Robert Ehlert: Idaho Republican Party platform should allow for nuance

rehlert@idahostatesman.comApril 18, 2014 

Robert Ehlert


It has been interesting to watch how Idaho Republican candidates at the federal, statewide and legislative levels have responded to surveys about the Idaho Republican Party platform.

If agreeing to everything on the platform is any kind of litmus test of party loyalty, I am wondering whether there are any consequences for the people who quibble with this plank or that. And what about those who basically say, "Hey, I'm a loyal Republican, but this format doesn't allow me to get at all the nuances involved to answer the questions."

Now, me, I believe politics is all about the nuances. I get wary around people who fall into line and pledge allegiance to A-Z of a platform. That makes me wonder whether they know how to color outside the lines when necessary.

Our statehouses and Washington, D.C., choke with people who can say yes, no, agree and disagree. What we have to show for it, lately, is a tour de gridlock through time.

I respect a lot of what I see in the Idaho GOP platform, especially in the neighborhood of words such as "freedom." An example is this from the second line of the preamble: "Each person's dignity, freedom, ability and responsibility must be honored."

But what in the world moved the platform authors to seek repeal of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows We the People to select our senators, instead of having our Legislature do it? Article V of the Constitution gives us the right to change things - and even change them back. On Dec. 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment - thus ending prohibition after only 14 years. The very Constitution that allows us to amend it also allows us to repeal it.

I get the starchy argument that the 17th Amendment once was the purview of the Legislature to select our U.S. senators, and that our forefathers thought that, since the House was elected by the people, the balance of powers might be aided if a legislature did the Senate electing - to keep those senators on point. But that proved to be a messy proposition. Moves to amend were ongoing for decades until the ratification of the 17th Amendment 101 years ago.

So, why is the Idaho GOP floating the 17th repeal, and another platform idea - to dump the Fed in favor of the gold standard? Really?

Is this all about the kind of "loyalty" mentioned in Article II, Sec. 3 of the platform, whereupon only registered Republicans can vote in the primary election? "To allow those who have no loyalty . . . to select our candidates is not proper."

Here are more nuances for the platform authors to consider: Because you built a wall, untold numbers will become Republicans just long enough to cast GOP ballots so their voices can be heard and votes counted. Regular Idahoans aren't going to cotton to your ideas about the Legislature electing our senators. GOP candidates will continue to respectfully decline to toe the party line when it doesn't make sense.

This is a good thing. This is America.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman's editorial page editor. Contact him at 377-6437, or on Twitter @IDS_HelloIdaho.

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