Primal Whine 

Repubs raise stink over free choice

Remember a few weeks ago, I mentioned that when Republicans gasp collectively, it sounds like Dick Cheney passing gas in a sweaty leather chair? Well, if you turn down the teevee, shush the kids up for a minute and listen closely, you can hear that sound right now. Right here. In Idaho.

"BRAAADemocrats voting in our primaryAAAYYYP! BZZZBBLZZWho do theyPPGRRUUthink they areUUUDDK? FFZZRROut-rage -ousRRZZPT!"

Hear it? It's unlikely I spelled the "passing gas" parts right--you try writing out flatulence if you think it's easy--but you get the idea. Some of our Republican neighbors have come down with a case of the intestinal heebie-jeebies over the amazing, colossal, shocking revelation that, sometimes, Idaho Democrats vote on their ticket in the May primaries, and it's possible I might have had a hand in letting this earth-shaking cat out of the bag (BW, Cope, "Clown Control," May 17, 2006). But look, I announced in the very first sentence of that column that it was a personal matter between me and other Democrats. The nerve of them reading a private conversation just because it was printed in a newspaper! Who do they think they are?!

Now that it's apparent so many rude Republican buttinskies had their fat noses in my business, I might as well tell everyone what I said in that piece. All I said, basically, was that I intended to vote for Sheila Sorensen on the Republican side of the ballot because I couldn't abide the thought of having Bill Sali represent me or my mother Idaho in Congress. What I did not say--(and the buttinskies would know this if they were at the reading retention level of your average summer squash)--was that state Democratic leaders encouraged this practice. In fact, I clearly stated that Democratic leaders advise against it. A prominent Democrat I contacted while preparing the column told me it was preferable that Democrats vote in their own house this year, particularly since the party is gathering strength and actually had some in-party competition on the ballot.

I didn't follow his advice. I voted for Sorensen, and you can judge for yourself how much good it did.

But I did not recommend, suggest, direct, beg or threaten other Democrats to follow my example. In short, I wrote that Sorensen was as sane and sensible a Republican as we are apt to get hereabouts, that Sali is a loon and will be a mouthy, marginalized freak even in a Congress controlled by his own party, and that I was not trying to talk fellow Democrats into anything.

Yet now, Republicans are putt, putt, puttering around, muttering amongst themselves that they need to close the GOP primary ballot to everyone but GOPeers. In the July 10 edition of the local daily, Wayne Hoffman--who claims to have been a journalist, but we all know he worked at the Statesman, so how can that be?--uses my name and my column as evidence Republicans must bar the door to anyone but their own kind in selecting the people who could well represent all of us. Hoffman declares himself proud to be a Canyon County Republican (like that's a real tough club to get into) and sobs that he has no opportunity to "stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other Republicans to nominate the Republicans of our choice during our primary."

Why? Because "Democrats like Cope are allowed to commandeer and manipulate FRRAAAZZPP! the election process?" (The italicized word is my personal addition as I try to commandeer and manipulate his fatuous point.)

Hoffman ends by lamenting how awful it is that "real" Republicans can't elect the people of their choosing when sneaky buggers like me are allowed to vote for whomever we chose. And his solution is--as we might expect from a Republican--keeping everyone else out.

After all, citizens, this is from the same party that brought us closed caucuses in the state legislature, secret and illegal surveillance on the federal stage, a national energy policy cobbled together in Dick Cheney's closet, a failed war based on classified lies, and a way to deny hundred of thousands of black Americans the vote in two successive presidential elections.

But as is always the pertinent question when Republicans want to change policy, would closing the primaries work? Let's say they rigged the system so that only registered members from either party need bother to show up at the polling stations in May. What do you do about the Independents, who according to a Boise State survey, amount to 37 percent of Idaho voters? Where do they go to participate in a free election?

And what about our third party animals: The Natural Law Party, the Libertarians, the ... (darnit, I know there's another one) ... (oh yeah, I remember) ... the United Party? What do they do to have an equal say in our system of governance?

And how are those fine, civic-minded ladies and gentlemen on the election board going to know who's a "real" Republican or Democrat? Will we need an ID bracelet or a tattoo on our arm clearly stating we are registered members in good standing? Or would a check stub or a receipt for a campaign contribution do?

And say, Wayne, what's to stop me from registering as a Republican?

Frankly, I think they're so worried about some sort of election chicanery on the principle that the one who does it is always the first to smell it ... you get my drift.

Besides, my crossing over to vote for Sheila Sorensen was not chicanery, nor was it chicanery any of the other times I did it. (Hoffman claims I "gloated" about cross-voting. No, Wayne. "Gloating" is what you do when you brag about belonging to the majority herd, especially when that new job of yours depends on sucking up to the herders who hire you to do their talking for them.)

What I do by cross-voting is an individual action to influence the process in however small a way into getting the most qualified, least venal, most sane, least loony person into a public office for which we all foot the bill. And if you ask me, everyone ought to be able to vote on both sides of the party divide, with absolutely no restrictions, in a truly open primary. Yes, I would love to have voted for my pick from both parties, and I suspect most Idahoans would agree.

Not that Hoffman's bosses would ever allow that to happen. Just might let enough fresh air in that people would start to notice how bad things really smell.

(By the way, Wayne: What makes you guys think more Dems didn't cross over and vote for Sali because we know we can beat 'im?)

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