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John Livingston

Idaho’s Romper Room

Down at the capital this morning I heard a new term to describe the more progressive branch of the Republican Party in Idaho—formerly referred to as RINOs. The term was “Romper Room Republicans” I am sure the term was used in a pejorative fashion, but there were some very positive things about the TV show that aired nationally from 1953 until 1994.

The show unfolded and had the cadence of an Idaho legislative proceeding. The first order of business was a greeting from the host or hostess followed by a prayer and The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of The United States of America. The second, third, and fourth order of business usually lasted about 60 minutes and consisted of games and storytelling—sound familiar? Unlike in our State legislature the cast which were 4–5-year-old boys and girls all with traditional pronouns, was rotated on a regular basis. Prolonged incumbency was not allowed, though a cast member with a special gift of unique “human capital” could be asked back for a second time—this was not the norm, however. No incumbency-legacy privilege in ROMPER ROOM.

Etiquette and proper deportment were always emphasized on the show. Mr. Do-Bee (an oversized bumblebee) was one of the main characters—I was always suspicious of Mr. Do-Bee. He was too “goody-goody” for me, and he also seemed to give preference to little girls over boys having jumped on the band wagon of affirmative action early on in the game. All kinds of kid’s games were played, but never the big three—football, baseball, and basketball. And at the end of each session—unlike at our legislature, the children all prayed—twice in one day go figure! “GOD IS GREAT, GOD IS GOOD, NOW WE THANK HIM FOR OUR FOOD, AMEN.” On public TV! The participants were then given “free” milk and cookies irrespective of their being eligible for SNAP (food stamps back then). There was no legislation passed during these “Romper Room” Sessions so there were no lobbyists to pay for the milk and cookies, rather it seems the sponsors of the show who received government subsidies for sponsoring children’s educational material paid for the “free milk and cookies”—there was such a thing as a “free lunch” even back then—just not at a country club or Chandlers.

A better description of the moderate branch of our Idaho Republican Party would be “corporate welfarists”. With over 50% of our States budget coming from the Federal government and being allocated via State agencies and the JFAC budgeting process, the two biggest groups receiving those funds—healthcare and education, have become supplicant to those programs and benefactors to the politicians’ distributing funds. A very bad place to be looking into the future if you’re a K-12 student or a patient dependent through no fault of your own on Medicaid, but who is seeing more monies being given to well Medicaid recipients instead of those who the program was designed to help. Access—Quality—Cost? Waiting times for some specialty office appointments for Medicaid patients in many cases exceeds 4 months!

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But here is where the ideas of “romper room” and corporate welfare get entangled. The “Mr. Do-Bees” in Republican leadership insist on publicly maintaining a façade of equanimity as they run legislative sessions and follow Robert’s Rules or whatever legislative rules they use, but behind closed doors they do all they can to marginalize their fellow conservative Republicans while allowing themselves to be used by the corporate lobbyists. I lived for 18 years in the South, and I know what it means when a political or economic enemy smiles at you and says, “Why God Bless your soul”. What happened at JFAC last week when the new budgeting process that had been designed last summer and was used to pass several agency budgets, was circumvented by the “MR. Do-Bee” corporate sycophants on the JFAC, was Romper ROOM with an “edge of vengeance” and Mr. Do-Bee was the ringleader.

Politics is a contact sport especially behind closed doors. When fellow Republicans pull the rug out from fellow Republicans and work behind the scenes with corporate lobbyists and Dems to circumvent rules and process, then don’t expect the conservative wing of our party to stand buy and forget. What happened at JFAC last week wasn’t ROMPER ROOM and it wasn’t virtuous.

Sometimes a bully needs to be bullied.

Who is Idaho’s “Mr. Do-Bee” anyway?

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