Idaho progressives are among the most transactional realists you’ll ever find. It’s a necessity. We participate constructively in what presently is a pretty harsh political and philosophical environment. We strive continually to support mutual aspirations among conservatives and work as best as we can toward common good. We labor to protect and benefit all Idahoans, including those embracing contrasting political philosophies. It’s the right thing to do and we believe this grounded approach will ultimately raise our political fortunes.
We express our concerns clearly and mount opposition from an unambiguously defined hierarchy of principles. Likewise, it behooves us to understand the pronouncements and actions of Idaho’s dominant party, the GOP. That isn’t always easy.
This legislative session, progressives witnessing the statements and actions of Idaho’s GOP-dominated Legislature find ourselves debating whether to laugh, cry or froth with indignation. Despite Idahoan’s numerous urgent needs, legislative leadership ceded the Capitol’s dais last week to a festering GOP family drama that makes the Hatfields and McCoys look like paragons of civility.
Rep. Heather Scott apparently outraged the sensibilities of her caucus. Her transgression was an egregiously frank (crude?) allegation. She contended female legislators were pressured to provide sexual favors (“spread their legs”) to the predominately graying male Republican legislative power-brokers as a prerequisite to choice committee assignments.
Reactions among offended Republicans ranged from quiet consternation to vocal condemnation. It isn’t clear whether Republican leadership’s alarm was over Scott’s language, the accusation’s conceivable validity or its embarrassingly public airing, depicting Idaho’s GOP so unfavorably. Regardless, the result was stripping Scott’s committee assignments. The drama entered a second act Monday when a handful of Scott’s sycophants joined the brouhaha, resigning their committee assignments in protest.
Here’s where confusion kicks in. The fine points of the current fracas are deeply concerning, deserving serious investigation and appropriate intervention. However, on an absolute historical and legal scale, this drama is a salacious cliché that has played out scores of times historically in legislatures across America. Humans have their foibles. Eros may be busy diddling with the hearts, minds, political ethics and scorekeeping of Idaho’s Republican Party. Shame on such crude language. Idaho is besmirched by political scandal again. Shocking!
Scottgate provides great kabuki theater that progressives could easily, even gleefully, celebrate from the sidelines with schadenfreude. But, honestly, we’re more concerned by this spectacle’s disturbing underbelly.
Why was this particular faux pas deemed serious enough to strip Heather Scott of committee assignments? Why did these transgressions trigger meaningful punishment when so much of Rep. Scott’s previous recklessness went unsanctioned by Idaho’s GOP Legislature?
There’s no prohibition against being a principled and outspoken firebrand or iconoclast. And if Scott’s allegations of sexual subornation can be substantiated, they should absolutely carry the gravity they deserve. Nonetheless, reasonable Democrats and Republicans have grown antipathetic toward Rep. Scott precisely because several incidents she has been publically involved in or associated with were not treated by her party or Idaho’s Legislature with anything approaching the gravity they deserved.
Brandishing a Confederate flag at Priest River’s 2015 Timber Days celebration was protected by First Amendment rights but utterly tasteless and irresponsible. Northern Idaho continues to reap national reproach for its infamous and unfortunate episode of neo-Nazis and white supremacist group intrusions in the 1980s and ‘90s. For a local representative to ignore the potential for such groups to interpret that flag display as dog whistling approval suggests either political naiveté bordering on incompetency, or utterly cynical disingenuity.
Flocking to the Malheur standoff for a propagandistic photo-op, supporting an armed incursion on a government facility that resulted in costly destruction of government property and research programs, and outlandish squandering of state, federal and local law enforcement resources fill another paragraph in Scott’s political resume’. Her presence, along with other scofflaw politicians, compounded the local community’s disruption and internal squabbles plus interfered with law enforcement’s efforts to peacefully diffuse the situation. Inserting themselves into the standoff introduced precarious elements of unpredictability that could have endangered the lives of themselves, the protesters and law enforcement. Beyond these gross failures of prudence and mature judgement, Scott’s actions tiptoed precariously through the legal minefields laid out in the U.S. Constitution’s Amendment XIV, Section 3 and several sections of U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 115.
Scott’s 2016 campaign emails were widely criticized in the press by members of her constituency and her opponent’s campaign as encouraging voter intimidation and harassment. Indeed such incidents were reported by alleged victims to an apparently disinterested Bonner’s Ferry Sherriff’s Department. While nothing came of these instances legally, the emails remain out there for the public to read and examine for their own judgement regarding possible subtext.
So, unsurprisingly, a vast swath of Democrats and Republicans has lost patience with Rep. Scott. Given her deeply unsettling public record of disruptive conduct, disrespect for authority, incivility, denial of the tragic lessons of history and apparent immunity to responsible political nuance, her dissemblance as an aggrieved victim hasn’t gone over well in the halls of Idaho’s Legislature.
No one should object in any way to Scott’s call for serious investigation of possible subornation of sexual favors. But if Idaho’s GOP truly prizes political respectability among the state’s citizens and in the eyes of the nation, Scott should not have her committee’s stripped away for those accusations, no matter how vulgar their delivery.
The GOP outrage and punitive demotion of Rep. Scott, however, may be overdue for other more substantial reasons in the broader scheme of governance. These would be what many bipartisan onlookers regard as unpatriotic disrespect for the rule of law by an elected official, scorn of Idahoans who exercise freedom of thought and speech by criticizing her behavior, expressed philosophy, and what comes across as her sense of personal entitlement.
Petition Speaker Bedke to assign Scott’s punishment to the appropriate offenses.
Those of us at the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, Massachusetts, are saddened that the museum honoring this American iconic heroine and tireless worker for women’s rights will not be among the organizations marching Saturday in Washington, D.C. Some people might perhaps think that Anthony family descendants and museum board members would be leading the Women’s March, especially as the centennial marking the Susan B. Anthony Amendment for women’s suffrage has begun in some states. But they would be wrong: Anthony would never have joined a march in favor of abortion access.
The unifying theme of Susan Brownell Anthony’s life was to speak up for those without a voice. Anthony fought for temperance, the abolition of slavery and especially the enfranchisement of women. She also spoke up for the voiceless child in utero, opposing Restellism, the term that Anthony’s newspaper and others at that time used for abortion. It’s easy to chalk up Anthony’s (and other early feminists’) opposition to abortion as a relic of their day and age. But these women were progressive and independent; they did not oppose abortion because they were conditioned to, but because they believed every human life has inherent and equal value, no matter their age, skin color or sex.
The Women’s March platform does include some issues Anthony would have agreed with: Concerns about racial equality, tolerance and equal pay for equal work are problems Anthony would have marched for in her day and would support in her contemporary surrogates this month. However, major group sponsors, like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, have decided that this event is so central to the expansion of abortion rights that they have excluded women who are against abortion from the march’s platform and partnerships.
Anthony’s newspaper, the Revolution, had a policy of not advertising abortion as other mainstream papers furtively did. Revolution editors like Elizabeth Cady Stanton were explicit in denouncing “child murder,” “infanticide” and “foeticide,” descriptions they used interchangeably for abortion. Indeed, a recent Smithsonian Magazine article discussed news coverage of “infanticide” in the 1860s, a common subject for early investigative reporters of the suffrage era, many of whom were women writing about their concerns under pseudonyms.
It is not hard to imagine that these early feminists and suffragists, Anthony among them, were opposed to the most fundamental human abuse: degrading another human being by claiming to own and destroy it. In her autobiography, Elizabeth Blackwell, a suffragist and the first U.S. female doctor, went into medicine to denounce abortionists: “Women who carried on this shocking trade seemed to me a horror,” she wrote. “It was an utter degradation of what might and should become a noble position for women.” Another suffragist physician, Charlotte Denman Lozier, said, “We are sure most women physicians will lend their influence and their aid to shield their sex from the foulest wrong committed against it,” that is, abortion. In her famous 1875 talk on social purity, Anthony condemned abortion as a consequence of liquor consumption.
History, particularly American history, is not always conveniently in sync with today’s popular views and culture. Neither should the suffragist movement be co-opted into joining a cause that they universally condemned. The Women’s March’s vision and principles, just released this week, speaks to honoring the legacy of the suffragists. But they do not.
Many women and women’s groups who will march next week have good reason to do so, and they should be respected. However, we ask that abortion rights not be misappropriated to Anthony and the critical work of the suffrage movement. Anthony and many of her fellow suffragists were anti-abortion feminists, the contemporary existence of which even Hillary Clinton has acknowledged. If the Women’s March truly wants to honor the suffragist legacy, they will acknowledge their existence, too.
The Donald famously declared, “We’re gonna drain the swamp!”
Seems he stuck a couple of nets in the runoff. Make America Groan Again.