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OPINION: Rejecting racism and the status quo

by JACK T. RIGGS, M.D./Guest Opinion
| March 29, 2024 1:00 AM

As President Ronald Reagan once said, "Status quo, you know, is Latin for 'the mess we're in.'" 

As a lifelong resident of Coeur d’Alene, and a Republican who has had the honor of serving in the Idaho Legislature and as Idaho Lieutenant Governor, I've witnessed firsthand the power of our party's principles in shaping a just, prosperous and inclusive society. 

However, recent events and developments within Kootenai County have compelled me to speak out, not just as a former public servant, but as a concerned citizen deeply invested in the welfare of our community.

I am truly disappointed by recent events where female athletes and other students from visiting universities were verbally harassed in downtown Coeur d'Alene. I fear these incidents are not just isolated problems; they point to a bigger, underlying issue in our community. They remind us of the worst parts of our past, like the 1920s Klan and two decades of local Aryan Nations activities — times we've worked hard to leave behind.

Pointing out the existence of racism doesn’t make you “woke” … it makes you a good Republican, and a good citizen. Let us not forget: the freedom to enjoy our beautiful surroundings, to live, work, raise a family, or attend a basketball tournament without fear of harassment is a right that belongs to every member of our community.

The Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, founded on the rejection of bondage and discrimination, is clear in its denunciation of bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice and religious intolerance. 

Yet, it appears that some elements within the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee (KCRCC) have deviated from these foundational principles. The KCRCC’s and the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s (IFF) association with individuals and outside consultants who promote divisive hate-fueled ideologies is not just troubling; it's a betrayal of our core American values of freedom, liberty and justice for all.

These consultants promoted campaign promises involving culture war issues at North Idaho College, our libraries and schools, and the legislature. There is very little insight if these consultants are even Republican. 

Some openly align with "White Nationalists," like white nationalist Nick Fuentes. Others have been involved with terror watch list groups and attended the racist ‘Unite the Right Rally’ in Charlottesville. 

This is not merely a matter of political disagreement; it's a question of right and wrong. 

The empowerment of bigotry and racism within our ranks threatens the very fabric of our community and the integrity of the Idaho Republican Party. It transcends political loyalties and challenges us to uphold our moral convictions over partisanship.

As Republicans, we must do more than merely point to "platform statements" on racism; we must act decisively to root it out where it exists within our organization. This means holding our party leaders accountable and ensuring that their actions reflect the values we profess to hold.  There is simply no place for racism anywhere, within our party or society.

This is why "Precinct Committeeman" will be the most important race on your May 21 Primary ballot. Precinct Committeemen (PCs) make up the central committee (KCRCC). And it is these committee members that elect their leadership (ie, Brent Regan). 

This year, Republican voters will have a choice in almost every precinct across the county to chart our own course for the future of our local GOP central committee. It is time for change — so please vote for change.

Ask your friends to reject the status quo of division and discord that ultimately harms our party, our community and our state, and instead embrace the American principles of freedom, integrity and respect for all. 

Better yet, let them know how easy and reliable it is to request an absentee ballot at: www.IdahoVotes.Gov

As the Republican Party of Kootenai County and Idaho moves forward, it must rededicate itself to the inclusive values championed by Abraham Lincoln, ensuring no barrier based on color, creed or religion stands in the way of our God-given inalienable rights — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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Jack T. Riggs, M.D., is a former Idaho Lt. Governor and a founding member of North Idaho Republicans.