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OPINION: Party on

by BRENT REGAN/Common Sense
| March 15, 2024 1:00 AM

Political parties are private organizations. They are the manifestation of our freedom of association, our fundamental right to increase our persuasive capability by gathering with likeminded individuals to petition our government.

Political parties are a necessary evil. Evil because they pit citizens against one another. Necessary in that we need the conflict to ensure the stability of the republic. The parties operate in tension providing balance to the political system. The longevity of our American experiment offers the existence proof of this tension’s efficacy.  

Without the stabilizing tension of competing political parties, governance invariably turns to tyranny. History is replete with examples of single party dictatorial rule leading to oppression, misery and the deaths of millions; many of those killed by their own governments. In the 20th century, you were more likely to be killed by your own government than to die as the result of war.   

Balance is achieved when two parties embrace their philosophies and then have their candidates articulate those beliefs to the voters. The voter can then evaluate the candidates and vote accordingly. One party may advocate big government programs with social safety nets necessitating higher taxes while another supports personal responsibility, freedom and lower taxes. Competition drives the parties to titrate their messaging resulting in a near 50/50 balance, within a few percentage points. But what happens when you game the system?

Sixty years ago Idaho was a blue state. Not surprising as Idaho’s economy was agriculture, logging and mining, the blue collar heart of the Democrat party at that time. But since then the Democrat party has veered sharply to the left, pandering to the new “victim” class and abandoning hardworking Idahoans. As a result, Idaho’s common sense voters favored more conservative candidates offered by the Republican Party. However many of the old guard multi-generational established leadership simply switched jerseys, red for blue, and continued to govern as a “Republican” while maintaining a classic democrat perspective. 

Currently about a third of our Idaho legislators are actual conservative Republicans while a third is the old guard liberal republican and the remainder are Democrats. This situation has resulted in Idaho’s “conservative” ranking to be near the bottom of Republican majority states with only one third of our legislators voting in line with conservative principles 80% of the time.  

The Republican Party has also been evolving. The base of the party is the Precinct Committeeman (PC). Each PC is elected by the roughly 600 Republicans in each of the 976 precincts. Every PC is a member of their County Central Committee. Prior to 2008, Idaho’s 44 County Central Committees would remain mostly dormant until after the primary when they would awake and become pamphleteers for whoever won the Republican Primary. They were cheerleaders for the red jacket team.

The party began to change in 2009, catalyzed by the Tea Party movement and spurred on by the demands of Republican voters and rating systems like the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s Freedom Index, Central Committees began to embrace their conservative roots. Prior to this the most liberal legislator in Idaho was a Republican from Sandpoint. Now, central committees are recognizing their responsibility to the voters to ensure the fidelity of the Republican brand. When a voter sees a candidate with an “R” next to their name they have a right to expect that the candidate ascribes, in most part, to the principles articulated in the Republican Party Platform. Truth in advertising.

Candidates are measured against the Idaho Republican Party Platform which has been quite consistent over the years because any proposed Platform amendments must pass through two separate committees before being voted on by the 700+ delegates to the Idaho Republican State Convention held every two years.  

Actual Republicans who actually believe in the Platform have no problem with the Platform being used as a metric to measure their performance. However, old guard Democrats who have been passing themselves off as Republicans for years object mightily to these efforts. They deny that the party has a right to opine on their Republican qualifications. They call the conservative majority a “faction” or “extremists.” They see grassroots conservatism as an existential threat and are fighting back in unprecedented ways. 

We can see in real time, that in the legislature they are allying with the Democrats to pass Democrat agenda legislation while they defeat good bills, not on merit, but because they are sponsored by conservatives.

They are directly attacking the party chairman with false claims, innuendo and outright lies. This hasn’t happened in the last half century but they are going full scorched earth now. 

They are directly challenging the Precinct Committeemen — the very volunteers you elected to represent you in the Republican Party, by spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to install committeemen statewide who will be faithful to them and not to you. 

The most egregious attack, which will destroy our political stability and set Idaho on the path to become the next California, deserves its own column. Stay tuned for next week’s…

It’s just common sense.

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Brent Regan is chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.