Democrats defend capitalism

I got some praise from Senator Todd Young of the National Republican Senatorial Committee last week.

Young wrote that Republicans listened “to real world voters like you.” He included me among the “loyal Republicans who have the wisdom and experience necessary to help us” and that my input was “critical to compiling a detailed…profile of GOP voters across the nation.”

I do love flattery, but Young is a propagandist promoting fear of Democrats as ”hard-left socialists,” ”impeachment-obsessed socialists” and “power-mad socialists” with a “disastrous socialist agenda.”

Democrats are not socialists. If they were, there would be no need for the couple dozen political parties that are farther left. To lump them all together is like saying that all Republicans are white supremacists or members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The difference. Democrats try to save capitalism from its excesses. Socialists believe capitalism must be destroyed.

Democrats want a competitive capitalistic system with rules and a safety net.

 Was Cecil Andrus a socialist?  Idahoans elected him as governor four times–in 1970, 1974, 1986, and 1990. He worked for public kindergarten, stopped Idaho Power from building a coal-burning power plant near Boise, and fought permanent nuclear waste storage in Idaho.

Social programs and regulations? Yes. Destruction of capitalism? No.

Democrat Ilana Rubel, minority leader of the Idaho House, is no farther left. Her website states her stand on the economy this way.  “Ilana is focused on making Idaho a magnet for strong businesses and good jobs. To succeed, we must train a workforce with 21st century skills and continue to listen to the needs of Idaho businesses. Ilana regularly meets with businesspeople – large and small – to help facilitate their success.”

Does that sound like a threat to capitalism?

Nancy Pelosi, majority leader of the U.S. House, does propose some impractical ideas; she’s hoping for negotiations and counter offers. It’s the legislative process, not a threat.

Many Democrats are business people. I know Democrats with farming, construction, real estate development, retail, restaurant, recreation, and tech operations. My dad, brothers, and husband each owned businesses. A volunteer at the Dems’ booth at the fair once complained that a recent tax cut was not right, even though it was saving him $100,000.

And many Democrats own stocks. A precinct captain’s wife once explained her lack of a career by saying they moved a lot while her husband was in the military, and she found that she could make more managing their portfolio than working.

Yes, Democrats believe in community ownership of services like water, sewer, fire, police, and roads.  We believe in public lands and clean air and water.  We see a need for schools and libraries. And we believe that someone who works should be able to afford food, shelter and healthcare, and that the pressure on corporations to give fat profits to shareholders leads to wages so low that our social welfare programs are overburdened.

Democrats brought Americans the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, overtime pay, and social security.

We have not destroyed capitalism.

But greed and hubris are putting it in danger. Why should Americans have to pay $3,120 for six treatments of remdesivir, a drug made possible by government research and manufactured for about $1 a vial? Why should a policeman feel free to kill a man accused of petty theft in front of an audience?

No other free people tolerates such acts. Left-wing extremism will continue to grow as long as Republican leadership ignores such stark unfairness.

Socialism and communism look good to the downtrodden. Fight them with fairness, reasonable regulations and a strong safety net.

Voters speak their minds

In a non-pandemic year, July is a good month to talk with voters.  The parades and booths of the Fourth are followed by a succession of rodeos, city celebrations, and county fairs. And, even without a special event, as the sun sets and the air cools, people find places to visit and things to do outside.  And, generally, Idahoans are cordial enough to answer a serious question or two about their beliefs.

This year is different. Those wanting to talk with voters must call or engage them online.

That can be confusing to voters not used to getting calls until September or October. I imagine many are thinking, I know there’s an election in November, but why are you bothering me now?

Well, because I can’t hand out sun visors or miniature flags at the park or fair grounds or rodeo. I can’t even register potential voters at Little League games.

Not everyone is prepared for an unexpected caller asking if there’s a political issue they are concerned about. Some, however, are glad to have someone listen.  I now know that it can cost $20,000 or more to file immigration papers; the lawyer gets nearly half and the government the rest. I’ve heard that the housing crisis is so bad that many people are living in campers instead of homes, and most campgrounds anywhere near possible jobs are full.

Many speak of the coronavirus problem. They fear for their parents and grandparents and themselves. A health worker said that her care facility may be changed to an all-COVID community. The questions were there, unstated. Should I quit instead?  Or get a place away from my family?

Others are struggling to decide whether to send their kids back to school in the fall. They couldn’t afford daycare even if they could find one with openings, and they have to go to work. But will schools with crowded busses, classes and lunchrooms be able to stay open?

And a lot are angry that something this serious has become a political football. Masks or no masks? Danger or fraud? Who should they believe?

In fact, the failure of Americans to work together was mentioned nearly as often as major issues like education, health care, and jobs. “Chaotic,” said one.  “Frustrating to see everybody fighting,” and “So much negativity,” said others.

“People can’t seem to get their act together and work together in this country.”

“Somebody needs to cover the current news, not just the riots.”

 And many, it seems, are ready to give up on both parties.

It hurts to hear. Few republics have existed longer than ours. Feudalism—with its caste system and laborers tied to lands owned by the wealthy—dominated for nearly 1000 years and still crops up when governments are weak.

On the phone I try to steer the conversation to an issue the person does care about, something important and close enough that he or she trusts their own experience.

But I’m really thinking, do you realize that those feeding the conflicts want you to feel just this way? Politics is dirty; ignore it. No one is worth voting for; stay home.

Unfortunately, political consultants for both parties believe voters are less skeptical of negative statements and retain them longer. Al Gore’s call to action against global warming was totally buried under accusations that he was stiff, boring, and not “one of us.”

Now we can’t agree to cooperate to protect one another’s lives.

Will history conclude that republics can’t work?  Or simply that we didn’t deserve ours?

Do Dems have the drive to win more seats in November?

 Finally, we have come to the last day of the wackiest Idaho primary election ever. 2020 will be legendary for Idaho county clerks from this day forth–envelope shortages, mis-mailed ballots, crashing online sites, unsigned envelopes, court orders and all. 

The time for mailing ballots is past.  Still, hundreds of ballots may be slipped into slots at election offices today. Clerks will be busy checking signatures, opening envelopes, working creases out of the sheets, and running stacks through the counting machine. 

We might have results tonight–but some races may be so tight we’ll have to wait until every ballot is processed.    

Many voters were disappointed to see few contested races on their ballots.  Unless there was a local levy, Independents voted only for judges. Democrats had two contested races–House and Senate–at the top of their ticket, but only Boise Democrats saw contested legislative races.

There were Republican against Republican challenges in 28 of Idaho’s 35 districts.  

Democrats filed for only one-third of the county offices up for election and less than one-half of the legislative seats. Essentially, nearly 100 Republicans will be elected today.

Chances are that most were supported by only 15% of those eligible to vote in November.   

That might sound like business as usual, but Stephen Hartgen, a former five-term Republican legislator, noted that we are seeing a “sharp drop in Democratic Party competition statewide…some 20 percent fewer [legislative candidates] than in 2018.” 

A quick check found that Hartgen was right. 

In 2016 Democrats filed for 64 of 105 legislative seats; in 2018, 72; and this year, 56.

One might think that Idaho’s blue wave rippled and died, but it’s the vote in November that will count. 

Democrats now hold 20 legislative seats, up from 16 two years ago. 

Fifty-six candidates still give them lots of possibilities for gain.  

And if voters have been paying attention, Democrats will gain.  

For the Medicaid Expansion initiative to pass by 60% in 2018, one-third of Republican voters had to support it. Many Republican legislators didn’t care that the majority of their constituents supported expansion. They knew that the majority of those that voted for them hadn’t. They flaunted their opposition, passing a number of waivers to limit participation and complaining about paying 10% of the cost to insure thousands.  

They also passed a bill–later vetoed by Gov. Brad Little–to require future initiative petitions to get more signatures in more counties in half the time. 

In addition, they voted to prevent use of the millions in revenue from the new sales tax on online purchases for education or healthcare or infrastructure. They dedicated the money to tax relief–then failed to cut the sales tax on groceries or increase the homeowner’s exemption for property taxes.  

Certainly, some voters will remember in November. Will it be enough to make a difference?

That may depend on why Democrats have fewer candidates. 

If the number dropped because fewer activists were willing to invest time and effort, Democrats are in trouble. 

But it’s a different story if fewer Democratic candidates stepped forward because activists saw initiative petitions as offering more significant returns. We’d need to replace 20 or more incumbents to get the legislature to consider bills that would raise the minimum wage, improve school funding, or legalize medical mariuana. 

Successful bipartisan initiatives could bring those changes in little more than a year.

And might have–if the coronavirus shutdown hadn’t killed the petition drives. 

Now, I doubt these activists will choose to sit on their hands during this election–and they could make a huge difference in spreading candidates’ messages. 

We’ll see.  

Idahoans pressing on, but legislative hurdles persist

Coronavirus changed our world this week. Gatherings from children’s school concerts to national basketball finals were cancelled, toilet paper and hand sanitizers became precious commodities, and a deepening plunge in the stock market seemed a footnote compared to the tragedies we anticipate.

And, yet, people pressed on, doing what they felt needed done.  

On March 10 over 225,000 Idaho voters went to the polls to support their preferred presidential candidates. They passed 39 of the 41 school levies up for a vote, authorizing over $170 million in taxes including a whopping 10-year levy for more than $80 million for Pocatello-Chubbuck. Only Middleton and Swan Valley saw levies fail.  

And by the cutoff time last Friday, 219 candidates had filed for Idaho’s 105 legislative positions. 

Legislative races require a thick skin, hundreds of hours, and thousands of dollars, especially for challengers. Running is an act of bravery. 

Over 40 seats will see primaries among Republicans, but none will top Nampa’s six-way race for House Seat 13B.

Fifty-eight seats in 26 districts have both Democratic and Republican challengers.  Forty-seven seats have no Democratic contenders.    

And the legislature moved into high gear; more bills were enacted on March 9 and 10 than in the previous nine weeks.  With Idaho’s first coronavirus patient just across town and primary challenges just nine week away, members were motivated to adjourn.   

Some disputes were settled.          

The Senate State Affairs committee voted to let school districts continue to decide whether employees should carry guns. Members voted down SB 1384 which would have allowed employees with enhanced concealed carry permits to carry guns in schools. The majority felt that the permits were too easy to get, and untrained individuals with guns were dangerous.   

Some weren’t.   

The House Health and Welfare committee killed a bill to claim $8.5 million that counties previously paid for medical indigency and Catastrophic Health Care programs to help pay for Medicaid expansion. Members worried that changes to the law would mean some coronavirus victims would not get treatment. Within hours, however, a new bill was introduced that would take $12 million from the counties.  

And other disputes heated up.  

Both the House and Senate want to do something to relieve property taxes; the House favors freezing rates and requiring counties to cut their budgets; the Senate wants to increase the exemption for homeowners from $100,000 to $125,000. They’ve been engaging in parliamentary one-up-manship rather than compromise. 

And the House has recently killed four JFAC-approved budget bills.

Odds are that members rejected the Treasurer’s budget because Treasurer Julie Ellsworth has refused to move her department’s offices from the main floor of the Capitol Building so House members can have more office space. 

Budgets for the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and higher education all exceeded the Governor’s recommendations.   

The higher education budget got additional criticism from those opposing inclusion and diversity programs at Boise State University.

According to Idaho Education News, Rep. Vito Barbieri said the House must “send the message that we do have a say on what is taught and we do have a say on who they are hiring, and for what purposes they are hiring.” (Barbieri has a Republican primary challenger, but no Democratic one this year.)  

Apparently, the paradigm of colleges and universities as diverse communities of  scholars is under challenge. Will Idahoans readily accept institutions of state-controlled indoctrination? 

Will we see four new budget bills drafted, pass through committees, and be accepted by a majority of members of both houses this week?

It’s possible–but we’ll see. 

Wow! Republicans worried about 2C Dem candidate!

As a Democrat, I was happy that some voters found a 30-year law that indicated there should be a runoff election for a city council seat if no candidate got a majority of the votes.  

Evangeline Beechler, chair of the Idaho State Democrats, was getting a second chance. 

What wasn’t there to like?

Then, came the postcards attacking Beechler for being a (gasp, ugh) DEMOCRAT. 

Attacks are like packing tape. Logic and facts may peel the tape off, but the adhesive that remains tarnishes the target and attracts dirt.   

  I’ve seen statewide candidates attacked, but, locally, the public voice of the Republicans has been civil. Sure, some vandals have slashed tires and made death threats,but the leaders have been courteous. 

Evangeline Beechler shaking hands with President Obama.
Republicans mailed this photo of Evangeline Beechler shaking hands with President Obama to thousands of voters.

Democrats who got the first postcards were confused–so Beechler was a friend of Obama and shared their support for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Very informative.    

But postcards that followed were worse, claiming Democrats had a “radical platform” and a threatening “secret agenda.”    

It wasn’t until the fourth postcard I grasped why Republicans were bringing the party’s weaponized national issues–immigration, abortion, and guns–to a city election.   

Republicans are treating a Canyon County Democrat as a serious rival for the first time during my time as an activist.  .

They are scared. 

For 30 years Caldwell has been safe territory for Republicans in partisan elections. Now, the histories of these two candidates–John McGee, once the Republican’s golden boy, against the Democrats’ state chair–made party loyalties an issue. 

Parties don’t have ready arguments dealing with issues like city services and recreation programs. 

But the Republicans have a backup plan. Nationally, the party has spent billions demonizing Democrats, aka liberals and progressives, through the years.   

It’s paid off in Idaho. Thousands of Idahoans who support public education and Medicaid Expansion continue to vote for Republicans who don’t. 

While Democrats are known for dithering, Republicans have found that repeating arguments forcefully over time, gains them a sense of authority that many accept, even it they are not in full agreement. 

So they attacked via postcard. 

 Yes,the ACLU is a liberal organization.  Ironically, its fight to prevent government infringement on individuals’ civil rights mirrors that of the NRA, only ACLU supports rights for a wide range of people, including minorities, women, the LGBT community and prisoners.  

 During the past two years, the ACLU has led the fight to stop the government from caging immigrant children and separating even toddlers and babies still breastfeeding from their parents.   

 That “radical platform” of the Idaho State Democrats supporting “abortion on demand” reads like this:  “We respect personal decisions that are private, including medical and reproductive decisions, religious practices, and political views,” and “we uphold an individual’s right to choose and their access to reproductive medical care.”

Democracy only makes sense if we trust people to make important decisions. 

And the Second Amendment Alliance suggested that since Beechler is a Democrat, she has a “hidden agenda” that threatens your guns.  

Both Caldwell and Nampa city councils have had Democratic members through the years and a bevy of Democrats govern Boise. Has anyone lost their guns?   

That “radical platform” of the Idaho Democrats asks only for scientific research on gun violence, universal background checks, and keeping guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers.  

Democrats share Idaho values.  

I don’t accuse all Republicans of wanting capital punishment for mothers who have miscarriages just because some Republican idiots in Kansas support it. Please stop claiming the most extreme Democrats represent all of us. 

Or do Republicans feel you can’t win without scary bogeyman issues?