Sometimes we say things that are worth remembering. Sometimes, though, we’d really prefer people forget what we’ve said.
I won’t bother you with the long list of my utterances I’d like to retract. The writer of a recent Journal column may be experiencing similar regret for his most recent opinion piece.
It was what can only be explained as an apparent attempt at political humor. In it, the writer argued that the dismally distressing dysfunction in the Idaho Republican party today is the fault of — wait for it — Democrats!
A famous phrase spoken by Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas during a vice presidential debate in 1988 comes to mind. Bentsen’s opponent, Sen. Dan Quayle, was young, only 41 at the time.
In his defense, Quayle argued he’d been in office as long as tragically assassinated President John F. Kennedy when he was elected. Speaking in his deep bass voice, Bentsen told the audience, “I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew him. He was a friend of mine.” Then, looking squarely at Quayle, Bentsen growled, “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Bentsen’s remark has entered American culture as the perfect putdown of an overblown ego.
I do get that many Republicans feel Democrat-bashing is a requirement for membership in their party today. Bashing the other political party is one way of diverting attention from very real issues within one’s own party.
The conflict within the Republican party isn’t new. Republican centrists are both politically and morally far removed from the extreme right-wing fringe of their party.
The problem with this conflict is it can be exploited by selfish politicians. We’re seeing that in spades right now as unqualified extremists on the far-right challenge qualified, experienced local, legislative and statewide candidates in the Republican primary.
The ideological extremists are sincere in their belief that they have all the answers. That’s because they know in their hearts that government is evil.
There would be a lot more credibility in their speech if even one of their candidates would offer concrete, constructive solutions to some of the multitude of significant problems facing Idaho. Sadly, supporting our underfunded education system, stemming the rising flood of property taxes, solving our opioid crisis, or controlling insanely expensive medical care costs don’t seem to even be on their agenda. If you’re looking for solutions, read the platforms of Democratic candidates.
The irony here — that government is a group of imperfect people picked from the imperfect general public to manage and presumably improve the affairs of that public — totally escapes the radical extremists. Perfection, they contend, as it’s been revealed to the extremists while mysteriously concealed from all others, can only be achieved by election of these fringe figures.
There’s a reason Idaho has so many right-wing extremists. In 2004, journalist Bill Bishop started explaining it. He noted Americans were moving to states, counties, cities and communities to be around people who shared their views. Check out Bishop’s book, “The Big Sort,” if you want details.
In less than 40 years in-migration of political and social conservatives and out-migration of younger, more progressive, job-hunting Idahoans has changed Idaho’s political landscape dramatically. Republican arguments to the contrary, Idaho Democrats have trended more conservative in that time.
The primary election Tuesday has separate ballots for Democratic, Republican, Libertarian and Constitution parties and for non-partisan races. Any voter, even Republican, can vote a Democratic ballot Tuesday. You had to register as a Republican some time ago, however, to vote in the GOP primary.
Republicans designed it that way. A closed primary favors an active minority. The exclusion is now coming home to haunt the Idaho GOP. How much damage that causes will be apparent after Tuesday’s primary.
In the meantime, at least one Journal columnist is worried for the Republican party. If he wants to lean toward humor, he should study the writing of this paper’s excellent columnist, Mike Murphy.
I know Mike Murphy. I like Mike Murphy. I have to say, Mr. Republican columnist, you’re no Mike Murphy.
Dave Finkelnburg is a longtime Idahoan, a former newspaper journalist, and is currently semi-retired from an engineering career.