An interesting development in Idaho’s political landscape emerged this week. A former state Republican lawmaker launched a PAC designed to infiltrate the GOP primary process with independents and Democrats.
Kathy Skippen, who was sent packing by Steven Thayn in the 2006 legislative primary proved why she was sent packing in a GOP primary. Perhaps she’s been smarting over her loss the past 11 years and trying to implement a scenario that may have helped her avoid an abrupt end to her short stint at the Statehouse.
While Idaho’s closed primary has been somewhat controversial, I don’t particularly have a strong preference. There are great arguments for and against the Idaho GOP’s system for choosing general election candidates. My leaning is slightly toward an open primary because this particular selection process is publicly funded. But I’m not going to advocate for that change in this column.
Skippen’s call to action instantly creates dirty politics. Calling for Democrats to swing a Republican primary? Even if the effort is transparent and officially organized, it stinks. At the heart of this movement is a gargantuan failure on the part of moderates and Democrats in Idaho to find ideas and candidates that can win hearts and minds. The truth put candidly, is that Idahoans largely aren’t buying what Democrats are selling.
Surely Skippen will be praised by Idaho liberals-in-exile and unhappy moderates disgruntled by the lack of moderate choices. I can understand the frustration. In some legislative races, a closed primary in May decides the general outcome in November. And that decision is made for everyone. But everyone acts as though it’s the Republicans’ fault that Democrats struggle in Idaho.
Let’s say I’m selling cheeseburgers. Instead of a regular but I use a bland quinoa cake. Instead of lettuce, I use kale leaves. Some nasty combo of veggie puree and tofu paste makes up my patty. And of course, I use goat cheese and wrap everything up in recycled paper.
Bottom line, it tastes lousy. Yet I’m trying to sell them next door to a guy who uses fresh Angus beef, topped with Tillamook swiss, mushrooms, onions, bacon, all between an amazingly soft bun. It’s not my neighbor’s fault that my burgers are piling up in the warmer faster than Harvey Weinstein’s list of accusers. The burgers aren’t selling because people don’t want them.
Elections are a marketplace of ideas and candidates, where voters are customers and candidates are merchants. Instead of trying to sell an appealing product to the customers, the Skippen approach waters down and weakens the competition.
So who, exactly, should be invited to participate in a Republican primary? How about those who can generally accept the party’s platform? That minimum expectation should apply to both candidates and voters, by the way.
Crossing the street, so to speak, to toss a monkey wrench in a competitor’s efforts is just bad politics. Perhaps those who find Skippen’s efforts appealing should focus on making a better cheeseburger.
Written by: Neal Larson
Associated Press award-winning columnist Neal Larson of Idaho Falls writes at www.neallarson.com. He is also the author of “Living in Spin.” He is a conservative talk show host on KID Newsradio 106.3 and 92.1, and also at www.kidnewsradio.com. “The Neal Larson Show” can be heard weekday mornings from 8:00 to 10:00. His email address is email@example.com.