While we understand the logic of David High’s March 1 guest opinion, we simply cannot agree. He posits that primary elections are the most important venue to voice Idaho’s process to choose its leaders. Such a disposition would surrender Idaho politics to an undemocratic single-party rule.
Idaho residents have parroted certain statistics for some time: 49th in school financing, 14th highest gun death rate, and over 70,000 citizens denied health care because we do not accept federal Medicaid expansion. The ruling party’s answer to these problems is: fewer dollars spent on public funding, more private schools, fewer guarantees on health care and fewer barriers to gun ownership. To dogpile on the Republican primary would be to amplify the policies that have gotten this state where it is today, not to question them. Democrats and independent voters should vote in primaries only for politicians whose policies they agree with.
It does not matter if an opposition holds 49 percent, 25 percent or 1 percent of the seats in government; that opposition is critical to the functionality of democracy because discourse is important. Too often we view politics and public policy through the lens of “winning and losing.” Such a view is shortsighted. Democrats have not “won” in this state for a long time, but that does not mean that we do not have powerful Democratic leaders in the minority.
Our statewide-elected politicians have failed the mandate given to them by Idahoans. They unquestionably follow a president under federal investigation who attacks the efficacy of our institutions. They have taken six-figure donations from the NRA, while our children feel progressively less safe at school. And recently, state Republicans have cleared the path to transparently gerrymander the state away from any opposition whatsoever. These are concerning steps.
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Rather than following Mr. High’s proposition to surrender Idaho to one-party rule, we urge Idahoans to vote their conscience in every election and up and down the ballot. With the president’s multiple threats to democratic norms going unchallenged by the current ruling party, now is not the time for citizens to play risky games with their voting franchise. Additionally, there is little sense and no success to be had in trying to play some misguided underwater chess match of political strategy with a primary vote.
We urge the following to Idaho’s voters: Register with the party of your convictions. Perhaps even take the noble step of committing to public service by volunteering with one of the many fantastic grass-roots initiatives in the state. Are we asking you to be Democrats? No. We are asking for Idahoans to trust in the electoral process. If we want our leaders to do better by this state, we must demand of them the quality of service that we would of anyone with power and consequence.
This will be a wave election year. Will Idaho turn purple? It is not our place to say. However, for those who wish for a more centrist Idaho, voters will not find their answer in the Republican primary.
Chase Johnson is a freelance strategist for Idaho Democrats. Sam Sandmire is an organizer for Medicaid for Idaho and leads Activate Idaho.