Observing the Idaho GOP convention in Moscow last week was like watching a bad slasher film. There was so much blood on the convention floor when it was over that the party came within an inch of drowning from its own divisions.
If the Idaho had a valid, effective and organized opposition party, which it doesn't, then this would be the year to strike, with the state's GOP in total disarray. But since the state Democratic party is a joke (and a lot of Democrats to their own convention this week should be furious about that), the Republicans will almost certainly retain this fall all the seats they currently hold in Idaho, despite the internal divisions.
That will give the Idaho Republicans a little breathing room, two years, to decide just what the state party will be -- and what and who it will represent.
Make no mistake about it, last week's state convention made it clear that the divisions within the party are very real and extremely deep. The 11th Commandment was broken completely and stomped into dust.
On the one hand, is the party's rebel right wing, the supporters of the Tea Party and positions even further to the right than that. On the other hand are the moderate "establishment" Republicans, which, because of their willingness to seek compromise on some legislation, has resulted in the Tea Party right calling them RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).
The failure of the GOP convention to accomplish anything is a symptom and example of the Tea Party's uncompromising belief in ideological purity.
We saw the same thing happen at the national level when the government was completely shut down after the Tea Party refused to compromise on budget matters.
If you're a member of the Tea Party, that's great. For the rest of us, it was seen as one more problem we didn't need, another blow to the economy, and one more roadblock to getting anything done.
But how can a minority hold so much power? The answer lies in how the founding fathers and their successors structured our government. It was designed to protect minorities, to avoid the "tyranny of the majority," and to give minorities a voice and influence in the system. Over the years, as the power of each party waxed and waned in Congress, that august body added to the system so each party would retain influence even if it ever fell from power.
Today, in the Senate for example, you can't take a vote on almost any bill that needs only a simple majority (51 votes) to pass unless you have 60 of the senators agree to take a vote in the first place. A minority can therefore block almost any legislation.
As the procedures got more and more complicated, manipulating the system became the "great game" and those who mastered the system controlled the dialogue of the nation and its legislation. The same has happened at the state level.
In Moscow, Idaho GOP Chairman Barry Peterson played the game to perfection last week, manipulating the usually obscure credentials committee so that his opposition had no chance to stand up and vote against him. No question that in the short term, Barry won, and left egg on the face of his opponent, Gov. Butch Otter. With Barry, it's always about winning, regardless of the method or the long-term consequences, and that's his fatal flaw.
In the long run, some people who used to blindly vote Republican are now going to take a closer look at the candidates. Some may be so mad at what happened that they'll make the opposite mistake of always blindly voting for an "R" on the ballot and instead start blindly voting for a "D". Others will simply decide to withhold their normal contributions to the party's war chest. In either case, this weekend is going to hurt the party in the long run.
This is what happens when you care more about winning the game, and gaming the system, than governing.
We believe this convention is a wake-up call to all voters. Pay more attention to the candidates and their positions. Don't just vote for name recognition or party affiliation.
In the end, the solution to the problems of this state and this nation lie not in some nebulous "them," but in ourselves and the care -- or lack thereof -- by which we elect the people to make crucial decisions on our behalf. We need to start paying attention to what each person who represents us is doing and then do some critical thinking about whether or not they really represent our best interests.
The GOP convention last week was all about power -- who had it and how to prevent anyone else from getting it. But, indicative of the problems facing this entire country, it had little to do with developing good, sound, effective policy.
-- Kelly Everitt