Wednesday, September 27, 2023

OPINION: Pre-packaged angertainment is getting stale

by EVAN KOCH/More Perfect Union
| March 15, 2023 1:00 AM

I could be wrong about this, but I sense that the overall mood in Kootenai County is changing. And for the better.

Last year at this time, I faced a well planned and partially deployed Republican-led attack to take over the Democratic Central Committee. In recorded conversations, the KCRCC Youth Chair encouraged registered Republicans to switch their party affiliations, run for Democratic Precinct Captains, and once elected to a majority of Central Committee seats, financially gut our entire organization.

Instead of panicking, my people sprung into action. They worked their phones 24/7 with calls to and from volunteers. With just 36 hours remaining before the filing deadline, a group of mostly younger Democrats recruited 50 new precinct captains. If not for that rapid response team, and the volunteers, the GOP plot might have worked and the Kootenai Democrats would have been out of business.

Twelve months later, that “can do” spirit lives on. The vast majority of Democratic Precinct Captains remain on the job. Our Annual Democracy Dinner resumed for the first time since COVID-19 made such gatherings unsafe. We held two very well-attended and inspiring symposiums to educate citizens about our opponents' wild and anti-democratic shenanigans.

And we accepted the challenge from the KCRCC to offer a political counterweight with these weekly columns. Our columns have been very popular because we try to avoid political mud wrestling. Instead we have focused on real-world questions like voting rights, censorship at public schools and libraries, and accreditation at North Idaho College.

Our efforts are paying off. We see more supportive letters to the editor in the press, we see greater turnout at our events, we see more financial contributions to our coffers. We have welcomed with open arms an influx of students and retirees into the Kootenai County Democrats.

Of perhaps even greater importance, we hear from many Republicans whose message is the same: “We’ve had enough of ugly politics.”

Yelling at a local school board, library board or county commissioners meeting might be fun for a while. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that angertainment is getting old.

Political theater is hollow entertainment, especially when the entertainers are liars.

Fox News is the perfect example. Every one of its talking heads revealed in newly disclosed emails how they lied to their viewers about the 2020 election to maintain ratings for the network.

Eventually, the angertainment shows come to an end. The masks of manufactured outrage come off, revealing the dishonesty of the actors within.

This current Idaho Legislative session is an excellent case study. Far-right legislators who built their brand on being edgy introduced a slate of bills that have no real benefit for average Idahoans.

These bills would unnecessarily restrict voting rights, unfairly eliminate marriage licenses, dangerously eliminate the rape and incest exception for abortions and senselessly decree who can use which bathrooms and what clothing different genders can wear in public while dancing.

Some of these bills were quickly recognized as hollow stunts. Others have dangerously gained momentum.

Even worse than this culture wars legislation is make-believe ignorance. Last week Rep. Lori McCann, (R-Lewiston) proposed a bill that would permit the State Department of Education to govern any community college that loses its accreditation. This legislation would significantly impact North Idaho College. When asked for comment on this important bill, Rep. Tony Wisniewski (R — District 5, Seat B, Post Falls) claimed to not know anything about it, Rep. Elaine Price (R — District 4, Coeur d'Alene) blamed the accrediting agency, and Rep. Ron Mendive (R-District 5, Seat A, Coeur d'Alene) said, “There’s no appetite in North Idaho to anything even approaching this.” These folks who represent us would allow NIC to close its doors.

Idahoans aren’t stupid. We know who is fighting the culture wars, and who is fighting for us.

While our North Idaho legislators debate the dangers of cross-dressing, senior citizens are being priced out of their homes. These same legislators allow our schools to scrape by on a shoestring budget, while they strip citizen’s ballot initiative rights away and kill our community college.

Ugliness and showmanship sell, but Idahoans are waking up to what they are really being sold: cheap, prepackaged outrage.

Together, we must focus on the real issues and collaborate on real solutions. Only then can we build a more perfect union.

• • •

Evan Koch is chairman of the Kootenai County Democrats.

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