The results of the 2022 November election appears to have revealed a schism within the majority party: long-time traditional Republicans versus those who advocate an extreme and uncompromising definition of what it means to be a true “conservative.”
This in itself isn’t new; each political party has members with strong and differing opinions on a variety of issues. What is new, however, is how one faction has begun to aggressively – and publicly – attack the other. Life-long Republicans are now repeatedly called RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) – and sometimes even called “Democrats.”
Several of the more extreme members who openly supported Ammon Bundy over Brad Little, now occupy key leadership positions throughout the majority party’s infrastructure. They wrote a party platform which includes absurdities such as replacing paper currency with gold and silver metal, as well as taking away your right to vote for your U.S. senator and giving it to themselves in the state legislature (repealing the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).
Perhaps the most visible sign of this schism is pressuring candidates to sign a loyalty oath to this new party platform (called “Integrity in Affiliation”), which states: “I support the Idaho Republican Platform and accept it as the standard by which my performance as a candidate and as an officeholder should be evaluated.”
On January 9th, the new Chair of the Idaho Republican Party told Republican legislators that if they didn’t back legislation supporting the party’s platform and resolutions, they will be denied access to the party’s infrastructure and resources; threatening that they’d be “on their own.”
This draconian “my way or the highway” attitude is kicking many loyal, life-long Idaho Republicans to the side of the road. They are being ostracized and rejected by a party they thought they knew but is now rapidly changing beneath their feet.
I believe in our republican form of government. My job as a legislator is to represent my constituents, not party bosses or a party platform written in a back room by political insiders. I do that by listening to people and respecting a broad range of opinions, even when we may have differing perspectives. It is not my job to tell people what they can or can’t be, do, or think.
The shifting political landscape
There are technically only two political parties in the legislature (Republicans and Democrats). To determine how the political landscape has shifted, one must use proxies such as “score cards” published by outside organizations that demand ideological purity, endorsements by extremists, and what individual legislators have actually said and done.
Taking these factors into consideration, Idaho now has a virtual three-party system. The floor maps below illustrate what the composition of today’s Idaho Legislature may look like: Democrats (blue), Traditional Republicans (red), and extremists (yellow).