Idaho: Not Just Spud Jokes Anymore


I’ve lived in Idaho off and on since the 1970s, and am thinking about leaving for good.

October has been a public-relations disaster for the state, and it isn’t even midmonth. Our hospitals are making national headlines for their struggles with COVID-19 – the staggering daily case counts and deaths; doctors and nurses being berated, even threatened, for supporting vaccination or refusing to use unproven methods to treat anti-vax coronavirus patients.

Idaho’s current COVID vaccination rate is 55.5%, compared to 67.6% nationally. Five Idaho counties haven’t even hit 40%.

Meanwhile, pandemic be damned, Gov. Brad Little hightailed it to the U.S./Mexico border to meet with other GOP governors about illegal immigration.

In his absence, the firebrand lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, promptly amended one of Little’s recent executive orders, ostensibly to make it tougher. Her goal was to ensure there’d be no vaccine requirements or COVID testing in public schools.

But Gov. Little, whose approach to fighting COVID has been lukewarm at best, rescinded the change almost immediately. Their bitter public squabble has become joke fodder for late-night talk-shows (about 6:00 into the clip) and cable-news commentary.

McGeachin has also made headlines recently for appointing a committee to root out the teaching of “critical race theory” in public schools.

I remember years when I traveled a lot for business and was embarrassed to admit I lived in a state that was seen as a haven for white supremacists. Lately, those uneasy feelings are resurfacing.

When folks like Ms. McGeachin and Ammon Bundy – the Idaho-based ringleader of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover in 2016 – feel empowered enough to run for governor, well…I’d say the Gem State is leaning so far right that it might just tip over.

I wonder, exactly what would that mean?

I can assure you that my concern isn’t about people’s political labels – conservative, moderate, liberal, far-this or far-that, I have friends in every camp.

Rather, it’s about the lack of common sense and common courtesy our leaders are showing. It’s especially frustrating for anyone who, like me, truly loves politics. I mean real politics – not today’s vicious rhetoric, defiant brinksmanship and steady diet of social-media shaming.

There seems to be little room in Idaho nowadays – or in Congress – for those who believe the best law and policy is crafted through well-informed, respectful debate. When everyone trusts the process and all sides get a say, things work out better.

But we’re such a long way from that. So, my love-hate relationship with Idaho continues. What do you think – should I stay or should I go?