Majority rules; everyone pays

By Michael H. O’Donnell

I think it’s exciting that Republican legislators in Idaho have moved up their presidential primary contest to March 8 from the existing general primary election date of May 3. And I think the parties on that ballot — not all Idaho taxpayers — should foot the $2 million bill to do so.

The cost to Bannock County alone to print additional ballots, man polling places, count the results and post them with the Idaho Secretary of State is $75,000.

Who benefits from this earlier foray into national politics? The answer is those who have declared themselves as Republicans for this closed primary and the handful of folks who are affiliated with the Constitution Party.

The Constitution Party piggybacked on the early GOP primary so it could end the suspense of whether J.R. Myers, Patrick Anthony Ockander or Scott Copeland will win in the Gem State.

For those folks tempted to switch party loyalty to the Constitution Party so they can take advantage of this early Idaho event, perhaps it might be nice to know the three presidential candidates on that ballot.

And for the record, the Constitution Party will hold its national convention in Salt Lake City April 15-16.

Myers is a Montana native who moved to Alaska, likely because Montana was too crowded. It was there he founded the Alaska Constitution Party in 2010. The basic tenets for the Constitution Party are designed to show Republicans what a real conservative looks like.

Myers himself embraces this no-nonsense God, guns and no-gay marriage approach.

“We seek to restore the proper balance of power within the government, and to re-assert the primacy of the people over their servant government,” Myers has said as a general overview of his beliefs.

Like Donald Trump, he has no solid specifics.

Ockander is from Texas. He’s a pilot and a farmer. If elected he intends to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Security Agency, and the Transportation Safety Administration.

“I am not a politician. I’m a God-fearing man,” he has declared. Enough said.

Copeland is a native of Mississippi who says he was “transplanted by God” to Texas. A Southern Baptist minister, Copeland is a civil engineer interested in engineering a new America.

“American Citizens are the bosses of America,” Copeland has said. “Republicans and Democrats have turned to the ‘World of Citizens’ view orchestrated by the United Nations.”

I know that’s a pretty brief overview of the three men on Idaho’s Constitution Party presidential ballot, but how much do you want for the measly $2 million in state funding that Republicans authorized to hold an early primary for themselves and “these guys.”

In a vivid demonstration of just how one-sided the benefits are of this statewide expense to benefit the majority political party and a handful of angry people further to the right, Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney authorized billboards to let voters know about the March 8 event.

Denney is a Republican.

The billboards are red, white and blue with large letters that state: “Idaho Votes” with “Presidential Primary March 8” printed underneath.

There is no mention of the Democratic Party presidential caucuses that will be held on March 22, but who cares? The last Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state of Idaho with its four electoral votes was Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Barry Goldwater, who only carried his home state of Arizona, lost Idaho by a mere 5,364 votes.

And registered Democrats in Idaho are about one-third of the state’s total voting population and hold no statewide offices.

Besides, the Idaho Republican Party was quick to respond to criticism of the billboards by saying Democrats could have joined the early primary.

Idaho GOP Chairman Steve Yates put the blame squarely on Democrats for choosing to ignore the opportunity to have its voters join in the early fun.

Of course Democrats in the Legislature voted against the additional early primary because of statewide costs, but let’s not nitpick.

If it only costs $2 million to make nearly two-thirds of Idaho’s registered voters happy, it’s money well spent. Especially if you’re a member of that majority.

What puzzles me is how the Republican majority in the Idaho Legislature plans to sell the proposed reduction in the top income tax rate for Idahoans from 7.4 to 7.3 percent. The $31 million in revenue that would disappear from state programs designed to help all of us would mostly benefit the top fifth of Idaho income tax payers.

Idaho’s richest 1 percent would receive a state tax break of $815. The poorest residents would bank an extra seven bucks.

My guess is the big winners will be among those voting in the early presidential primary.

Michael H. O’Donnell is the assistant managing editor of the Idaho State Journal.