Anyone paying attention to the Idaho Legislature must be wondering: Where have all the reasonable people gone?

By reasonable, I mean people interested in governance. People interested in addressing issues important to all Idahoans who work hard, pay their bills, try to set a little aside for retirement and want their children to have the tools they need to succeed in a changing world.

Dana Kirkham

Dana Kirkham

I believe that’s most of us. We are people who understand nobody has all the answers, and we welcome all walks of life and ideologies to the table. We are willing to give for the greater good.

And yet, increasingly we are represented by those who seek to rule rather than govern. They use emotion, morality and righteous indignation to keep us angry, divided and compliant.

We see this in divisive debates over sex education and marriage. We see it in insulting and counterproductive efforts to overturn the will of the voters and strip decision-making powers from local officials.

This bad behavior is encouraged by legislative leadership that will not lead. Why do these extreme elements dominate our conversations? Because our so-called leaders allow it. We allow it, too.

What could our legislature be focusing on? How about these topics:

• Infrastructure. Our efforts to maintain and improve our roads and bridges are woefully inadequate. Water and sewer systems across the state are aging. So are many of our schools. Why are we not discussing how to pay for improvements necessary to maintaining a strong economy?

• Go-on rates. The good jobs of the future will require higher education and/or technical training. And yet, not nearly enough of our kids go on from high school to post-secondary education. Businesses need educated and trained workers. Our children need the opportunity to make a good living and raise a family here in Idaho. Our lawmakers should be working overtime on this issue.

• Broadband. Do our lawmakers understand what an important economic issue this is, or how it has the ability to empower small, rural communities in Idaho? Businesses need access to high-speed internet and clean, affordable electricity.

• Health care. Idahoans are being squeezed by a system that every day becomes less affordable. But our Legislature has proven so unwilling of addressing this issue that citizens crafted their own solution.

These are important issues that require education, dialogue, open minds and, ultimately, compromise.

We do have some serious leaders in Idaho from both political parties interested in problem-solving. But there aren’t enough of them. Too many political extremists, capable of seeing the world only through the narrowest of prisms, are holding our state hostage.

They do not represent a majority. I’m confident of that. Most Idahoans – of all political persuasions – are good, hard-working people who want their legislators to focus on pragmatic issues that improve everyone’s quality of life.

Many in the reasonable majority have retreated from the political process.

They’ve seen how far these extremes will go to acquire and maintain power — using their righteousness as a club to bludgeon reasonable people back onto the sidelines, leaving the field wide open for the foolishness that has dominated the headlines during this legislative session.

Have you had enough? I have.

Are you willing to support – with your voices, time and money – candidates of good will who will address issues important to all of us. I am, and if that means suffering the slings and arrows of an extreme minority that has its hands around the neck of our political process, so be it.

We have an obligation to fulfill the Founders’ vision of an educated and informed people capable of self-governance. I understand the enormity of this task. But it’s worth a try. After all, do any of us really want to envision where our state and nation are heading if reasonable people don’t make a stand?

— Dana Kirkham, citizen

Dana Kirkham is the former mayor of Ammon.

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