Guest Opinions

1974 was my year for political involvement; can 2016 be yours?

I was one of the 23,705 Democrats who proudly attended the caucus on March 22. In fact, I attended the largest caucus ever held in the United States: Ada County. It was a tremendous experience except, of course, for the fact that my candidate lost.

As a lifelong Democrat and federal candidate for office I have won and lost. I know which outcome I prefer.

The question now is where to go from here after this impressive display of grassroots support for both presidential candidates.

What do we do with the investment of our precious time, financial resources and passionate emotions that we just committed? Hopefully, it was not a one-time experience that we will put on the shelf.

My political involvement began in 1974 as a volunteer for the late Sen. Frank Church. This was a knees-in-the-dirt, putting-bumper-stickers-on-rigs kind of experience. It eventually led to my election to the U.S. House of Representatives and an ever stronger commitment to the basic values of Democrats.

Most certainly there were caucus attendees whose commitment goes back further than mine, and there were some who just commenced their political activism.

My basic concern is that our political activism ended on caucus night.

If we put our campaign signs down for a minute, I believe Sanders and Clinton supporters can wholeheartedly agree on many ways to improve Idaho that embrace the core planks of each platform.

Do you recall the poignant bumper sticker: Think Globally, Act Locally?

Surely 23,705 energized Idahoans agree: 78,000 Idahoans deserve medical care; our public lands should not be privatized; local cities/counties should be able to vote for living wages; tuition should be stabilized at our institutions of higher education; discrimination of any kind or at any level should be outlawed; political contributions should be totally transparent — to name a few.

My snapshot of the recent campaign is limited to Southern Idaho and statewide news reports. However, the collective outpouring for presidential candidates can be examined for the potential power we can exert to wrest control of Idaho from extreme elements. For example, I know that 10,000 Idahoans spent at least 4-5 hours of their weekday to attend a Sanders rally in Idaho Falls or Boise; 18,640 took considerable time away from work, family and leisure to attend the caucus for Sanders; 5,065 did the same for Clinton.

Small contributions have fueled these campaigns. A $27 average contribution has been frequently touted as the amount from Sanders supporters. Let’s go crazy for a moment and extrapolate that number and apply it to Idaho. If 23,705 Idahoans sent $27 to the Idaho Democratic Party or to Idaho candidates who agree with their core values, it would be a mind-boggling $640,035. Enough to make a difference in 2016.

What if each of the 23,705 who spent quantifiable hours to attend rallies and caucuses spent the raw equivalent of those minutes working for an Idaho candidate, ballot measure or initiative that paralleled with our core beliefs? Assuming it was four hours, that would equate to 94,820 hours of volunteer time to defeat the right-wing politicians and groups in Idaho. Enough to make a difference in 2016.

1974 was the year I joined, and I’ve never left the field. Whether we call it a party, army, movement or revolution doesn’t really matter. Idaho is too great a state to leave to the most extreme and divisive elements in America.

In Idaho we are at ground zero for the most vile engines of division and inequality. However, we just impressed the nation with our commitment to progressive change.

We have to decide whether it was fleeting or a long-term and enduring commitment. If we harness the energy and resources we devoted to the Idaho Democratic Caucus, we can alter the political landscape in Idaho for ourselves, families, neighbors and the many left behind in the economic recovery.

There are many who control our rigged Idaho political system who fervently hope we will wilt and fade away. Let’s surprise them and take back our great state of Idaho.

Make 2016 your year for renewed resolve or the first year of a lifetime commitment to our common values.

Larry LaRocco is former U.S. representative for Idaho’s 1st Congressional District.

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