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Reader Comment: Right-Wing Chaos Is Bad Business

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Terri Pickens Manweiler

Terri Pickens Manweiler

Chaos is the new norm after years of Idaho’s single-party politics. Idaho businesses are suffering as a result. The encouraging news is that it’s not too late to step off the destructive path that Idaho’s Republican Party has charted for us. But, until we do, rightwing extremism will grow while our businesses flounder.

Not so many years ago, Idaho business owners knew the state would stay out of their business. Times have changed.

Last July, the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry protested after Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin and a handful of far-right legislators demanded that House Speaker Scott Bedke reconvene the Legislature. This group sought to make outlaws of hospital administrators who required COVID-19 vaccines for their employees.

“An employer should not be forced to keep an employee who does not adhere to the standards and requirements of the enterprise,” IACI President Alex LeBeau wrote to Speaker Bedke and Idaho Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder. “Unfortunately, erroneous information continues to be pushed by those who would seek political gain at the expense of saving lives.”

That’s the key to all this political chaos: political gain.

Some Idaho Republican politicians have exploited uncertainty and anxiety surrounding the pandemic. They have stoked the flames of skepticism of COVID-19 vaccines. They have fueled those fires with half-truths, fantastical conspiracy theories, and outright lies. Their work–with the selfish goal of promoting their personal political ambitions–has made Idaho the least-vaccinated state in the nation as of December.

The result has been deadly as hospitals have been overwhelmed with unvaccinated patients. At the same time, hospitals are losing staff who have been worn out by the sad, long days full of loss. St. Alphonsus reported losing 50 percent of its staff since the pandemic began.

That’s not only bad for the health of Idahoans, it’s bad for business.

The same group that McGeachin spurred to interfere in the employee-employer relationship ignores the work our constitution actually obliges them to do: maintain a uniform and thorough public education system. Idaho teachers are leaving their profession, or leaving Idaho, due to the strain of the pandemic and the lack of funding and support. Parents, local school boards, teachers and school principals are harassed for trying to save lives. This turmoil can only hurt our children. When young people are poorly prepared for life after highschool, businesses will struggle to recruit qualified workers.

Simply put, if it is bad for schools, it is bad for business.

Idaho colleges and universities have also been harmed by the overreach of these cynical politicians. In 2021, Republicans cut Boise State University’s funding, shouting “critical race theory” at the top of their lungs. To be very clear: there still is no such thing as an Idaho school that has taught this imaginary curriculum. This truth is a simple truth. This truth is well-known among politicians. And, leaders who are too gullible or too dishonorable to reject this crass ploy to whip up public outrage for political gain are failing us all.

Bad political leadership is bad for business.

Again, the hopeful message is that there is time to do better. We can unite. We can choose to reject the kind of violence that overwhelmed our nation’s Capitol on January 6 of 2021. We can demand better. We can say no to chaos and extremism. We can make Idaho a state that promotes freedom through truth and transparency. We can, and we must, stop voting for a single-party that has allowed extremists to flourish.

We can vote for good business.

Terri Pickens Manweiler is a Democratic candidate for Idaho Lt. Governor. She is a fourth-generation Idahoan, born and raised in Pocatello. She graduated from the University of Southern California and University of Idaho Law School and became the founding partner in Pickens Law, P.A in 2008, where she is still practicing today. Terri, her husband, Mark, and their two children currently reside in Boise.


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