“Unity” is the key word heading into the Idaho Republican Party State Convention, which begins today in Moscow. The GOP’s heavy hitters are talking about putting the ugly primary election behind them and moving forward as one. We’re all conservatives, they keep saying; we’re all Republicans.
The fact is actions by party leaders don’t match their rhetoric. Where is unity to be found in the election of Bryan Smith as Region 7 GOP chairman? Smith spent the last year and a half lambasting incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Simpson as “too liberal, too entrenched and too tied to special interests.”
Where is unity in the effort to depose Party Chairman Barry Peterson? All for one and one for all? Sure, unless you’re one of the tea partiers threatening to withhold support in the fall for Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter unless he does an about face on the Common Core Standards, dismantles the state insurance exchange and turns his back on millions of dollars and the opportunity to save the lives of hundreds of Idahoans by expanding Medicaid coverage to the working poor.
Unity? “I’ve never felt so much pettiness from a group of people.” That was Congressman Raul Labrador speaking to the Idaho Statesman about Otter’s supporters. The Statesman’s Dan Popkey reports that of Ada County’s 102 delegates to the state convention, at least 58 are Otter allies, meaning the governor might have a say in picking the next party chairman.
Unless those folks aren’t allowed to participate.
Former State Sen. Rod Beck, architect of the GOP’s closed primary election, plans to urge the Credentials Committee not to seat the Ada County delegation this weekend.
A look at the makeup of that committee shows a roster filled with Beck allies, including his brother, Doyle, chairman of the Bonneville County Republican Party.
Joining Doyle Beck on the Credentials Committee from Bonneville County are four of the hard right’s finest: Bryan Smith, Tim Urling, Lynn Hawkins, the wife of former state Sen. Stan Hawkins, and former legislator Russ Mathews. Good luck, Ada County.
Unity? When it doesn’t exist, there’s always the tried-and-true method of blaming the news media. As reported in Wednesday’s Post Register by Bryan Clark, one of the men who would replace the embattled Peterson as chairman, Doug Sayer of Blackfoot, writes off talk of a party divided as media hype.
“I’m concerned that the press is portraying us in a negative light, and I don’t think that that’s entirely true,” Sayer said. “I think we’re all Republicans, and we’re all conservatives.”
There it is. Keep saying it and some might actually begin to believe it. Unity. Never mind that slate of tea party candidates who challenged Otter and other statewide elected GOP incumbents in the primary.
Forget about the hard right stacking the credentials, platform and resolutions committees with ideological allies.
Pay no mind to that resolution seeking to remove moderate State Sen. Patti Ann Lodge from office.
Ignore that even the choice of featured speakers at the convention, libertarian-leaning U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and the more moderate former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, embodies this split.
But hey, let’s give the folks who will gather in Moscow this weekend credit for being right about one thing: Competition is both good and necessary.
In Idaho, the competition of ideas between the political parties is a distant memory. The Republican Party, bloated with success, is a many-tentacled monster, too big to fail and forced to feed upon itself in a frenzy to survive.
This convention is a power struggle. One side will win. The other will head home to lick its wounds and regroup.
It makes you wonder when Idahoans will get sick of seeing their wages, individual rights and children’s educations caught in the middle of this war between the right and far right, if at some point a majority will finally say: “Yes, we’re conservative, but we can no longer stomach being Republican.”