Tuesday’s election important in many ways

By Rod Gramer

Rod GramerEvery two years one hears the next election will be one of the most important ever. The truth is every election is important because it determines the laws we live under, how we are taxed, and the kind of society we live in. But it’s not an overstatement to say that next Tuesday’s primary election may be the most important election in recent memory.

I say that after following Idaho politics for the past five decades, first as a journalist and now as an advocate for education.

With so much at stake, this election will decide whether we remain stuck in the quagmire of far-right extremism or reverse course to a politics focused more on improving the quality of life for all Idahoans, especially our youngest ones.

In significant ways, this election is unique given the warring factions in the Republican Party – the far-right personified by Chair Dorothy Moon and the self-proclaimed Idaho Freedom Foundation versus the “Main Street Republicans” who represent traditional conservative GOP values like fiscal responsibility, equal opportunity, and public education.

It is also unique by the historic amount of money pouring into our state from billionaires and their front organizations. The Dallas-based American Federation for Children (AFC) has invested $440,000 in the election. The Ohio-based Citizens Alliance has dropped another $390,000. And these are but two of the out-of-state operators influencing our primary election.

Just read what one “strategist” for AFC told Idaho Education News about his group’s plans: “If you’re a candidate or lawmaker who opposes school choice – you’re a target.”

Groups like the AFC want to defeat the Main Street Republicans and elect far-right legislators who will use our tax dollars to subsidize private school tuition and continue the culture wars against our librarians, educators, certain youth, and anyone else they don’t like. They cynically champion freedom in their propaganda, but elect politicians who lay siege to our public schools and vote to control our personal lives more and more.

The power behind these out-of-state billionaires and their front organizations is the limitless amount of money they can spend to elect their acolyte legislators. Their front organizations leave the impression that they are Idaho-based and supported by grass-root Idahoans. Don’t be fooled. They are not. Only their bank accounts make them 900-pound political guerilla fighters.
If you receive mail or follow social media, you have seen how ugly the attack ads are by these out-of-state organizations against our finest legislators who are committed to improving the lives of Idahoans rather than imposing their radical ideology on the rest of us.

The best antidote to these out-of-state extremists and their politics of personal destruction is to judge whether their attacks pass the smell test – do the charges ring true, are they based on facts, and are they using fear to manipulate us? Then decide who you trust most – an out-of-state dark money organization that is here today, gone tomorrow or a candidate you know from your church, school, business, or Rotary Club.

This election can be a turning point. It can be a move away from extremism and back to fundamental Idaho conservative values that have served our citizens well. The future is in our hands on Tuesday – not the hands of out-of-state billionaires who don’t really care about our state. Let’s show them what Idahoans are made of.

Rod Gramer is president of Idaho Business for Education and an Idaho native.