Opinion: What does Reilly’s candidacy tell us about state of Idaho politics?

Earlier this week, a man with a long history of antisemitic, racist, homophobic and misogynistic statements announced a write-in candidacy in the Democratic primary for governor. Is this a joke, one might ask? Perhaps. But if it is, the humor is in poor taste.

Earlier this month, several individuals registered as Democrats and filed to run as precinct captains. The movement, centered mostly in north Idaho, had an avowed aim of taking over the local party organization and funneling funds to right-wing candidates. Political hijinks? Perhaps. Fortunately, the ploy failed as local organizations publicized the plot.

The larger question is: Why these antics are happening at all? While one cannot fathom the minds of someone who mounts a pointless write-in campaign, it seems reasonable to assert that many of our currently elected officials are reading from the same script. They are more interested in theater, not results.

Take, for example, the House’s recent attempt to cut the Commission for Libraries’ budget. Some members were unhappy because of grassroots opposition to a bill that would criminalize librarians when a minor checked out objectionable material. The crowd asks: Which material? What objections?

Or, consider our governor, who signed copycat legislation borrowed from Texas allowing family members to sue health care workers for performing a legally allowed abortion after only six weeks of pregnancy. They used this timeline even though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists categorize this time frame as problematic.

Gov. Little signed the legislation, even though he had significant reservations. “I fear the novel civil enforcement mechanism will in short order be proven both unconstitutional and unwise,” Little said. “Deputizing private citizens to levy hefty monetary fines on the exercise of a disfavored but judicially recognized constitutional right for the purpose of evading court review undermines our constitutional form of government and weakens our collective liberties.”

Gov. Little, to which audience are you playing? If this was bad legislation, why not veto the bill? Failing to do so undermines the institutions the office of governor is constitutionally sworn to protect.

It is time to stop playing make-believe with our political processes and return to a sense that we are engaged in the moral act of community building. Whether a false-flag attempt to confuse voters, a vindictive attack on librarians who sought to have their voices heard or failing to veto a bad bill, the result is the same. We erode the only thing that makes democracies work, the trust and participation of citizens. Idaho voters deserve better.

Todd DeVries is the state committeeman for Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.