Consolidating, Expanding and Defending Conservative Victories in Idaho
The battle for the soul of the Republican Party is joined and it is far from being won.
Conservative victories at the Republican state convention were significant achievements. Not only did Dorothy Moon unseat the incumbent state party chair, but platform items were passed that might make it difficult for cross-over voters and cross-over candidates to win Republican nominations in primaries.
The usual crowd griped about these changes. The Idaho Statesman editorialized: “In Convention dominated by fear, control and cruelty, extremists take over Idaho GOP.” Yahoo! News decided to go ask Idaho’s Democrats what they thought of the convention. The answer: “‘Civility and common sense eroded’: Idaho Democrats react to Republicans’ convention.” Nothing could be cringier than fake Republican Jim Jones, spokesman for “Take Back Idaho,” whose “Is a Moon waxing over Idaho GOP as Luna wanes?” is a classic of bad puns from a weak mind.
Laughing at this laughable reportage and transparent hypocrisy is easy. But it serves as a reminder that many people in the state will never accept these and other victories. Conservatives are far from having their way with the state. While conservatives gained in the Idaho Senate and House, establishment Republicans, Gov. Brad Little and Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke, occupy the top spots in the executive for the next four years. Conservatives have not unlocked the key to winning statewide races. Liberals control the Idaho Supreme Court too. Conservatives are in a better situation than a year ago, but they are not in the catbird’s seat. Victories must be consolidated, expanded and defended.
Consolidating Victory. The GOP convention passed resolutions about cross-over voting and cross-over candidates in convention. Those resolutions must be ratified in the winter meeting to become official policy. They must be translated into workable party regulations. Every set of rules for voting can be manipulated by determined partisans, especially if there are enough of them.
Expanding Victory. Since primaries can be subverted, Action Idaho still recommends that the Idaho GOP move to a caucus system. A caucus would select candidates in a way that looks a lot like the state party convention. If you liked how Dorothy Moon was selected as state party chief, imagine choosing governors and secretaries of state with the same method. Local partisans would choose delegates in caucuses or in small deliberative bodies, some of whom would represent the locality at a state convention or at a district convention to choose candidates to represent the party. Caucuses are superior to closed primaries in putting knowledgeable party activists in control of party nominations, even closed primaries with tight registration rules. Much more needs to be said on expanding victories in the coming months.
Defending Victory. Establishment shills like Jim Jones are persistent and they have the ears of big donors. Action Idaho has it on good authority that Jones is colluding with wealthy Sun Valley donors on an initiative to “blow open the Republican primary.”
Since political parties are private entities recognized by state law, state government can do little to force the Republican Party to adopt less restrictive rules for cross-over voting. A jungle primary could still “blow open” Idaho’s primary system. A jungle primary effectively abolishes party control over candidate selection. In a jungle primary, all candidates—Republican and Democrat alike—run in one primary. The top two vote getters then have a run-off election to determine the winning candidate for the general election.
Consider California’s jungle primary in the 2016 senate race (source wikipedia). All candidates ran in the jungle primary election, where Kamala Harris got about 38% of the vote and Loretta Sanchez got second with nearly 18%. Harris and Sanchez then faced off in November’s general election, where Harris won with nearly 62%.
A jungle primary does not confer an advantage on any party. California is more of a one-party state than Idaho, and it adopted the jungle primary. Leftist Democrats still control in California. The jungle primary can however make it easier for moderate candidates who offend their conservative electorate to gain victory. We are seeing this in Washington. Washington holds a jungle primary August 2, next Tuesday. Two Republicans in Washington’s congressional delegation voted to impeach Pres. Donald Trump last January. Each was censured by the Washington State GOP. Each is facing a Trump-endorsed challenger. Congressmen Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse think they can afford to anger conservative supporters. With enough cross over votes in the jungle primary they can survive to fight in the general election. They might have gotten wiped out in a strictly partisan primary.
In Idaho’s context, the jungle primary is the only option for fake Republicans to attack real Republican control over candidate selection, if the state party effectively consolidates victory. Jim Jones and his forces would need a constitutional amendment passed through the initiative process to get a jungle primary, presuming the legislature does not adopt such a measure. These and other methods to dilute the vote will have to be defeated in the coming years.
Conservatives should not fall for appeals to party unity. That is meant to encourage them to meet fake Republicans like Jim Jones halfway or to compromise with them. Instead of unity, conservative should seek victory. And after consolidating victories, they should use them and expand them.