After spending most of my life as a Republican, the concerted efforts of the Idaho Republican Party and the Trump administration to derail democracy and justice in this country and divide our nation have driven me to change my party affiliation. I still hold Republican views, just not uninformed and poorly thought out ones.

Whatmore

Doug Whatmore

The recent articles in the Post Register about the antics of the Idaho GOP in writing the party platform and the small number of Republican lawmakers fighting Gov. Little on containment of a pandemic have driven home just how poorly represented the citizens of Idaho are.

The statement in the platform that “We believe we are the inheritors of a distinct Western Civilization and that our traditional culture safeguards our identity as a free people” sounds frankly like white privilege — i.e., a heavily Eurocentric viewpoint, originally brought to you by the people who built a nation on slavery and systematic extermination of the native peoples, whose land they stole. And if you’re not aware of that, you really should read more and become better informed on those issues.

As for our identity as a free people, it hasn’t been true for all Americans, which is the point of the recent demonstrations. While the Founding Fathers clearly expressed that the equality of all persons was the basis for the founding of the United States, clearly we have not lived up to their expectations. Our traditional culture safeguards our identity as a free people for some, not all. It really is time that changed. Our cultural identity is American, period. Equal rights and equal treatment.

Some of the delegates apparently have difficulty with “one person, one vote,” the essential concept of a liberal democracy. They felt it disadvantaged the interests of those counties with a lesser population and have decided among themselves that is “illegal,” in spite of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling otherwise.

One proposal was for U.S. senators to be chosen by the state legislature rather than the voters, as if the voters cannot be trusted to make the decision. It was once the case that state legislatures chose U.S. senators. The system didn’t work well, at times, the state legislature could not agree on a candidate, and a state might end up having no senator for a year. In 1913, the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution established direct, popular election of U. S. senators, after 86 years of resolutions calling for it. Given the undue influence some groups work to exert on state legislators, taking the decision of who represents us in the U.S. Senate from the voters is an extraordinarily bad idea.

One delegate was concerned that another delegate “has flooded this committee with what amounts to a socialist wish list,” apparently confused about the difference between social responsibility and socialism.

On a more disturbing note, some of the delegates vigorously oppose Gov. Little’s response to the coronavirus pandemic — which has been measured and appropriate. The public disrespect they have shown to the governor and to any effective response to contain the pandemic is shameful. Ms. Rogers stated she felt the Governor’s response was “completely unconstitutional.” I refer her to Section 67-802 of the Idaho Constitution, the part about executive orders.

As for the others, perhaps they don’t yet understand the danger of the pandemic or the concept of the welfare of the public. I do not know if this reckless endangerment of the lives of Idahoans comes from ignorance of the facts, refusal to accept the facts or a lack of ability to understand the facts. I encourage the reader to look at the online site 91 DIVOC. It is a graphic presentation of the Johns Hopkins database on the pandemic, both by country and by state.

The “log” function gives a clearer picture than the “linear” for states that still have a low, but growing, number of cases. The curves should disturb you. For Idaho, you will clearly see the flattening of the spread after Gov. Little’s executive order, followed by the rapid rise after reopening, as many in the state have abandoned masks and social distancing. As to the effectiveness of masks, please look at a tweet by Rich Davis, P.h.D., from Jun 26. It is a really excellent demonstration of how powerful a weapon masks are. People who tell you differently are just wrong.

The pandemic is not going away soon, and will, in all likelihood, worsen over the coming weeks. The only effective, proven way to contain it — which we have known since 1918, and which has been effectively employed in Taiwan, South Korea, Germany, Australia and New Zealand — is through wearing masks, social distancing, limiting large indoor gatherings and above all, vigorous testing, contact tracing and isolation of those infected. We will not stop or even slow the spread of the disease unless and until we do these things. The resolution to condemn Gov. Little’s contact tracing program and halt it until it can be argued to death by the Legislature is most kindly described as irresponsible, and more precisely as dumb.

Why some individuals feel they have a right to recklessly endanger others in the name of their ”freedom” is beyond me. It may simply be that they are afraid of a loss of control in their lives. I do not disagree that persons have a right to expose themselves to a deadly virus if they choose. What they do not have a right to do is recklessly expose others through a lack of caution on their part. They also do not have a right to further degrade the fabric of democracy by spreading a plague.

So, I have a couple of suggestions for additions to the state GOP platform. First, there should be a recognition of liability, civil and criminal, for reckless endangerment of the public by willfully contributing to the spread of a plague. Second, I would like all who wish to assert their ”right” to ignore the public health orders concerning containing the virus to sign a waiver that they will forgo hospital care should they become ill with the disease. They really should not tie up scarce resources and endanger other patients and healthcare workers because they are unwilling to comply with the proven means of containment.

Bottom line: Gov. Little is right, the others are wrong.

What can we do? Wear a mask. Maintain social distancing and situational awareness. Support increased testing and contact tracing — we are not doing nearly enough, in spite of the grandiose boasting of the Trump administration. The virus will not “go away” if we stop looking for it. The number of our citizens infected doesn’t improve if we stop counting. Testing gives us a handle on the problem, defining how big it is, what we need to do to contain it and how successfully we do that. Then isolate those who have the virus, and isolate any hot spots to prevent the virus spreading. Again, we’ve known this for over a hundred years.

It is the action of the citizens that will determine if we can contain the pandemic. It is up to us, as Americans, to find alternative ways to bring employment back. This virus will be with us for some time, and the flu season and measles season begins in a few months. We have that time to work on the problems of how to contain the virus until we have a vaccine and how to maintain our economy while we do it. We do have a precedent. The data from the 1918 influenza pandemic clearly show that those cities with the strongest virus containment measures had the strongest post-pandemic economic recovery. Let’s do this.