Conservatives are no longer represented by individuals championing a set of values in a clash to the compromise with our counterparts on the other side. Any more the aisle dividing legislative houses is not a walkway. It is no longer a simple management device to assist party whips with convenient access to party members. The aisle isn’t even a capitulation to fire codes. It is the Gaza Strip writ large in every statehouse and chamber in the nation.
Right here in Idaho there is a sinister division forming between the rank-and-file and the party elite. This rift began with the concept of a closed primary.
I am going to set myself as the average right-of-center moderate conservative. I might even apply the meaningless catch-all phrase of fiscal conservative social liberal, even though it is an ill fitting description of my full political belief.
There is a specific reason that I have never registered as anything. I have made the choice to remain unaffiliated because at various times my political convictions are not represented properly by the Republican Party. Having a closed primary restricts me to not having a say in the people most likely to represent me well. In order to have a say in the actions of the party I am usually closely related to I have to join their elite club.
Primarily primary elections have been the playground of the respective parties and each side has followed a “gentleman’s agreement” to stay out of the other party’s primary, but the reason the polling has traditionally been left open is for members of opposing parties to express their concerns over a drastically unqualified or potentially dangerous candidate, by which I mean actual danger, not the “I don’t like his philosophy” type of danger. I mean the “I know she is embezzling from her employer” type danger.
A closed primary is an erosion of checks and balances in our system.
More recently some Idaho Republicans are trying to tighten the elitist hold on the party by suggesting that all Republican candidates be vetted by the state party prior to being listed on a primary ballot.
The restriction could be added to the Idaho election process if passed during the Idaho Republican Central Committee meeting in McCall this past weekend. The proposal to hand all of the power of selecting candidates to a small number of people was pushed forward by former Idaho Senate Majority Leader Rob Beck.
Beck and other Republicans seem to be upset by the Idaho Legislature’s approval of a state run medical insurance exchange. Along with asking for a rule change to allow a limited number of people to have ultimate control of the Idaho GOP they are also proposing a rule that would remove campaign funding and support from elected officials that vote in ways that “contradict Republican ideals”.
A rule change of this nature would put the choice of gubernatorial candidates squarely in Beck’s hands. As the Region Four Chairman of the Idaho Republican Central Committee, Beck would be a key player in deciding if Governor Otter would receive party backing during his 2014 reelection campaign. Given that Beck was a strong opponent of the insurance exchange it seems fairly obvious that this power grab is a personal vendetta.
The ramification of this rule change is much wider than an ego-driven power struggle in Boise. The rule isn’t written for Otter specifically or even state-level offices. It is written to give control of selecting candidates for ALL elected offices to various sub-committees of the Republican Party. It will mean that every office will need permission. This may seem innocuous at first but this is treading that razor’s edge at the top of a slippery slope that only leads to cronyism. Even running for airport board or weed district commission a Republican will require a blessing from the ruling elite.
I have in recent weeks been critical of Otter and his comments about healthcare, but Otter along with a long list of Idaho Republicans have stated their opposition to the suggested rule change. In a letter signed by Otter, former governor Phil Batt, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and nearly 60 other Idaho Republicans voiced their opposition to the idea. O pponents to the new rule call the proposal a “narrowing” of political access.
At a ceremony naming the Idaho Department of Transportation headquarters building in Boise after Batt, the former governor said he opposed limiting access to the election process.
“It’s a very poor idea. We need to broaden participation in our elections. I think that would narrow it,” said Batt.
I applaud Otter, Batt and the other signers of the letter opposing Beck’s proposal. This is a narrowing of the democratic process. This attempt to remove me from the political process is a contradiction of Republican ideals.
As of the deadline for this column the Idaho Republican Central Committee had not voted on Beck’s proposal, but if it does pass (which seems unlikely due to the large amount of support against it) it may be a strong indication that I should firmly plant a “D” next to my name.