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OPINION: The extremist branch of Idaho’s GOP is producing a moving experience

by JIM JONES/Guest Opinion
| February 1, 2024 1:00 AM

Many people have literally been moved by the ugly performance of Idaho’s Republican extremists in recent years. That is, significant numbers of teachers, librarians, doctors and others have moved out of the Gem State to escape the false claims and oppressive legislation conjured by the dysfunctional branch of Idaho’s GOP, now presided over by Dorothy Moon. On the other hand, that same wretched conduct has caused like-minded folk from across the country to move to our state, attracted by headlines that portray Idaho as a sanctuary for political zealots of every stripe.

Extremist legislators have been relentlessly and unjustifiably attacking libraries and librarians since out-of-state dark money groups placed them on the target list a couple of years ago. The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) and its faithful legislative acolytes recognized the vote-getting potential of this fake culture war issue and jumped on the bandwagon. They have been cheered on by Moon and her minions. 

False claims that libraries were dishing out filth to young kids resulted in passage last year of a bill imposing a $2,500 bounty for making “available” books deemed “harmful to minors.” The bill had obvious constitutional problems, but that was beside the point. The purpose of the bill was to intimidate libraries into purging their shelves of anything that might be in any way suspect. Governor Little rightfully vetoed the bill, but libraries and librarians are being targeted again this year. The grief that librarians have faced from the continual sniping has taken its toll. The Idaho Library Association recently disclosed that more than half of Idaho librarians are thinking of leaving library work and many are moving out of state. I’m aware of a couple that just left for library jobs in Pennsylvania.

The radicals have also chased off Idaho teachers with a laundry list of trumped-up charges, including that they are grooming kids, indoctrinating them with critical race theory and exposing them to pornography. When Idaho’s 2023 Teacher of the Year was attacked, she moved to Illinois where people would appreciate her excellent work.

We have all heard of medical doctors, particularly OB-GYNs, leaving Idaho because its toughest-in-the-nation abortion laws have intimidated them out of treating women with troubled pregnancies. Thanks to Attorney General Raul Labrador, a woman cannot receive care for a dangerous pregnancy in a hospital emergency room until she is on death’s doorstep. In the words of the statute, the doctor can only act “ to prevent the death of the pregnant woman.” No wonder Idaho doctors are moving away.

Idahoans, particularly in our northern climes, will have an additional reason to hire a mover if a pending bill is enacted into law. Senate Bill 1220 would essentially gut Idaho’s domestic terror law. That law was passed in 1987 in response to the bombing of Father Bill Wassmuth’s home in Coeur d’Alene by members of the violent white supremacist Aryan Nations group. The law made it a serious felony for those who commit criminal acts that are “dangerous to human life” and intended to “intimidate or coerce” either the general public or governmental policymakers. The law announced to the world that Idaho would not put up with violent political zealots.

The sponsor of SB1220 argued that it would protect the speech rights of groups like Moms for Liberty. Pardon me, but if that group were to engage in violent acts of intimidation, like the terror bombing of a civil rights icon’s home, wouldn’t most decent Idahoans hope the state’s laws could deal with it? Besides, Moms for Liberty has its hands full nowadays, dealing with the admitted three-way sex scandal in Florida among its founder, her husband and another woman.

While these appalling political actions by IFF and the Dorothy Moon enablers have caused many decent Idahoans to move out of the state, the same actions have attracted an inward movement of like-minded extremists into the state. David Neiwert, a distinguish Idaho journalist, has written a must-read article titled “Idaho's traditional Republicans realizing their new far-right transplant overlords are radicals,” disclosing that the in-migration of radicals from other states has been happening for years. They will continue to come in droves because out-of-staters are reading the ugly headlines and taking them as a sign that Idaho has put out the welcome mat for practically every brand of political and religious fanatic. In a special report that appeared in the January 30 issue of the Idaho Press, titled “Birds of a Feather,” the Adams Publishing Group indicates that political migration has become a national phenomenon in recent years, including Idaho. At least the moving companies are profiting.

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Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran who served eight years as Idaho Attorney General and 12 years as a justice on the Idaho Supreme Court. He is a regular columnist for The Hill online news. He blogs at JJCommonTater.com.