There has been quite a bit of banter in the Press lately regarding the status of the local Republican Party. I think we can establish a final decision on some of these points, but more importantly, we need to straighten out what a local political party’s role is in the first place.
Was the local party “taken over” purposely by a group of non-traditional Republicans, mostly from the far right side of the spectrum and many from out-of-state? Absolutely. Melanie Vander Feer’s 2010 column in the Press very clearly admitted that fact publicly and most of the folks I know in that group have no trouble proudly admitting it as well. Many of these folks are good, sincere people but it was a calculated, well-executed plan to wrest “control” of the GOP from traditional Idaho Republicans. It occurred all over the state and country.
Has this takeover changed the flavor, culture, and purpose of the county GOP? Absolutely. Whereas most central committee meetings used to focus on supporting, raising money and campaigning for GOP candidates who won the GOP primary, now the discussions are about resolutions regarding such relevant issues as NATO, Russia, and raw milk. In addition, on a local and state level, we see an endless stream of rule changes designed to control who can run for office, who can vote, and how fealty will be rendered to the Party. And for those precinct committeemen who don’t support this new culture, they are neatly set aside as “liberals.”
However, all of this aside, we are missing the foundational issue: What is the role of the Republican Party central committee? I keep seeing letters to the editor and columns referring to how the precinct committeemen and committeewomen were voted in to
“represent” their precinct and, thus, are executing their responsibility to do so. That assumption is flatly incorrect.
Precinct committeemen are NOT representatives. They are WORKERS for the party. Our legislators, commissioners, congressmen, etc. are the actual peoples’ representatives. They are duly elected by the people based on processes called out in the U.S. and Idaho constitutions.
When we vote in precinct workers, we are voting for volunteers who should be working to support our real, actual, GOP-primary-winning candidates. Precinct people are NOT selected to decide who we get to vote for or how our office holders should vote once in office. It’s NOT the party’s job to “hold the office holder accountable.” Holding elected officials accountable is OUR job, WE THE PEOPLE, the voters who voted them in. That is how the Founding Fathers designed it.
In redefining the role of the party, the far right is attempting to insert themselves between you, the voters, and your elected officials. They want to choose your candidates for you, and tell you if you’re qualified to vote for them. (Examples: the closed primary and their support for the 17th Amendment repeal.) These moves are designed to take power out of voters’ hands and place it with the party.
The age of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall are long past. The power to decide who our candidates will be should reside squarely with the GOP voters, not the party elite. We should be electing precinct committeemen and women based on their willingness to work and to support whomever wins the primary, not based on their own political agenda.
The party should be supporting us, not trying to control us. Much of the rest of the state of Idaho GOP is returning to these principles.
For conservative, independent North Idaho Republicans, we should expect nothing less.
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Jim Pierce is a Fourth Generation Idahoan and Past Vice Chairman of the Idaho Republican Party.