Printed on: June 15, 2013

Hatching their next plot

From the Lewiston Tribune

Consider the following: A group of political insiders try to fix an election. When it doesn't go their way, these kingmakers hatch a new plot. They'll decide who gets on the ballot -- and who will not -- before the voters can act.

Sound familiar?

These are not the mullahs of Tehran.

Nor the Presidium from the old Soviet Union, which used to produce a ballot instructing you to vote for "one of the above."

Does it sound like the handiwork of a Latin American junta?

It's not.

This is Idaho.

McCall, to be exact, where this weekend a conspiracy is about to play out.

Idaho's Republican Party derives its power from a simple fact: Idaho voters rarely consider electing a Democrat.

Got the Republican nomination?

You're in.

The November general campaign will merely ratify the results.

Until last year, the GOP shared that power with anyone who wanted to participate in its primary election.

Then they got greedy and exercised their constitutional right to expel Democrats and independents. As intended, voter turnout plunged to a record-low 24 percent last May.

Still, the purge of moderates from public office failed to materialize.

Led by former state Senate Majority Leader Rod Beck, R-Boise, the GOP masterminds concocted their next move.

How about allowing people to select candidates through a caucus system, similar to how the party now picks delegates to its presidential convention?

Thousands of people meeting across the state would be involved. Too messy.

Then why not replicate Utah's system of filtering candidates at a massive state political convention?

Too many prying eyes watching on television.

So Beck and company had another brainstorm: Give county central committees the power to screen candidates from coroner to county commissioner.

Legislative committees would do likewise for GOP legislative hopefuls.

Idaho's Republican Central Committee would filter out any GOP candidate sufficiently impure to run for Congress or the U.S. Senate or state office, from governor to treasurer.

And who's going to decide whether to give that kind of power to the central committee?

Why the central committee, of course.

Meeting in McCall Friday and today, the 225 members of the State Central Committee will consider rendering this power unto itself.

Assuming the courts and the Legislature don't get in the way, you can count on the most ideological members of the GOP nominating individuals who agree with them.

For the sin of proposing a Boulder-White Clouds wilderness, Congressman Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, will leave office.

Supporting a bill to protect victims of domestic violence puts Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho at risk.

Passing a state-based health insurance exchange under Obamacare probably spells the end for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley.

Gone, too, are moderates who don't believe in "starving the beast" of public schools -- Sens. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, or Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint -- or the socalled Republicans in Name Only -- Sen. Patti Ann Lodge, R-Huston, Sen. John Tippets, R-Montpeilier, or Reps. Christy Perry, R-Nampa or Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls.

Replacing them will be figures who talk and vote like Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens and Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood.

Goodbye collaboration.

Hello nullification.

Think today's system of corporate lobbyists buying access through campaign contributions is corrupt? Because that process is at least subject to financial disclosure, you know about it.

Not so when a legislator, governor or member of Congress figures remaining in office comes down to the behind-the-scenes care and feeding of a few obscure precinct captains serving on the GOP central committee.

Idahoans could always do the unthinkable and elect a Democrat -- assuming one is on the ballot.

They could beat the Republican apparatchiks at their own game by electing the precinct captains who make up the central committees. But who has time to follow that level of political minutiae?

They could eliminate the source of this mischief by creating a top-two primary, which takes the political parties out of the process of deciding who gets on the November ballot. But who is going to mount the uphill, grass roots initiative campaign required to pull it off?

Slumber on, Idaho. With no reason to consult or even fear you, the Mullahs of McCall won't bother rousting you.