A Republican civil war?

I was surprised to see that Republicans spoke openly to Idaho Press reporter Erin Banks Rusby about infighting within the Canyon County Republican Party. 

Far right challenges seem to have always been active in Idaho–the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, the anti-communist frenzy of the McCarthyites in the 1950s, the John Birch society soon after. In the late 1990s a Republican central committee member told me that a group had changed the site of a Central Committee meeting without telling the chair. And in 2014 the Republicans had the Idaho convention that wasn’t–delegates could not agree on who the duly elected delegates were much less on a platform. 

But most of the time, the centrists remained solidly in the majority. 

This year far right Republicans outnumbered the centrists in the Idaho House by 10 votes.  And it’s made them bolder. 

Patti Syme, the current chair of the Canyon County Republican Central Committee admitted the problem, “We are so distracted by every other rabbit hole that it’s difficult to get anything accomplished.” As central committee member Sarah Chaney explained to the Idaho Press, the far right aims to exhaust leaders and force them to give up. 

This month former Attorney General Jim Jones, a Republican, called on Democrats to register as Republicans and vote for moderates in the primaries next May. Centrists have steadily lost ground since Republicans banned independents and Democrats from their primaries in 2011.

Jones’s suggestion brought mixed reactions from Democrats. At least 20,000 Democrats are currently registered Republican, but some firmly oppose this. A Lewiston-area native on the Democratic State Committee posted on Facebook, “Give me a Break, I’m not about to try and fix stupid!” Comments ranged from “They poured this cup, let them drink it,” to “If we don’t fix stupid in May, we all are going to be affected by the results.” 

A suggestion that we put all the candidates on the same primary ticket and then have the top two on the ballot in November got some support. It’s done elsewhere. It makes me worry, however, that many Idahoans would never see a Democrat on the general election ballot again. 

The battle within the Republican party is national, and a New York Times guest editorial featured a call for Republicans to vote for Democrats whenever a centrist Republican wasn’t on their ballot. Co-author Miles Taylor served at the Department of Homeland Security during the early Trump administration. His partner, Christine Whitman, is a former governor of New Jersey. 

They state the problem bluntly, “Rational Republicans are losing the G.O.P. civil war.”

Taylor and Whitman aren’t worried about the extremists’ attacks on public schools and the vaccine or their refusal to address climate change. They have one issue.

 “GOP leaders…have now turned belief in conspiracy theories and lies about stolen elections into a litmus test for membership and running for office.” They oppose the “refusing to accept the results of elections or undermining the certification of those results should they lose.” 

This pair feel third parties are destined to lose so they support crossing party lines instead. Their organization, Renew America Movement, plans to endorse 24 Congressional candidates for the 2022 elections–Republicans who’ve dared to speak out against former President Trump and moderate Democrats in swing districts without such Republican candidates. Their website does, however, have a 10-point platform saying where they stand.    

We need to hear from the moderate Republicans in Canyon County–and all of Idaho–just how they differ from the opposition. Until they make that clear, this is just a battle for power between new and old factions.  

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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