Politics: Celebrity and Daring

by Judy Ferro

“Democrats would be better off if they ran Oprah or Tom Hanks … why don’t we run beloved people?…Why don’t we run somebody that the American people love and are really drawn to, and that are smart and have good politics and all that” (filmmaker Michael Moore on CNN’s Face the Nation).

“…Soft talk and weak positions do not win elections. Growing up my mother always preached, ‘A man who straddles a barbwire fence gets a sore crotch’…As an avowed progressive Democrat I’m getting off the fence because I am sore” (Driggs businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate Tom Sullivan).

Democrats are searching for a new paradigm. In the past Idaho Democratic leaders have worked to enlist political moderates of good moral standing engaged in law, business or education. With the party base limited to one-third of Idaho voters, leaders reasoned, we need candidates that can appeal to centrists across the board.

Centrist issues—infrastructure, public lands, safety net, quality public education—were relied on to attract people who did not ordinarily consider themselves Democrats.

It hasn’t worked great—that’s an understatement–but no other course promised better—not until this year’s national election.

No one is saying our current President-elect won because he was a “political moderate of good moral standing” or attracted voters who shared his centrist stand on the issues.

Trump is a celebrity who millions feel they have grown to know through his television appearances. His own anger on dozens of issues seemed to validate the anger that many of the voters are feeling.

Plans? Who needs to know details when voter and candidate are simpatico?

Pundits pointed out that the candidate changed his stand, sometimes from hour to hour, and made promises that appeared impossible to keep—like ending Obamacare on day one and building a wall.

Apparently, most Idaho voters didn’t care. In fact, polls suggest that they voted for Trump figuring he wouldn’t make such changes.   Before the election, Dan Jones & Associates found that 61 percent of Idahoans polled were willing to accept Obamacare funds to cover the 78,000 Idahoans who don’t have insurance today. It’s hard to believe they were giving their new president a mandate to cut off insurance of the 150,000 who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

In a poll taken after the election, only 25% of Idahoans indicated they believe the United States will build a wall along the Mexican border. Twenty-five percent. Another 35 percent voted for Trump.

So some Democrats are speculating that celebrity or daring—or both—might give them a winning candidate.

Oprah Winfrey would be an obvious choice for president—unless Whoopi Goldberg challenged her. Both are known to millions of Americans and have strong opinions.

Idaho candidates are harder to come up with. Maybe Lou Dobbs for senator? He lived in Idaho once; we might lure him back. Of course, he might focus too much on issues.

Maybe multi-millionaire Shay Carl, formerly of Pocatello, would run for governor. Never heard of him? Well, nearly five million Americans have viewed his family life daily on his YouTube channel—that’s celebrity. A former DJ must have something to say about politics.

Canyon County has produced a lot of professional athletes, actors, musicians, and authors, but few with the day-in day-out exposure that a regular TV show allows. Maybe we could lure Dee Sarton or Mark Johnson across the Ada line?

Okay, it’s a crazy idea. But, at least, no one can say, “But we’ve tried THAT.”

Politics: What Next?

by Judy Ferro

Thousands of Democratic voters are seeking to relieve anger and depression by doing something tangible to limit the length and depth of the Trump apocalypse.

Some optimists believe that they can change the outcome by arguing Electoral College members into doing the “right thing” by voting for the winner of the popular vote or, at least, a Republican candidate who isn’t racist and unpredictable. Others are calling for a recount in three states where Trump did suspiciously better in precincts with voting machines than those with paper ballots.

Others see the immediate need is to help those targeted by hate. They are wearing safety pins as a sign that others may ask them for help. One young Jewish friend posted on Facebook that if Trump succeeds in requiring Muslims to register, he will put his name on the list and expect his friends to do so also. (Between 2014 and 2015, the rate of hate crimes against Muslims increased ten times as fast as the general hate crime rate.)

This finger-in-the-dyke measure is not a final answer though. Many are searching for ways to protect the environment, human rights and the middle class at this time.

In off-election years like 2017, Democrats work at getting their message out, raising funds for future campaigns and recruiting candidates. Some canvass door-to-door to recruit new volunteers, find voters who are “persuadable,” and register new voters. Many progressives monitor the legislature, keep others informed, contact legislators, and speak at hearings. Some help with non-partisan races for school boards and city councils.

No doubt we now need to do all of those things longer, harder, and better. But we also need to examine what happened this election and find new approaches. I can’t yet imagine the direction this will lead, but I can give some advice to those joining the search.

Don’t expect change to be easy. 2016 saw no shortage of social media posts, petitions, forwarded e-mails, and phone calls to elected officials. They didn’t get enough Democratic voters out or stop Republicans from wiping people off registration lists. We need to do more.

Don’t try to do everything that needs doing. Personally, I work to elect progressive Democrats because good representatives will make a difference across the board. Others focus on an issue they are passionate about, causes like healthier food, better schools, renewable energy, worker rights or banking reform. Make friends across the spectrum, but focus your efforts.

Join/form a group of activists. Being independent sounds great, but it takes a movement to create change. Few would have known Rosa Parks had been arrested, much less have joined in a massive bus boycott, if she hadn’t been active in a group of women working for change. Her fellow activists stayed up to make thousands of flyers and have them on the street by morning.

The Canyon County Democrats will meet at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7. You can e-mail me for information.

United Vision for Idaho, a coalition of progressive organizations, is conducting an information workshop for activists from 2 to 4 pm Saturday, Dec. 10, in the Marion Bingham room on the 3rd floor of the Boise Public Library.

The Idaho State Democrats are forming a team to respond to actions by the 2017 Idaho Legislature. Join at http://bit.ly/2fL35Rc.

A local chapter of Our Revolution should be in the works. Bernie Sanders’ organization works for candidates who will fight for advances on many progressive fronts (https://ourrevolution.com/issues/).

The time to trust that tomorrow will be better is past. Tomorrow will be what we make it.

Elections: Thanks to those who “carried on”

by Judy Ferro

“There is only one redeeming thing about this whole election. It will be over at sundown, and let everybody pray that it’s not a tie, for we couldn’t go through with this thing again.” –Will Rogers-

                Part of me wishes Will Rogers was around to comment on today’s election, and part of me is glad the humorist has been spared the hostilities of our day.

As bad as the presidential race has been, however, Idaho’s Congressional and legislative races have not been noticeably more rancorous than in previous years. I like to think it’s because Idahoans are basically civil and more likely to say “Oh, honey, I’m sorry but I can’t vote for a Democrat,” than to utter threats.

It’s possible, however, that the civility results from Republicans’ confidence. Democrats have not polled well in Canyon County, but we’ve developed bonds not unlike those of Cubs’ fans. We know that, somewhere over the horizon, lies victory. Meanwhile, we keep a spotlight on important issues, strengthen centrists, and influence legislative priorities and policies.

I’m particularly thankful to candidates who, year after year, step up knowing that the odds are solidly against them. They offer voters a choice and present our message. To a person, they advocate for better schools, the rights and dignity of all, and preservation of our public lands. I especially appreciate the commitment of those who are “pro-life for the whole life” and advocate for all people.

I’m beholden to the core team of Democrats who develop the plans, slap on the address labels, make the phone calls, and get their friends out to vote.

This year I’m particularly appreciative of the 1,775 Canyon County Democrats who shared their enthusiasm and comradery at the caucus in March. Of course, it wouldn’t have been possible without the 100 volunteers who signed people in, took part in the program and the band, and counted the ballots.

I’m grateful for those who represented Canyon County at the state convention and helped develop and adopt a two-page platform expressing Democratic values.

I’m also thankful to many who aren’t Democrats. Idahoans of all parties helped inform the public by making candidate forums possible, publishing candidates’ answers to questionnaires, providing fact checking, and writing informative letters-to-the editor. I value the insights into Idahoans’ views provided by the polls of Dan Jones and Associates.

I appreciate the friends and families that have maintained civil relationships through the trying presidential campaign by explaining their opinions, honestly and without rancor, or simply replying with a shrug and a grin.

And I appreciate the trained corps of election workers who are working long hours at the polls today and tallying votes all through the night.

I’m proud of the Idahoans who’ve worked through the decades to make voting accessible by providing voter information and registration forms on-line, instituting same-day registration, and providing for automatic enfranchisement of felons who have served their sentences.

And I’m thankful for the individual citizens who’ve taken the time to weigh the issues, learn about the candidates, and vote for the down-ballot candidates as well as for president

History will look on the presidential election of 2016 as bitter and nasty; we can hope its record is never surpassed. Quite likely, the millions who continued to maintain our democracy by responsibly carrying out civic duties will not rate a mention.

If we are to heal, however, we must remember not the outrages that earned the headlines, but the countless citizens who carried on.

Politics: Democrats elated over new platform

by Judy Ferro

They clapped, they cheered, they stomped, and then they clapped some more!

Democrats were elated when the final draft of their 2016 platform was presented, and they showed it.

Looking back after a week, I realize that the cheers wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic if forging the platform had presented no difficulties. People had spoken passionately, willing to go to the mat for the principles they supported, and the platform committee had taken each one seriously. Working long into the night, the members created a platform that Idaho Democrats can stand behind.

More than half those voting at the Idaho Democratic Convention in Boise June 16 to 18 had never taken part in a convention before. The groups was a mixture of delegates elected by caucus goers in March, officers of county and legislative districts elected by precinct captains in May, and elected legislators and county officials. Many had more than one credential. One-third of them—204 out of 306—were supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders.

The newcomers ranged in age from a handful of 18-year-olds to one feisty 90-year-old from Bonners Ferry. Some been active in politics for years. A few had previously scorned affiliating with a party. Others had just not paid attention until this year’s heated presidential campaigns. The procedures and rules—even Robert’s Rules of Order—were confusing to some. Just how does a resolution differ from a plank? Why is discussion in order before some votes and not others?

Saturday, convention goers got to know one many of their cohorts. During the morning, candidates to be delegates to the national convention gave stump speeches—this is who I am and what I’m fighting for. Women campaigning for legislative and Congressional seats got their turn at a Women’s Caucus luncheon. Then, when a credentials question halted business temporarily, it was open mike time. Among those we heard from was a Viet Nam vet angry over Republican attempts to cut veteran assistance, a woman who walked away from politics after protesting in Chicago in 1968, and a retired professor who is fighting for a bill to make corporations pay taxes where they make their sales, not to some island in the Pacific.

Resolutions passed requesting Central Committee action to start a Native American caucus and to seek out a presidential nominating process “at least as inclusive” as a primary election. Another asked Congress to pass specific items of Sanders’ platform including voter suppression and implementing single-payer health care.

Only delegates elected in March could vote for delegates to the national convention. The numbers were based on attendance at the March caucuses—18 for Bernie and 5 for Hillary. Chelsea Gaona-Lincoln of Caldwell, chair of the Canyon County Democrats, was among the Bernie delegates elected. Evangeline Beechler—a newcomer to Caldwell and first Vice Chair for the Idaho Democrats—is one of the state’s four superdelegates.

Jerry Shriner of Coeur d’Alene and Susan Eastlake of Boise were elected to the Democrat National Committee.

Adoption of the platform, however, was the high point of the convention. Emotions ran high as the initial reading was interrupted by applause more and more as it progressed. Attendees flocked to microphones afterward to state that the document was “eloquent and thorough,” “perfect,” and “a platform we can embrace.” One delegate said, “Never forget this day—we will make a difference.”

(The reading can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByUqe194er0; the text, at http://idahodems.org/news.)


Idaho Politics: Idaho Dems Caucus for Bernie, Hillary

by Judy Ferro

Did you hear that Idaho Democrats had a caucus last week?


The event not only got a front page mentions in the Idaho Press-Tribune and coverage from local TV stations, but several mentions on CNN. Favorable coverage for Idaho on national TV—gotta love it!

Overnight the jokes about Democrats meeting in a phone booth were replaced by complaints that planners were daft to think our most enthusiastic could fit in two middle school gyms. Those who attended will remember the blocks-long line and sitting elbow to elbow with hundreds of people who want leaders who will fight for the middle class.

So many contributed to the caucus—volunteers who were veterans of the 2008 event and those who prepped for their first caucus and those who stepped forward Tuesday night when they saw a need; volunteers who led sub-caucuses, spoke out for their candidates, and championed issues important to them; volunteers who acted as emcees, played in the band, helped set-up tables and made signs, and directed the foot traffic.

Thank you to all who came and waited and cheered and voted and cheered some more.

Thank you all for keeping the chaos organized and the spirit alive.

Thanks to all who came and waited and cheered and voted and cheered some more.

And special thanks to those who ran as delegates to the state convention and to the ballot counters who worked diligently until 1:30 a.m.

The outcome was a surprise to many: 83% for Bernie Sanders and 17% for Hillary Clinton. Statewide the numbers were 78% and 21%. Only Sanders’ home state of Vermont has given him a higher percent.

Canyon County will be sending 28 delegates pledged to Bernie and six pledged to Hilary to the state convention. They will join Democrats from around the state to select 17 delegates pledged to Bernie and give to Hillary to represent us at the national convention.

Idaho has four super delegates. One had announced for Hillary prior to the caucuses. Two, including party chair Bert Marley, announced for Bernie soon after. On Thursday, one remained uncommitted.

This year’s presidential caucuses may be the last for Idaho Democrats. Many–especially veterans of Ada County’s largest-caucus-in-the-nation–are pushing for us to join Republicans in holding a primary. There is another option—Democrats could caucus by legislative district or county, whichever is smaller. It would be a serious undertaking. For Canyon County, it would not only mean renting four venues but also prepping four emcees and eight or more sub-caucus leaders.

A month ago, I would have fought for that option. Now I’ve talked to dozens of Democrats who could not physically attend the caucus. Caucusing involves speeches, discussion, and not just one, but a series, of ballots. Idaho’s rules have been that one must participate for his or her vote to count.

I have friends who gave up vacation plans or a day’s wages to attend; others drove 15 miles to get to the only caucusing site in the county. Some chose not to make those sacrifices. But maybe it’s okay for the enthusiastic to have a greater say than others.

But I’ve also heard from Democrats who are blind, suffering from cancer, or recovering from an operation. I’ve talked with elderly who don’t drive at night as well as working parents who only see their kids in the evening. They need absentee ballots.

Very likely, the presidential caucus of 2016 will be the last for Idaho Democrats.

It’s great that so many share the memory of this crazy, heartwarming event.