Grassroots

I have to say it disturbs me to see a self-styled conservative discount an Ivy-leaguer out of Sandpoint because Columbia is “a heck of a commute from Sandpoint.”

As far as I can tell, the “long commute” is a novel, dumbass way of complaining that someone else went to college.

There are other “long commutes” out of Sandpoint: Boise, Moscow, Pullman, Lewiston, Spokane. Hell, even NIC/Coeur d’Alene is almost an hour away. If you go off to any of those places and come back with political thoughts of your own — or even if you didn’t go to college but nevertheless have figured out some health care policy preferences of your own — then some plodder will declare you aren’t rural enough, you aren’t natural enough, you aren’t close enough to the soil to speak with grassroots legitimacy.

The low number of truly grassroots attempts to change Idaho’s laws and Constitution is a reflection of the conservative tendencies of the state’s population — as is the robust health of the Idaho GOP versus the ongoing necrotizing of the Idaho Democratic Party. Given that necrosis, it’s no wonder out-of-state carpet-baggers and their Idaho-affiliated Democratic rent-boys have glommed onto Idaho’s initiative process.

What is Reclaim Idaho? Who knows, but grassroots, it’s not — by Thomas Hennigan, Lewiston Tribune, Sept. 1, 2019

Grassroots is a powerful word — so much so that peddlers of petty politics spend a lot of time writing op-eds defining others out of the grassroots. Exert your political independence in a way that demonstrates effective leadership — or, heaven help you, win your issue 60-40 at the polls on Election Day — and you too will be declared an elite elitist union Democrat and stricken from the Real Official Grassroots™ by someone like Thomas Hennigan.

In Hennigan’s imagination, when the state legislature contemplates stripping Idahoans of the right to pass a ballot initiative, our representatives are merely “reacting to the threat posed by the sinister forces.” Maybe the legislature goes a little too far, Hennigan performatively concedes, so he suggests there should be an “independent commission” to review the legitimacy of initiatives the people enact.

Give me a break.

That’d a job for the legislature itself, and a job for legislators who would do well to align themselves more closely with the common people. A commission would be a politically unaccountable tool for telling people their initiative votes don’t count until their initiative aligns with what legislators prefer the law to be.

Occasionally the common people exert political prerogatives that embarrass elected officials for acting as if the vote entitles them to ignore common problems. When elected officials act in ways that redefine their duties around delivering legislative goods for elites rather than goods for the common people, common people temporarily — and at breakneck speed — align themselves with whichever elites help address the common problems. This strikes me as a far worse way to broker policy than for the legislature — in the course of its dealings with elites — to deliver as much as it can for the common people.

This brings me to the only part of Hennigan’s assessment I found interesting despite its wrongheadedness.

Any Republican who is pleased with Hennigan’s declaration of “robust health” for the Idaho GOP would do well to seek a second opinion. Make no mistake: Reclaim Idaho ran a stout political campaign bolstered by outside money. But Reclaim Idaho did this with priceless help from numerous Idahoans who live ordinary lives and work ordinary jobs in localities across the state. The ostensibly dominant policy preference for no action on Medicaid Expansion ended up 127,540 votes short for a very obvious reason: Idaho’s health care system puts pressure on real people. So if the health care aristocracy remains stuck with having to work around Republican intransigence — rather than through Republican leadership — hospitals and health care providers will continue to find the common people are more willing partners than their elected representatives.

Hennigan’s suggestion that elites shouldn’t lead — that aristocratic leadership is illegitimate — and his implication that elite liberal thoughts cannot possibly have grown up out of real grassroots concerns — are both spectacularly misguided. Denouncing liberals and liberal ideas may advantage the conservative position temporarily — perhaps by disenfranchising people who would set aside their own thoughts or accept feeling browbeaten into silence sooner than risk speaking against the appearance of dominance. But denouncing liberals and liberal ideas — instead of addressing popular concerns — tends to fracture rather than consolidate a conservative position from which Republicans can lead on the most pressing issues in people’s lives.

Published by Andrew Ottoson

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