If there’s one thing I’ve come to expect every general election cycle it’s Democrats around here running for office and never mentioning the fact that they’re Democrats. Or avoid talking about why they’re Democrats. They don’t bring it up in interviews. They don’t put it on their literature. They don’t display it on their signs or in ads. If the candidate mentions party affiliation at all, it’s buried deep on a website somewhere.
It’s easy to understand why. We are all fully aware that Democrats struggle to win in Idaho. All the statewide offices are held by Republicans. Our congressional delegation is all Republican. Most state legislative seats are held by Republicans. Democrats do win from time to time, but around here they either win by saying they’re Republican when really they’re not or by running for supposedly non-partisan seats like city council or school board.
I’d much rather Democrats seek office as Democrats, rather than run as Republicans so that they can get elected. But I’d also like to see those Democrats who run for office as Democrats actually own their party affiliation, too. Running as a Democrat and hoping people won’t find out the truth until they see an “R” or a “D” next to the names on their ballot strikes me as a bit dishonest. Avoiding discussion of the “why” behind their party affiliation is also dishonest. It’s a lie by omission. It leaves out important details about a candidate’s political compass, which way they may lean when push comes to shove. Those details are often very important to voters like me and you, and for good reason.
For example, in his commentary last week, Democrat Travis Oler didn’t drop a single hint as to why he’s a Democrat. Remember, no one made him choose to affiliate with the party of Biden, Obama, and Clinton. He chose that on his own. Oler could be running as an independent, but he’s not. He chose to run as a Democrat. Why? He never explains it. He never reveals what aspects of his party platform he supports or opposes.
Oler just bobs and weaves to avoid accountability. That’s also true on his website. There, I could only find two references to his being a Democrat. It comes in passing at the 1,592nd word of a 1,892-word home page screed against his opponent, Republican Juliane Young. He never lets on whether he agrees with Democrats on abortion or opposing the Second Amendment. Instead, he dodges those questions by implying guns and unborn babies are non-issues for future legislative sessions, which is untrue.
Buried on another webpage, Oler denies being a socialist. But what does Oler believe socialism is? Because while he claims he’s against it, he also says he supports Medicaid expansion. That’s an implementation of socialist ideology. And Oler says he supports policies wherein the government gets to decide business practices, such as dictating how equipment manufacturers repair their products. Is it that Oler doesn’t really understand what socialism is? Or is he just pretending not to?
I fully appreciate that Democrats have a tough row to hoe when it comes to getting elected, especially in Idaho, and particularly in eastern Idaho. But it disrespects the voters. The most important virtue of a candidate running for public office is that they’re open and honest regarding where they stand on issues. The way Oler and other Democrats run for office — by keeping their true intentions and their party affiliation cloaked in secrecy for the purpose of hoping to score a political advantage — might seem like a clever election tactic but it flat out is wrong