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Idaho's most progressive document may have been created by a bunch of new Democratic leaders 

click to enlarge Mary Lou Reed
  • Mary Lou Reed

I confess to being a party girl all my life. My favorite is the Democratic Party, and I have attended countless conventions, meetings and, yes, party parties. I've seen and heard it all, right?

Wrong. The Idaho Democratic Party produced a mind-blowing, brand-new offical party platform this past June during the state convention at the College of Idaho campus in Caldwell, in southwestern Idaho.

No tired talk, no empty promises, no dull repetition of timeworn phrases. Strong, straight-forward language. The lively platform document undoubtedly reflects the infusion of new younger blood into the mix. Close to 60 percent of the attendees were first-time political convention goers. Young blood does flow faster and hotter, and the document doesn't reflect patience. It demands action, and uses the two-word phrase "we demand" with gusto.

For instance: In the section on the economy, it reads "we demand" fair and affordable housing, childcare, fair banking, protection for Social Security and equal pay for equal work.

We know that available housing is now rare and consequently expensive in most cities, especially in Seattle, New York, San Francisco and Chicago. But housing is not just an expensive problem in popular cities. Right here in Coeur d'Alene, we have a housing shortage for people who have jobs and are working hard.

I like the sense of urgency and necessity that the word "demand" brings. Idaho schools are definitely under-funded. Idaho teachers are not paid what they deserve and are under-appreciated. The Democratic document makes itself pretty clear when it states, "we demand the Idaho Legislature fund all Idaho public schools."

Delegate and candidate for a legislative District 4 House seat, Rebecca Schroeder, told me she spoke in favor of using stronger language — with an emphasis on what they stand for, rather than "apologetically opposing the other side."

In addition, the delegates chose to use the term "we require" in six of the 14 points they emphasized. In bold capital letters they wrote:

  • We require equality and respect for all Idahoans.
  • We require an economy that works for all Idahoans.
  • We require free, safe, and equal public education.
  • We require accessible, affordable and comprehensive healthcare care in every community.
  • We require honest and transparent government.
  • We require a fair and equitable tax policy.

No pussyfooting there — especially in the area of education, which is the most important responsibility the Legislature and the public share. The platform authors listed support for vocational and technical schools as well as tuition-free public colleges for high school graduates, along with support for public preschools. Four-year-olds learn so fast.

Democratic convention delegates were among those who collected the 70,000 signatures supporting the Medicaid expansion initiative that were then presented to the secretary of state earlier this month. The platform plank calling health care a human right, not a privilege, reflected concern for the thousands of Idahoans in the unfortunate Medigap position, still not covered by insurance. Republican legislators have fended this issue off for six years and have announced they plan to oppose it now that it will be on the ballot in November. Health care really should be a nonpartisan issue. Democrats maintain that every Idahoan should have access to health care.

Both the Democratic and Republican platforms are online if you want to compare and contrast them (idahodems.org and idahogop.org). The Republican platform offers tax cuts as a solution to most problems, while the Democratic platform emphasizes delivery of services to the public. How to pay for them? The Democratic platform introduces taxes on the sale of legalized marijuana as a source of new dollars.

The reality is that Idaho is surrounded by states where recreational and/or medical marijuana is readily available (Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Montana), and those states are collecting tax dollars from sales to Idaho residents. The situation presents an interesting dilemma that Idaho has faced before. The Mormon church opposes alcohol, coffee, cigarettes and marijuana as harmful to one's health. Over the years, the Legislature has added "sin taxes" on these items, and the proceeds have become an important staple. I am sure marijuana will be added in the future — the only question is when.

The Democrats building the platform say that "when is now." Legislative candidate Shem Hanks served on the platform committee that synthesized the ideas and words of the convention delegates and believes that the platform is the most progressive document Idaho Democrats have ever produced.

To want to be progressive means you believe the future matters. It means we want to build a world in which our women are comfortably equal, our men are manfully successful and our children are competitive in our increasingly strange, crowded and exciting world. ♦

The original print version of this article was headlined ""We Demand""

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