Dear President-elect Trump: Idaho can help you unite our nation

What Idahoans would say to America's new president

What would Boise voters say to the president-elect, regardless of who wins?
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What would Boise voters say to the president-elect, regardless of who wins?

You have beaten the odds to win the presidency, playing on the anger, anxiety and despair that has been building up for decades. Now you go to Washington with the task of transforming it. Begin by being kind to those you once saw as enemies. Look to the states for guidance. Let me tell you about Idaho and how, perhaps, we can help you find a path forward.

You promised in your victory speech to reach out to all Americans, to unite the country. You’ll need humility and determination to heal the divides that developed long before this election began.

Yes, you need to reach out to Congress and we hope our lawmakers, too, are prepared to move beyond the partisanship, pettiness and immaturity that has corrupted our national politics for so long.

You didn’t visit us during the campaign, but I’m sure you know we are as red as states get. But even more than that, we are independent, wedded to the values of self-reliance and liberty.

Most of all, we Idahoans want respect. You might say we have a chip on our shoulder, or at least a determination to prove our doubters wrong. That attitude helped our Boise State Broncos elevate themselves into the upper tier of college football, and Kristen Armstrong, the most decorated cyclist in U.S. history, win three gold medals in three Olympics.

Throughout its history, Idaho has nurtured innovators.

You were not elected king. If you think you are going to fix our nation by bullying us, you will learn quickly how little you won Tuesday. Reassuring the world and the markets will be your first formidable job. You’ll have an Idahoan on your side: U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador, who campaigned for you when others denounced you.

Throughout its history, Idaho has nurtured innovators. The modern global construction firm was pioneered here by Morrison-Knudsen. The modern grocery store was invented here by Joe Albertson. The first town lighted by nuclear power, Arco, is here.

McDonald’s wouldn’t be McDonald’s without the frozen french fries developed by Jack Simplot and Idaho. He helped the Parkinson brothers start Micron Technology. You can look to the Idaho National Laboratory for its leadership in nuclear and cybersecurity research.

Mr. President-elect, you need to rebuild trust in the federal government by making it work.

You’ll need to try something we’ve learned to do well: collaborate.

Our Idaho leaders know how to reach out, while sticking to their conservative principles. Sen. Mike Crapo pulled together ranchers and environmentalists to get a compromise on desert wilderness. Rep. Mike Simpson worked with local governments and Idaho environmentalists to protect central Idaho wilderness. Sen. Jim Risch wrote Idaho’s version of a roadless rule that protects millions of acres of wild lands in a manner Idahoans’ embrace.

President-elect Trump, your sons are hunters. They will find many friends here.

Our public land is dear to us, our ranges, our forests, our rivers and lakes. Access to forests and mountains and rivers is why people live here, whether it’s for a job or to hunt or hike or snowmobile. None of us want our federal land sold to billionaires who would close them off.

We know what climate change is, even if our political leaders don’t want to talk about it publicly. You can’t deny facts forever.

Who can deny our longer fire seasons, our earlier snowmelt and runoff, and the longer growing season that keeps tomatoes alive in November and boosts our burgeoning wine industry? We can create thousands of jobs by developing our bountiful solar and wind resources as well as rebuilding our drinking-water and wastewater plants.

Mr. President-elect, you may have heard that we are anti-government or radical, like Emmett resident Ammon Bundy, who lead the Oregon standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. And we do have some of that elements in our state, as does much of the country.

Ironically, one of the things you will need to do is rebuild trust in the federal government by making it work.

We have thousands of federal employees in our communities, coaching youth soccer and chairing Rotary committees. A smart president will listen to what those employees have to say about what they need from you, and the effects your decisions have on our towns and counties.

Most Idahoans want good government, with decision-making closer to home. We care about each other and have welcomed new neighbors, including refugees from around the world.

Idaho has partnered with the federal government to handle complex problems. Even though many residents didn’t like the reintroduction of wolves, we have sustainable populations across the state. We developed our own health insurance marketplace in Idaho that will likely survive, even if you repeal Obamacare. We’re still working on how to develop our own unique system to serve the 78,000 Idahoans in the gap between those on Medicaid and those eligible for subsidies.

We won’t ignore these people. We hope you don’t either.

Most of all, Mr. President-elect, listen. When I asked voters Tuesday what they would ask of you, that was the common refrain I heard. Please help us all get past the cynicism and doubts, and back to the hope that binds us together as Americans.


Rocky Barker, Idahoan and American