Tuesday, February 20, 2024

OPINION: Now elected, you represent all of us

by EVAN KOCH/More Perfect Union
| January 4, 2023 1:00 AM

Idaho’s majority Republican elected representatives face an interesting irony. Once elected, they work for all Idahoans, not just the interests of their party.

Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work. Our Idaho Constitution begins, “We, the people of the state of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare do establish this Constitution.”

Upon assuming office, elected representatives swear or affirm to uphold the Constitution. They swear to work as “We, the people of the state of Idaho,” and promote the “Common welfare.”

As the legislative session begins, Democrats throughout Kootenai County and beyond are ready to hold their elected representatives accountable, reminding them that they work for the common welfare, for all the people, not just Republican kingmakers.

Constituents of all political persuasions must do three things to hold their elected representatives accountable.

First, understand the issues. It might be awkward and time consuming at first, but there is value for Democrats and Republicans alike in reaching beyond our computers or smartphones for quality information.

Talking to other human beings is the best place to start - especially those who are directly involved in the issue. You might be surprised at how willing people are to share their experiences with those who listen. Firsthand, primary source information is always the best. Worried about local education? Volunteer in a classroom. Think the election was rigged? Become a certified poll watcher. Wonder about the impact of board decisions at NIC? Reach out to anyone who works there. Worried about drag queens or LGBTQ culture? Reach out to the North Idaho Pride Alliance and listen with an open heart. Political decisions become simple and clear when seen through the eyes of real human beings.

Second, once we have quality information and have fact checked ourselves, it’s time to talk. Write simple, direct letters to the editor of this newspaper. No one is expecting Shakespeare on the local opinion pages. But your perspective on an issue might help someone else see things in a different light. Our elected representatives read these.

Talk one-on-one with your elected representatives. Call, email or write. Locally, our city council members, county commissioners, and other elected officials need to hear voices from beyond their Republican echo chambers.

On a state and federal level, call your representative’s office. More often than not, you will likely hear a friendly staffer answer that call. While Idaho politicians in particular seem to be full of campaign bluster and bravado, these staffers are not. They don’t fight on the phone. They listen patiently and then take a message.

Third, and finally, never give up. Kootenai County Democrats are the definition of resilience. When time and time again we lose at the ballot box, somehow our defense of our political stances just gets stronger. There’s an old saying about character: “Hammering hardens steel but wreaks havoc on putty. Which one are you made of?” Local Democrats are some of the strongest, most principled people I know.

As we embark on another legislative session, never forget that our elected representatives now represent all of us. Democrat and Republican alike. Hold them accountable to that promise. Together, we can build a more perfect union.

Evan Koch is chairman of the Kootenai County Democrats.