There is a battle going on for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. This election may put that party at a critical crossroads. The 2016 presidential election will be the finish line in this race for control of the ideology of the party. It will determine if the party will take a hard turn to the right, or stay within shouting distance of the mainstream middle.
This battle is playing out at all levels, from the jockeying for position for the potential presidential candidates all the way down to the Elmore County Republican Central Committee.
The ECRCC is an interesting cross section of this battle. On the one hand are a minority of conservative Republicans on the committee, who are hoping to unseat enough of the very conservative Republicans on the committee to move it back toward the middle. It's a battle of Tea Party (or even more conservative) proponents who currently control the committee against moderate Republicans (whom the ultra-conservatives accuse of being RINOs).
Most of the time, central committee precinct committeemen battles are a true afterthought to the voters. It's the backside of the ballots nobody turns over to mark. It's not unusual for a dozen votes to win a seat and usually most of the seats go unchallenged. Yet, the committeemen have an important role, primarily in getting the party's message out to the voters, getting supporters to the polls, and supporting local candidates with organization and money.
The problem is, these days, there is a wide dispute in what that message should be. And as for organization and money, the local committee, concerned that a less conservative "faction" might take over, sent most of its money upstream to the state party coffers, rather than using it to support local candidates (although from there, it can always trickle back down, if necessary). And while, as a rule of thumb, the party machinery isn't supposed to be supporting or endorsing candidates in the primary (which the party has now closed to all but registered Republicans), it's tough to ignore the reality that the local central committee tends to lean toward the Tea Party positions, rather than more moderate conservative positions, while the guys hoping to take over the central committee won't be supporting Tea Party candidates if they can help it.
And this fight is playing out in central committees all over Idaho. It isn't unique to Elmore County.
The usually obscure precinct committeemen fight is turning out to be one of the more interesting on the ballot, but it is starting to move from policy positions to name calling, which is essentially a violation of the GOP's 11th Commandment ("thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican"). We'd rather see it return to policy positions, not personal attacks.
Essentially, on the one hand you have very conservative people supporting candidates who want to repeal the 16th Amendment (Federal Reserve and Income Tax), the 17th Amendment (direct election of federal senators rather than the former method of legislatures selecting the senators), and who advocate a return to "hard metal" (gold and silver) standards for currency. On the other hand, you have merely conservative people who want to work the system, rather than tear it up, and who are willing to sacrifice a little ideological purity for practical compromises.
These very issues are playing out, perhaps most importantly for Idaho, in the Second Congressional District race, between conservative incumbent Mike Simpson and ultra-conservative Tea Party challenger Bryan Smith. This race is being looked at closely for its national implications. There's a lot of Tea Party PAC money, time and effort being poured into this race to unseat Simpson in the primary, who has the backing of the merely conservative National Chamber of Commerce. This race is getting expensive and nasty, fast. Both sides are breaking that 11th Commandment left and right (or rather, right and far right). But it's being seen as a key test of which position is ultimately going to control the national party.
We honestly believe if the Tea Party adherents win control of the party, the GOP will never win another major election in this country, since those positions are simply too far outside the mainstream. It will relegate itself to permanent minority party status, which is not good for the balance of power in this country.
So this election, it is vital that Republicans take a serious look at all their candidates and decide if they want to move to the far right, or want to stay conservative but closer to the center, where we believe their long-term opportunities for power are better. Look hard at the candidates and what they are saying and decide who really does represent your views.
In Idaho, you have only three weeks left to decide.
-- Kelly Everitt