“If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.” – Tom Peters
I‘m originally from the deep red Bible belt. I was raised in Georgia, where Jesus and college football rule. As a University of Georgia graduate, I had the displeasure of going the majority of my life watching every team around mine win a national championship except mine. We had every intangible you could imagine. We had an exceptional recruiting base, a favorable climate, top-notch facilities, good coaches, a rabid fan base, and alumni with deep pockets to support a program. Yet, for some reason, we went between 1980 and 2021 without winning a national championship. It took the entirety of my forty-one years to get it done. To say that our fanbase had a severe envy problem would be an understatement.
I’ve been out west for nearly a third of my life now. I am proud to say that we’ve made Idaho home. It’s a beautiful state full of wonderful people, and there is a slower pace of life that much of the world has forgotten. I am also proud to brag on Idaho as one of the reddest states in the country. In 2020, only Wyoming, West Virginia, and North Dakota voted Republican at a higher rate, and just barely. This is why it pains me to see conservative states across the nation advancing conservative causes while Idaho Republicans consistently fail their voters.
The past few weeks have seen a flurry of action as the 2023 legislature entered into session. Some of the more hot-button discussion topics were the same as those being debated nationwide, such as gender-affirming care for minors, education savings accounts for school choice, and bans on pornographic content in public libraries. The Idaho House also took up Brad Little’s Launch program to grant high school students technical job training. Many bills are still being debated.
The first of these bills to be killed in the legislature was probably the biggest, and that was Senate Bill 1038, which passed in the Idaho House but was killed in the Idaho Senate. This bill would have established Education Savings Accounts for parents, providing nearly six thousand dollars per child that parents could utilize to seek out alternative schooling, including private schooling or homeschooling. School choice is one of the hallmarks of conservatism, and similar programs are passing rapidly in conservative states nationwide. Several programs have recently passed in Arizona, Iowa, and Utah, and a similar bill is currently fast-tracked and expected to pass in Arkansas.
Currently, ten states, including Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia, offer ESAs for school choice. Senate Bill 1038 was projected to cost around $45 million in its first year. The same supposedly conservative legislature that handed Brad Little 400 million dollars for education last year supposedly shot this bill down over concerns about costs and the growing size of government. The reality is that they bowed to public school teachers’ unions and lobbies.
The second bill to be sidelined was House Bill 139, which would have established criminal penalties for librarians if inappropriate material from their shelves lands in possession of minors. It was sent back to committee. Another House Bill, HB 227, would direct school boards to adopt policies to keep inappropriate material out of children’s sections, but it has even less support than HB 139. Where is the controversy in these bills? The default position of conservatism is that we don’t expose children to illicit material and that these are conversations for parents to have with their children, not public employees. Yet, opposition to exposing minors to illicit material is painted as extreme, while those defending it are painted as rational.
This morning I was made aware of House Bill 138, which is currently being proposed by several Republican legislators. Sold as a cost savings measure, HB 138 would move Idaho’s Presidential Primary from March to May. Without a doubt, this bill reeks of RNC influence. In every Presidential cycle, only the first dozen or so primaries carry any weight as the press elevates a chosen candidate, and pre-arranged contenders drop out until only the chosen remains. By the time later primaries arrive, it is assumed that the chosen candidate is the presumptive nominee, and states that vote later in the process never get a say otherwise. This only benefits the good old boys who are elevated by a captured corporate press. Of all the things that need to be fixed with our elections, this isn’t it.
House Bill 138 is being sponsored by Representative Dustin Manwaring of Pocatello, Senator Mark Harris of Soda Springs, and Secretary of State Phil McGrane. You may recall that McGrane was the mastermind of the Zuckerbucks scheme in Idaho to allow Silicon Valley to administrate elections around America in exchange for Silicon Valley money. By all accounts, there is zero silver lining to this measure, and any Republican to support it ought to be tarred and feathered.
In recent history, Idaho has failed several measures to eliminate its property tax and grocery tax despite claims to concerns about shrinking government. Idaho has failed to pass school choice, trailing its conservative peers in advancing conservative education initiatives. Despite election integrity headlining the party platform, Idaho has failed to ban ballot drop boxes, is actively proposing to make our primary irrelevant, and elected the guy who brought Silicon Valley to Idaho as Secretary of State. What are we doing, Idaho?
Idaho has all of the pieces in place to lead the nation in conservative governance. Idaho has one of the largest percentages of Republican voters in the nation. They have a Republican majority in both chambers of the legislature and a Republican executive branch. Idaho is known for its family values and deeply religious citizenry. Idaho boasts an agricultural industry that toils from sun up to sun down to feed the world. By all accounts, God and country come first in Idaho. With all of these pieces in place, how does Idaho consistently fail to lead the charge on conservatism?
If you are an elected official, be faithful to the values in the Idaho Republican Party platform you’ve been entrusted with. If you are a layperson, it’s time to get engaged and hold your elected official’s feet to the fire. I promise you, Idaho, you don’t have forty-one years to advance your cause.