Will The Adults Keep Control?
(Test post 11/26/11 for a new blog -- please ignore)
The Idaho Republican Party is coming up on a legislative session and subsequent election that could determine their direction for years to come. The battle, as it is elsewhere in the country, is between the more Libertarian/State’s Rights wing of the party and the establishment (hereafter referred to, in the preferred language of the insurgents, as “RINOs” – Republicans in Name Only). Were one to only look at the Idaho GOP platform adopted in 2010, an outside observer might think that the extremists had already won; the platform calls for, among other interesting ideas, the repeal of the 17th Amendment and returning to the gold standard.
It’s one thing for party activists to adopt a bold party platform, but another for the more reasonable members of said party to actually vote for it when their actions may be noticed by the wider public. In the two examples noted above, many Idaho Republican legislators failed to follow through when given the opportunity to cast a vote in favor of these two principles, despite the “loyalty oath” also included in the new platform: the House State Affairs committee failed to advance a “repeal the 17th” bill, and a “sound money” bill failed to even get a motion from the same body. That these elements of the Idaho GOP platform were too extreme for the Idaho House is telling (or, more likely, too potentially embarrassing to open for public debate), since it’s normally the Senate that was counted on to act as the “adult” last session. (The House actually passed the Health Care Nullification law only to see it shot down in the Senate committee.) This proves that there’s a disconnect between some of the more extreme Idaho Republican partisans and the elected officials of their party – the “adults” of the Idaho GOP are willing to say one thing and do another when the more extreme theories of the new Idaho GOP orthodoxy are put to the test of the real world.
Idaho freshman Congressman Raul Labrador filled out the questionnaire for TEA Party Boise before the 2010 election, and, with two exceptions, pledged or committed to carry out everything on their checklist – even the items that were clearly delusional. When the rubber met the road, however, Rep. Labrador decided that there were times when real world political considerations outweighed his “pledge” to work to enact a theory. He voted for at least one bill that hadn’t been “published on the web for at least 7 days prior to the vote”, and still hasn’t posted a list of “all campaign donations on your website, including date, name of parent organization as well as the donating entity, and the amount of the donation”. I don’t blame him for his actions in these cases; where House rules only require 3 days posting of bills and FEC rules only require disclosure of donations of $200 or more, it would be silly to go beyond that. I would, however, hold him accountable were he to make the same ridiculous pledges next year.
So where does this leave the Idaho Republican Party? While the case could be made that the 45% of primary voters who voted for someone other than Butch Otter in the May 2010 primary are the forefront of a potential wave of disaffected “True Republicans” who will overthrow the RINOs and lead the way back to the 1850s, I think that the powers that be will do whatever it takes to limit the extremists to a few planks in the Party platform and will let them win a few symbolic votes in the Legislature for bills that either have no effect or will quickly be thrown out by the courts. They know that the only way the Republican Party can lose their stranglehold on Idaho politics is to give control to the most extreme members of the party (the 26% who voted for Rex Rammell in May 2010) and watch the moderate voters desert the party in droves when the main accomplishment of a future legislature is to enable citizens to pay their property taxes in gold or silver coinage or all their legislators follow the lead of Rammell and declare themselves de jure citizens. The upcoming session will be a good barometer of how far the “adults” are willing to let the insurgents go, and if failure to enact the more extreme elements of the party platform will energize the extremists to actually vote out some of the RINOs in the primary. It should be fun to watch – as long as they don’t actually pass any bills that would irrevocably hurt the citizens of our state.