and reducing regulation and the idea that government serves the people and not the other way around. Unfortunately, the past two legislative sessions introduced regulations on voting, along with trying to make ballot initiatives nearly impossible. Additionally, some of our GOP legislators have made efforts to increase their power by passing legislation allowing them to call special sessions, removing a separation of power given to our governor.
These efforts do not reduce regulation or create a government that serves the people. Calling themselves to session and spending tax dollars to increase restrictions on our freedoms flies in the face of traditional conservatism. Eliminating the people’s voice through ballot initiatives and attacking the separation of powers are all shots made at our democracy.
The attack on democracy is not just a charge that can be defended on the two battle fronts of land and sea. The additional fronts of disinformation and extremism already surround us. We continue to see our government officials ignore the rule of law, as Rep. Priscilla Giddings did when she released a rape victim’s name and when Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin decided to ignore our attorney general. Not only wasting legislative time but increasing costs to every taxpayer.
Once our democracy has been removed, it will be autocracy that we are fighting. The autocrats will attempt to maintain power through intimidation, along with large disinformation campaigns that can be used to control the masses. We can see the warning signs. They’ve been glaring at us from the Legislature.
Organizations like the Idaho Freedom Foundation want you to think they are a conservative think tank fighting for conservative values and education. Their efforts, however, create chaos through political distraction and puppeteering. They threaten our elected officials with primaries by extremists and publish scorecards that reflect their own views as opposed to what’s important to the majority of Idahoans.
It is time to unify and start our rally cry for democracy. As the election approaches, understand the candidates. Notice not just what they say, but also consider their actions. It is extremism that will oppress the people and keep the minority in power. The best defense against government extremism and largesse is to be an informed and engaged voter.
Daniel Barker is a business leadership development consultant and the vice-chair of the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.