The week the Idaho GOP became unraveled

June 24, 2014 

Having left town to meet my first grandchild June 14, I thought I would be returning Sunday to the news of a unified Idaho political universe.

And I did - if you overlook the Republican black hole and focus only on the Idaho Democrats in the Third Heaven. Over the weekend, The Associated Press reported "the 175 voting (Democratic) delegates and proxies unanimously adopted a party platform that stressed education and the economy."

During its convention weekend, Idaho Republicans voted unanimously to do nothing before fleeing a burning, toxic house divided - ignoring the advice of convention speaker/perennial presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to seek "unity."

I had left Idaho for Texas, where dysfunctional politics and high drama seem engaged in an everlasting courtship. Idaho isn't Texas - where Sen. Ted Cruz is the nuclear version of Idaho's Rep. Raul Labrador, and where Texas Gov. Rick Perry last week designated $1 million in state money to thwart or manage an influx of Central American children, "because we can't wait for the federal government" to police the border.

After the results of the Idaho primary and the gathering of the faithful on the steps of the Statehouse on May 21, I was certain that kumbaya embers would produce a bonfire of begrudging belovedness among embattled Republicans with all eyes focused on the Nov. 6 general election.

I won't underestimate the senseless, self-destructive tendencies of certain Idaho GOP camps again. I should have known the sore-loser gasoline stored in the forehead veins of the vanquished would soon enough explode on the "establishment" party pilot light, and we would have political fire. A persistent faction in the Idaho Republican Party can't or won't swallow the nearly complete defeat it received on its most favorable terms in the closed GOP primary. This faction is so hellbent to get its way, to punish, or whatever - it seems blind to the consequences.

The seating of Republican Party leadership is in question - you can find the opinion you want if you ask the right person. As a result, Idaho Republicans are in a rift, and their future seems adrift.

I saw this happen on the national level with the re-election of Texan George W. Bush. Yes, he won the White House for a second term - but at the price of forsaking the future. The national GOP has had no national standard-bearer since the beginning of Bush's second term. Dick Cheney was not going to be the next GOP president, and neither were any of the long-shot Republican lineups in 2008 and 2012. The only thing those GOP nomination freak shows produced were YouTube videos that became campaign fodder for President Barack Obama's successful runs. The Idaho Public TV footage of the June 14 Republican convention will be a gift that keeps on giving for Idaho Democrats.

What happened midway through the Bush Administration could be what happens in Idaho GOP-land going forward. There is no unity, no broad-based plan, no acceptance of the present leadership - and certainly no consensus on future strategy.

Though we don't know the true political persuasions of the "majority party" in Idaho - the state's 400,000 voters registered as "unaffiliated" - let me be among the first to posit that the Idaho GOP can no longer continue to take them for granted.

Can the Idaho GOP get it together following a proposed Aug. 9 meeting to settle some differences? Thinking and emoting are mutually exclusive, and right now the GOP is in midtantrum, and there is nobody to send anybody to his room.

State Democratic Party Chairman Larry Kenck told the AP the next step for Democrats is for delegates to talk with friends, family, neighbors and others to tell them what the party stands for and why they joined the party.

That, and playing the reruns from June 14 to 21, 2014 - the week the Idaho GOP came unglued.

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

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