It used to be that politics rarely made it into everyday conversation. In fact, it used to be one of those topics “best to avoid” in conversation. However, it seems that there is almost no topic of discussion that does not find itself hijacked by political conversation. If you don’t believe me, all you need to do is look at the comments section on almost any news story. Whatever the topic you will likely not need to scroll long to find a political opinion interjected.
Political discussion is not a bad thing. A more informed and engaged electorate leads to positive changes for our communities, helps hold our leaders accountable, and brings up issues or concerns that may not have come to your attention before. All of these discussions can be helpful.
What’s not helpful? Extremism. Especially extremism without taking the time to really analyze what is being said and why. Resorting to name calling, attacking someone because of how they look or sound, or demonizing a fellow Idahoan because they may hold different beliefs than you.
While these tactics may give a sense of satisfaction or lead someone to believe that they are “standing up” for something, they do little to accomplish anything helpful or productive. In fact, while extremist culture war talking points take up so much time and energy in the Legislature, half of Idahoans live paycheck-to-paycheck. We still have school facilities making national news for falling apart. We still live in a state with shrinking affordable housing availability, rising property taxes, people unable to afford basic medical care and growing food insecurity.
Polling indicates most Idahoans are more worried about these “kitchen table” issues. Instead, we’re stuck in an endless cycle of culture war because it’s easier for our Republican-run Legislature to stir up emotions than work to address the things that actually affect our daily lives. They say they’ll address affordable housing — after harping on drag queens, librarians, OB-GYNs and other non-issues.
This is not just happening in our state. This is playing out in states across the country and in D.C. as well. As long as these extremist talking points remain the focus of the day, I know that both sides, myself included, stand ready to debate. However, we would do well to remember that in this quest for control of individuals — to decide whom people can love, what women must do with their bodies, what books one can read, what bathroom someone uses or what pronouns they feel represent them best — we neglect the true issues that face us.
We have two paths. We can continue down the path where extremists set the agenda and attack our rights or we can let people make personal decisions for themselves and get back to the business of trying to solve the problems that affect us all.
David Roth was a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, Idaho’s 2nd District, a former nominee to the U.S. Senate and a member of the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.