Is Idaho on a path to rapid progressivism? Initial reactions to that question might be a resounding “no” or maybe even “hell no.” But indulge me for a moment on the reality of our current status as a “conservative” state.
Idahoans would largely agree that we are one of the most conservative states in the country. We enjoy our firearms, the sanctity of life, lower taxes, and less government intervention in our lives.
Or do we?
More and more as I watch the bills that move through Idaho’s legislature, I am convinced that our populace prefers bigger government. Perhaps we are only conservative thinkers and not conservative voters? Or is the problem that Republican legislators are legislating like moderate Democrats after they are elected, and then campaigning like conservatives every two years?
Let’s look at just a few of the major progressive issues Republicans helped push into law in Idaho. We implemented Obamacare when other states fought against it. We implemented the very progressive Common Core standards which have been a disaster for our education system. Idaho also pushed through a massive transportation tax hike bill. Our budget continues to explode with our legislature spending as much as they possibly can with little relief for taxpayers.
Where is the disconnect? Has Idaho already turned purple with our voting?
That would seem unlikely given the large Republican turnout, and the rather large percentage of Republican lawmakers that currently hold office in Idaho.
Perhaps the issue isn’t that Idahoans aren’t conservative enough, but that our legislature continues to vote for bigger and bigger government?
What most Idahoans don’t see are the dozens and dozens of bills each year that are big government and progressive in nature, but go completely unnoticed by voters. Many of these bills are pushed by Republican lawmakers. In fact, with many of these proposals, if I told you what the issue was and asked you to identify which party you think it came from, you would likely say “those damn Democrats!”
Sadly, that isn’t the case.
So, why do these politicians keep making it into office with these big government votes?
There are probably several explanations for this:
1. They are lying to their voters on the campaign trail. They will tell voters about a few of their “conservative” votes and skip right over their big government votes which far outnumber their limited government ones.
2. Voters refuse to hold their elected officials accountable. The only way to hold bad politicians accountable is by removing them from office for violating their oaths. However, if all you do is look at the “R” next to their name, then you are part of the problem. This is why the primary process is so important, and why voters must dig deeper into where these candidates stand.
Is it okay to call out your fellow Republicans for voting like a progressive and big government elected official? Heck yes, it is! Do any of you honestly believe that the Founders would just sit back and not criticize those who were for big government? On the contrary, they had regular and heated debates about the proper role of government.
You can be cordial and respectful with your criticisms, but you must look past the party label and campaign rhetoric to see what is really happening with your elected official’s voting records.
3. Voters put too much faith into a politician because they “know” them on a personal level. Because much of Idaho is rural, we tend to know most of the people that get elected on some personal level. That personal connection seems to prevent citizens from holding politicians accountable for their votes. For instance, I have known Rep. Jarom Wagoner (Republican – District 10) for a long time. I went to church with him for several years. He is a very nice individual and probably a far more righteous man than I.
However, when it comes to his voting record, we have some serious disagreements. He voted for gun control (H.B. 585) in 2018. He voted to kill a bill that would repeal Medicaid Expansion in 2019. He voted for forced mortal maternity review in 2019. He has refused to cosponsor any legislation brought forward by the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance.
That’s not to say that Rep. Wagoner doesn’t have some good votes. His votes are just a “mixed bag” if you will of good and bad votes. So, do I call out my Representative for his bad votes? Absolutely! Do I say nothing because I “know” Rep. Wagoner, and don’t want to risk ruining a relationship because of disagreements over a voting record? Absolutely not!
That may seem harsh, but the truth is that the Republic is more concerning to me. Don’t become an elected official if you are going to let political opinions destroy friendships.
Most Idahoans will choose to avoid those discussions. People, in general, prefer less confrontational discussions and debate. However, if you don’t hold your elected officials accountable then you are on a perpetual path of not changing the way things are done.
The reality is, both the Republican Party and the Democrat Party are controlled by the progressive establishment. The Democrats may be on a path to socialism, but Republicans are on the same path, just at a slower pace.
There are some great friends of mine who are elected officials and are fighting for real limited government. There are some great friends of mine who are trying to save the Republican Party and are fighting back an entrenched and deeply funded progressive establishment who control most of the party.
I sincerely hope they are successful in their efforts. I remain very skeptical of their ability to do so.
The reality is, if Republican voters don’t begin to do a far better job of holding Idaho politicians accountable, we will go the way of Oregon and Washington.
Maybe that’s what many of our “conservative” voters really want?
I, for one, prefer liberty and limited government and will continue to vote for those who are on that path.