Infiltrating the Idaho GOP From Within Won’t Win
When the Idaho GOP closed their primaries in 2007, it was theoretically to keep democrats out of the process of electing candidates. In the aftermath, several of Idaho’s Tea Party candidates were able to use the insular environment inside the party to their advantage. Raul Labrador was the first in 2010, paving the way forthe success of Russ Fulcher in 2014 (who nearly knocked off Gov. Otter in the primary) and perennial stirrer of shit, defender of white nationalists, and waver of the confederate battle flag, Idaho State Rep. Heather Scott.
Going in to 2017, a movement is quietly taking shape for the “middle” to take their party back. Kathy Skippen (R — Emmett) has opened the Moderates are Taking Hold PAC, taking the campaign money from several unsuccessful bids for office and investing it into attracting more left leaning and independent voters to the GOP.
It’s a reasonably well thought out idea. Trying to out Tea Party the Tea Party by being radically moderate, and in the process enraging both the old guard GOP, the boys club of political donors, and the Democrats in one go is a tidy solution to a big problem. The old guard would have to give up some of the more socially stunted policies and work for the middle class more, damaging the investment and retirement accounts of the donor class, and stealing moderate democrats away from the already short-handed Dems to be assimilated into the conservative numbers machine.
It seems, on the face, that it would be easy to attract people to the winning side. Moderates who are tired of two party games are actually fairly close to a one party rule system in the state of Idaho, where only 88,000 out of around 800,000 voters are Democrats. Everybody else is a republican or an independent. The GOP was willing to gamble the moderates support to gain the far right, all to protect their primaries from infiltration from a tiny, apparently terrifying, liberal minority. What will happen this time, when the threat is real?
Unfortunately, this fight for the soul of the GOP was lost the minute Idaho went for Donald Trump in November of 2016. Yes, the party will hang on in the state for as long as the national organization exists, possibly longer, but the far right wing owns it now. In 2007 it was given to fringe groups like the Tea Party, to super biased watchdog groups like the Idaho Freedom Foundation, corporate interests dressed up as legislative think tanks like ALEC, fueled by a voter base that seems to just be all about being left alone to do whatever they want, free of oversight, taxation, regulations, or government interference.
The battle ground and the numbers are right. The middle needs to be fought for, and its left leaning conservatives and independent voters that are the prize. But those people should be more likely to be swayed by a Democratic party with ideas and vocal, visible candidates taking on topics that are actually important to Idahoans rather than the ones important to the national party of Trump.
Voters in the middle definitely will not be swayed by tying themselves to the distasteful GOP and trying to change the culture from within. With the swell of republican voters between 2012 and 2016, it could be that some independent voters saw a winning formula and joined the team already. Getting more people to join the fray could prove to be problematic.