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Power to the Elites 

Why Idaho's governor debate actually was informative

click to enlarge CALEB WALSH
  • Caleb Walsh

The people of Idaho are too often ignored by their governor and legislature — that much, I agree with the so-called "liberty caucus" that has taken over the state's Republican Party. But their proposed cure is worse than the disease.

click to enlarge Reuter.jpg

Their solutions range from eliminating the right to vote for our U.S. senators to removing Idahoans from public lands. Proponents of these radical ideas have claimed they are standing up for the people. I'll admit that what they lack in substance, they more than make up for in clever spin. Let's examine their arguments.

They call for the repeal of the 17th Amendment. That's the part of the U.S. Constitution that guarantees you the right to directly vote for U.S. senators. Their proposal is to return this power to the state legislatures. This, they argue, would increase the influence that states have with the federal government.

Perhaps such a move would help make state legislatures more influential, but it would undoubtedly decrease the influence of the vast majority of us who are not members of the legislature. The result of this policy is to dramatically move power from the people to the elite few within the legislature.

When it comes to public lands, their proposal is more devious. They suggest Idaho should take over the public lands within its borders and use them to jump-start our economy.

Let's ignore, for the moment, that this is never, ever going to happen, and just consider what the impact would be if it did.

They suggest this is about ensuring access to public lands for all Idahoans and for all purposes. The trouble is that their current takeover plan suggests the supremacy of a singular purpose: to make as much money, as quickly as possible, regardless of the damage done to wildlife and recreation.

We don't have to look far to see the results of these policies. The Idaho Department of Lands currently manages state lands solely based on profitability. The result is that significant areas become closed to hunting, fishing, hiking and camping.

Their proposed takeover would actually cause a lot of people to lose access to the lands they love. And, by the way, because of a variety of costs, the takeover would actually result in the state losing money, too.

These are not the positions of populists, but instead the policy goals of those wanting to empower the elite and disenfranchise the masses.

There's been a lot of talk about how comical the Idaho Republican governor debate was, with the inclusion of two fringe candidates. I agree that I chuckled through a good portion of it. But I disagree that were two fringe candidates; in fact, there were three.

Throughout this primary election, the media has been far too gentle with gubernatorial candidate Russ Fulcher and his slate's absurd beliefs. He, like the other two fringe candidates for governor, endorsed the public lands takeover and the repeal of your right to vote for our U.S. senators. These views are far outside the mainstream of what Idahoans believe.

Fringe candidates sometimes get elected. But I'm betting not this year, not in Idaho. By the time you're reading this — after Idaho's May 20 primary — we'll know if I am right. ♦

John T. Reuter, a former Sandpoint City Councilman, is the executive director of Conservation Voters for Idaho. He has been active in protecting Idaho's environment, expanding LGBT rights and the Idaho Republican Party.

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