Innovation comes to local politics

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What do you get when you mix elephants and donkeys with beer?

Fun.

Respect.

Understanding.

Democracy in one big, dynamic blender.

The standing-room crowd Wednesday night at the inaugural Donkephant event, which pulled together candidates and voters of multiple political persuasions, was something new that hearkened to something old.

The brainchild of Rick and Mary Souza who collaborated with the energetic Nick Smoot of Innovation Collective, Donkephant showed how all of us are much more alike than we are different. Seriously, who doesn’t want good schools and better jobs? Clean water and air? Goldilocks governance: Not too hot, not too cold but just right?

If you walked in a bit late and listened to Bob Nonini and Kristin Collum, you’d think they were running mates. You would not guess, by the agreements they shared and by the civility — heck, the warmth — with which they treated each other, that they’re both running for the same job. But they are: Collum is a Boise Democrat and Nonini a Coeur d’Alene Republican and they both want to be your next lieutenant governor.

Did you notice that many in the crowd were young adults? When was the last time you saw that at a local forum or debate?

And you might have thought, this is the way politics used to be. This is the way politics could be today.

Instead, most campaigning is done through attack ads and forums in silos, where only card-carrying members of a particular group are welcome. Donkephant blew up that model and showed North Idaho a better way to communicate ideas, with candidates all given time to impart meaningful messages without being harassed or heralded by audience members. That the evening was capped by a comfortable, collegial bonding over a cold beer was just one more reason to raise a glass.

The Press is proud to have helped sponsor this event and is eager to promote similar future gatherings at the Innovation Den in downtown Coeur d’Alene or anyplace in Kootenai County that unites rather than divides us as voters and neighbors. Maybe Donkephant will even become a part of everyday speech around here, the norm rather than a curious anomaly.

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