The headline I chose for my column is the one I would have chosen for the news that Governor Little has vetoed the bill which would further restrict the ability of citizens to petition their government to enact laws which they feel have not been properly addressed by their legislators. This is a victory for democracy over totalitarianism.
Does that sound harsh? Wasn’t totalitarianism a word used sometimes to describe the government of the USSR? Why would I use it in connection with the Republican-dominated legislature in Idaho this term? Don’t some Republicans accuse Democrats of wanting to lead us into a government that failed in the USSR, The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which they are steadfastly against?
I did not use the term without thought. I was not attempting to alarm by using a pejorative term to characterize members of the Republican party. Totalitarianism is a philosophy of government as well as a means of government which simply states that all citizens must agree. That impulse exists in all of us. Who loves conflict? I know supervisors and managers who fail to call attention to subordinates’ behavior until they are fed up and fire the employee. Part of the argument against unions is that negotiations are hard. One reason for the adage against the discussion of politics and religion in polite society is that there is so much disagreement about those subjects. Ask marriage counselors. Love is sometimes overrun by the inability to handle conflict positively. The problem is that a totalitarian form of government can only exist with coercion, censorship and limitation of personal freedom.
In past columns, I have addressed the reason I am a Democrat in Idaho. I simply do not believe in one-party rule. I believe strongly in personal freedom, so I could be called a social libertarian. I believe that government should spend not one penny more than is needed to fulfill the will of the people, so I could be called a fiscal conservative. I am curious and am excited by new ideas, so I am a liberal thinker. Other voters might have other ways of talking about their political leanings, but I contend that most individuals cannot say that their politics always align with one party or one candidate.
When we settled in Twin Falls in 2004, I became astonished at the way people who leaned toward the Democratic party would speak as though it were an underground group. They were afraid to come out of the polling place and declare that they didn’t agree politically with Republicans. Teachers were afraid to oppose the Luna Laws openly, business people were reluctant to give money to support Democratic candidates, let alone the party itself because contributions are public record. One of the things the Progressive movement at the turn of the 20th century did was overthrow “machine” politics, but in Idaho, it is alive and only too well in the 21st century. The Republican party rewards legislators who have not deviated from leadership’s agenda with appointed jobs to round out careers and pensions. They often run unopposed in primary elections.
One appeal that our current president has for those voters who would vote for him again is his “my way or the highway” or “take no prisoners” approach to governance. They are the type of citizen who could support a dictatorship; as long as they agreed with the dictator. Of course, many of them say that the constitution is supremely important to them while the government it supports in intent and design is not a winner take all government.
At this point in time, there is no group think in the Idaho Democratic party to the extent that it exists in the Republican party in Idaho and even nationally. The slate of candidates they presented in 2018 were thoughtful, practical people who courageously took on the established political machine. They were mostly defeated by party line voters. I urge everyone to consider why you support any candidate for any office you vote for. Idaho does not deserve to have elected officials who always think party first, the will of the people second when they govern.