GUEST OPINION: Ultraconservatives should call off RINO hunting


May 4, 2014 

The "silly season," i.e. the election cycle, is here again. We are bombarded with political ads, charges and counter-charges claiming one thing or another, and are inundated with political mailings. Since most of this in the 2014 primary season is centered on Republican contests, I'll address that.

Two races at the top of the ticket ask us to choose who's conservative, who's liberal, who's in tune with Idaho and who's "out of touch." Recently there has been a question of "purity" within a wing of the party regarding the qualifications of Republican candidates who wish to run for office, at both the national and state levels. That ultraconservative wing is commonly referred to as the tea party. Some Legislative races have this purity theme as well.

The tea party movement started out as an effort to reduce federal spending and taxes during the economic downturn in 2009. It has expanded to include things that have nothing to do with either spending or taxes. Unfortunately, the Idaho Republican platform reflects some of these strange ideas. One is to repeal the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which Idaho's own Sen. William Borah helped pass.

It was ratified in 1913. It came in response to the corruption involved with the appointment of William Clark of Montana, who virtually bought his U.S. Senate seat by bribing state legislators. There had been other such cases, and other calls for reform, but the Clark case provided the final impetus. I know of no one who would be willing to give up the right to elect U.S. senators, which the 17th Amendment allows.

Those who do not adhere strictly to the litmus test imposed by the current platform are dubbed "RINO" - Republican In Name Only. You might be a RINO if:

• You think that reaching across the aisle to find a solution to a problem is an OK thing to do.

• You think that "compromise" is not a dirty word.

• You can be pragmatic occasionally, instead of strictly toeing the ideological line.

Of note - both Sen. Russ Fulcher, who is challenging Gov. Butch Otter, and Bryan Smith, who is trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, signed on in full with the Republican platform. Otter and Simpson did not, and listed their disagreements with certain planks.

In the race for Lt. Governor, Mr. Jim Chmelik agreed with the entire platform. Lt. Gov. Brad Little did not, expressing his disagreements in a letter.

Also of note - the Republican Party has a primary open only to registered Republicans in Idaho - a plank in the platform. Sen. Fulcher has invited Democrats to come into the primary and vote for him. Both Gov. Otter and Rep. Simpson opposed the closed primary, as have many in the Republican Party.

I am sure I wear the RINO tag. I resent that, as do many hundreds of other Idahoans.

For years (over 45 in my case), we have contributed money and time by doing the grunt work in the trenches, going door to door for candidates, manning booths at fairs, bundling campaign materials, setting out signs, collecting those signs in a timely manner, and a myriad of other campaign tasks, only to be labeled "impure" by those who have decided that the party needs to be purged.

Do I agree with all the political decisions made by Rep. Simpson, Gov. Otter, and Lt. Gov. Little? No, I do not. Do I believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater? No, I do not.

I challenge the ultraconservatives to gather their hardy band of true believers, stand up, step out, and form their own party. If they are so sure that their way is the right way, convince the voters to elect them. Stop hiding behind the Republican banner!

Wheeler, of American Falls, is Power County Republican state committeewoman.

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service