Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Partisanship will punish Idaho, not Democrats

Until the 11th hour of Election Day, Washington D.C.'s Republican hierarchy assured the faithful that the rightwing national GOP would prevail once again and wimpy Democrats would be routed.

Nov. 7 is now history. So is Republican control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Now, as if they've been asleep for the past month, leaders of Idaho's Republican legislative majority have embarked on a repeat of the very rightwing partisanship that repulsed voters nationally.

Even President Bush, an unyielding Republican partisan, acts chastened by the Nov. 7 repudiation. He now calls for cooperation with Democrats to govern for the next two years, invoking the dreaded word "bipartisanship," which GOP ideologues had refused to allow to cross their lips.

However, Idaho Republicans seem deaf and blind to the meaning of the election.

House Republicans last week elected Midvale farmer Lawrence Denney as speaker and picked other conservative rural ranchers and farmers as committee leaders. All are expected to look askance at Idaho's burgeoning urban areas.

Then, Denney rejected the demand of Democrats that they be given a third seat on the House side of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, the Legislature's most powerful committee. The parties traditionally have divided 10 seats according to the percentage of representatives from each party in the House.

Democrats picked up six more seats in the House in November and now constitute 27 percent of its members.

"A breach of trust," charged a furious Democratic House Minority Leader Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum as she led a walkout of Democrats in protest last week.

As if to state the obvious, Speaker Denney said, "The Republican caucus has moved to a more conservative position." The fewer Democrats meddling with their ideas, the better, he seemed to say.

This was not a good start.

Denney's action reflects the same stubborn ideological stance that cost the national GOP control of Congress. It didn't work there, and it won't work here.

With record in-migration, Idaho faces growing air pollution problems because of more vehicles, demands for better upkeep of more heavily traveled roads, demands for more school classrooms, more demands for police, fire and medical services, and more demands of needy families.

This litany of challenges is precisely the agenda that national Republicans gave scant attention.

Speaker Denney's go-it-alone partisanship and narrow thinking will punish Idahoans as a whole far more severely and more lastingly than any pain they inflict on Democrats.

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