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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Other Papers Say: Wrestle for control of Idaho GOP

By The Idaho Statesman
Published: May 27, 2024, 6:01am

The following editorial originally appeared in the Idaho Statesman:

Across Idaho, there are efforts by traditional Republicans to wrest back control of the Idaho GOP from the far right.

As The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review reported, the North Idaho Republicans have organized a challenge for nearly every one of the 73 GOP precinct committee officer seats in Kootenai County. The Gem State Conservatives are likewise organizing efforts around the state, as the Idaho Capital Sun reported.

Moderates are at a natural disadvantage in races like these. It takes a lot of work and political engagement to figure out what candidate you want to back in these tiny races that often have next to no publicity or campaign advertising. Extremist political junkies, whose lives often revolve around politics to an unhealthy degree, often find it easier to organize in such a low-information environment.

But it’s work that traditional Republican voters should commit to doing this year.

Because if moderates can take back central committees, it will go a long way toward reining in the outsized influence the far right holds on Idaho’s public institutions.

The far right often fails to win elections because its positions are extreme and unpopular with voters. They can’t win elections based on attempts to defund public schools, to end the popular election of senators, to put doctors in jail for administering vaccines or on a platform of reinstating the gold standard. Their voters either don’t like these ideas or don’t care.

The far right’s main asset is its control of the GOP brand.

The brand matters because the typical Republican voter has nothing to do with the state party. They’ve never been to a party meeting and they’ve never given thought to the increasingly fringe party platform.

They are Republicans because national party affiliation has become integral to political identity. That’s the team they root for in politics.

This is why the far right has tried to expand its ability to discipline and coerce Republican elected officials, and why their favorite epithet is to call more moderate members of the GOP “Republicans In Name Only.” Their most effective political move is to single someone out and say: “They aren’t really on the home team.”

That threat allows them to push representatives and other elected officials to respond to their interests and preferences. As a result, this was the first year that a plurality of Idahoans said the state was on the wrong track, according to the Idaho Public Policy Survey.

So why not take that weapon out of their hands?

If these campaigns succeed and the far right’s grip on the party brand begins to break open, the far-right will return to their recent status as side players rather than the central problem of Idaho’s political life.

And elections for precinct committee officers provide a better chance to do that than any other in recent memory.

It’s a kind of power voters rarely get.