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Hartgen: It’ll be a short honeymoon for Idaho GOP Factions
A Conservative Perspective

Hartgen: It’ll be a short honeymoon for Idaho GOP Factions

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There they were on stage at the Ford center on Saturday afternoon last week, displaying the Kumbaya unity which accompanies such events, vowing to defeat pesky Democrats this fall and deliver more down-ticket victories for the Idaho Republican Party.

They even gave Gov. Brad Little a nice ovation, following an earlier one for Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who’s now the darling dance partner of the Idaho GOP’s rightist wing and an all-but-declared challenger to run against Little in 2022.

But only if she thinks she can win. Otherwise, mercurial McGeachin will cinch up her ambition and wait for something else; a little power goes right to the head, inflating self-importance while limiting influence.

But make no mistake, folks. The love-fest among Idaho Republicans will last only as long as pure advantage is sensed by the Party’s common-sense wing, or its enemy, a cabal of rightists who claim more purity when it comes to party direction.

They really don’t seem to like each other very much, as will be evident this winter once the Legislative session gets underway. Some 15 or so rightists legislators will try to undermine Little whenever they can. Unity? Horsepucky.

The feud is easy to detect. For the better part of a decade now, rightists in the party have tried to run off more common-sense Republicans, sneering at their so-called lack of ideological purity and likening them to, horror of horrors, RINOs or “Republicans in Name Only.”

They’re taking buckets of out-of-state and in-state oligarch money to turn legislative seats. Their champion, former Congressman Raul Labrador, won a two-vote chairmanship less than a year ago over Tom Luna.

This time, Luna prevailed by a 12-vote margin over the Bonneville County chairman Mark Fuller among the 530-plus delegates. A spread that narrow surely means there’s another round coming. (Idaho Press, 6/27.)

In a further drift to the right, delegates added planks to the GOP platform, which now has a kitchen-sink quality, covering everything from God and Country (If not Apple Pie.) to employer sanctions on immigration reform, support for Israel, construction of US-Mexico border wall and American exceptionalism. (Idaho Press, 6/27.)

Some folks want this platform overall to ascend to the status of Holy Writ, comparable to our state and US Constitutions, but it now has decidedly anti-government tone to it, like something you’d read in Saul Alinsky or kook-aid literature from the toy soldier militia group, III Percent, which seems to have a direct hearing aid to McGeachin’s all-too-willing ear.

Prior to the GOP convention, a group of some 15 recalcitrant legislators held an informal session of their own, but took up no specific proposals nor took any actual votes. Their target seems to be anything suggested by Gov. Brad Little, who has gone to the devil incarnate for some rightists..

Between now and January, House and Senate members will put together at least a half dozen ideas for improving the elections process, creating a better process for special sessions, and on handling emergency funds for crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. The rightists will try to hijack these ideas as well, but don’t seem likely to succeed.

There’s plenty of time between now and January for the rump legislators to hone their messages on how terrible Little has been as governor, how he should reopen the whole state immediately without regard for the COVID-19 upswing, and the usual gnashing of teeth on how Idaho’s “sovereignty” is being eroded daily by “federale.” incursions.

This is, of course, nonsense. Despite the yelling and rants we see from Reps. Heather Scott, Blanchard, and Chad Christensen, Ammon, the only “tyranny” we see in Idaho is the tyranny of thought these rightists want to impose on others.

Never one to stray from a debate, Melaleuca’s CEO, Frank Vandersloot, has urged common-sense Republicans to stand for reasonable discussion and traditional GOP principles.

“In my opinion,” he says, “conservatives believe in personal responsibility, personal freedoms, small government, family values, honesty, integrity, the rule of law, and finding common sense solutions. “True conservatives value common sense. True conservatives have compassion. True conservatives listen to the other side even when they do not agree with the other side. True conservatives can think for themselves rather than being told what to believe and how to vote. True conservatives find common-sense solutions to new problems that face us every day rather than adhering to nonsensical dogma created by a handful of persons who are controlled by their own special interests.

“The radicals who have organized themselves in an attempt to gain more power within the Idaho Republican Party are neither true conservatives nor Republicans. Their actions and beliefs are more cult-like, unreasonable, undemocratic, and dogma-driven….They have used their dogma to vilify good, honest, bright, reasonable members of the Republican Party simply because they did not subscribe to every tiny whim of radical dogma. They deem anyone who disagrees with them as “the enemy.” They use the liberal tactic of destroying the messenger rather than providing a reasonable argument to the message.”

Yep, despite the lovey-dovey GOP convention, there’ll be plenty of dustup this winter in Boise. Count on it.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee. Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He is the author of the new book “Tradition & Progress: Southern Idaho’s Growth Since 1990.” This column was first published in He can be reached at


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