Opinion Columns & Blogs

We have a lot to talk about in the Treasure Valley. Let’s do it together — with respect

Here’s how any one Idaho citizen can make a difference in civil discourse.

Boise's Keith Allred introduces a new citizen's program started by National Institute for Civil Discourse.
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Boise's Keith Allred introduces a new citizen's program started by National Institute for Civil Discourse.

We have a lot to talk about.

On the Treasure Valley level: Who’s going to replace Meridian Mayor Tammy deWeerd? Will Kuna create an urban renewal district? Will Boise get a new library? Will downtown Nampa see a rebirth, much like Caldwell? Will there be a new stadium in Boise?

Bigger picture, we have issues of affordable housing to talk about, as well as transportation, education, Medicaid expansion, marijuana legalization and the minimum wage.

On a national level, we need to talk about immigration, gun violence and race relations.

The problem, though, is that in our current political climate, our conversations are dominated by extremes, typically shouting down one another in very brief, unproductive exchanges. “Snowflake!” responds one side. “Fascist!” shouts another. “Libtard, racist, anarchist.” The insults go on without any real discussion about the issue we were fighting about to begin with. Too often, people get shouted down just for raising a question.

That leads the vast majority of the population hunkered down in a bunker in the middle of a battlefield, afraid to raise their head and speak up, lest it gets shot off by a volley from one side or the other.

“Shouldn’t we do something about illegal immigration?” Zing, the social media mob descends and shouts you down in 280 characters.

“I’m not so sure those GOP tax cuts actually helped anyone I know.” Pow, you’re a Trump hater.

“Actually, I think it’s a good idea we stand up to China and try to fix our trade imbalance.” Oof, you’re a brainless protectionist.

On and on, and no one seems to be discussing the actual merits of any of these arguments. What should we do about people who enter the country illegally? Are the GOP tax cuts actually working as they were intended? What should we do about the trade imbalance with China?

I don’t really watch cable news, but from what little I’ve seen, those networks seem to be the problem, not the solution.

As the new opinion editor for the Idaho Statesman, my goal is to create a space where reasonable people can have a reasonable discussion about the issues of the day. Newspapers are in a unique position and play a historically vital role in fostering those civil discussions.

So, just a couple of ground rules.

If you disagree with something or someone on the Opinion page, you are invited to write a letter to the editor to rebut what you read. What’s not acceptable is telling us we shouldn’t have run something in the first place.

Editorials aren’t the end-all, be-all, last word on the matter. Our editorials are based on the majority opinion of our editorial board, which is composed of our publisher, Rebecca Poynter, and several members of the community. By writing and publishing an editorial, we are not saying this is the absolute correct assessment or final determination of a subject. You are free to disagree, but I just ask that you disagree by presenting well-reasoned counterarguments. Calling board members a nasty name or simply stating they don’t know what they’re talking about is not an argument. We’ve got too much of that going on already, and it’s not working.

My aim here is to get down to the finer points of debate, so that we can adequately understand all sides of an issue, whether it’s gun control or immigration, a new Boise library or urban renewal.

So consider this an invitation to participate in the discussion. I invite you to read our editorials, our columns, guest opinions, letters to the editor and news articles, and tell us what you think. Letters to the editor are always welcome, particularly if you present a reasoned counterpoint to something you read.

Submit your letter online by clicking “Submit a letter or opinion” at idahostatesman.com/opinion.


What is this column all about?

This column shares the personal opinions of Idaho Statesman opinion editor Scott McIntosh on current topics and issues in the Treasure Valley, in Idaho and nationally. It represents one person’s opinion and is intended to spur a conversation and solicit others’ opinions on the subject. It is intended to be part of an ongoing civil discussion with the ultimate goal of providing solutions to community problems and making this a better place to live, work and play. Readers are encouraged to express their thoughts by submitting a letter to the editor. Click on “Submit a letter or opinion” at idahostatesman.com/opinion.

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Always full of opinions and tolerant of others, Scott McIntosh is the opinions editor for the Idaho Statesman. He has won dozens of state and national awards, including Best Editorial from the Idaho Press Club for 2017.