Friday, March 19, 2010

Welcome to the far-out politics of Ida-‘No’

The language Idaho politicians use these days could easily mislead an uninformed onlooker into believing the state has been seized by some imperial foreign government and Idahoans are rising up with their muskets in rebellion.

Idaho, like a few other Western states, suddenly has collapsed back into the arms of the fringe "constitutionalist" movement that is spreading the crackpot notion that the federal government is slowly draining away rights of the states and Americans as individuals.

Nothing new in this. Remember the Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s, when ranchers and miners claimed the feds unlawfully seized and held onto Western lands as part of statehood deals?

Now the panic is manifold among Idaho politicians, agitated by stump speeches of rag-tag political improvisationalists who spread nonsense about President Obama's "death panels" to euthanize old people and about prison camps being built by FEMA for political nonconformists. A few years ago, the dark talk was about black-painted United Nations helicopters overflying Idaho and UN trains parked on sidings with foreign soldiers ready to seize the United States.

Idaho's special, immediate obsession is with claims that Washington is out to seize personal firearms and to force health insurance on everyone.

Which brings us to bills coming out of the Idaho Legislature this session.

The "Idaho Health Freedom Act" declares that "liberty" guaranteed by the state and U.S. constitutions is in peril because proposed health care reform would force Idahoans to buy health insurance. Therefore, lawmakers who've been slashing funds for education somehow found $100,000 for the attorney general to sue Washington and block mandatory insurance coverage. (Mandatory auto insurance is OK.)

However, a spokesman for state Attorney General Lawrence Wasden suggested that "everyone take a deep breath and step back" to see exactly what the final health reform legislation embodies since the original bill would provide government assistance for those unable to afford insurance.

Close behind comes the "Firearms Freedom Act" declaring that Idaho-made guns and accessories are henceforth exempt from federal regulation, a step that authors of the legislation declare will make Idaho "the freest state in the nation." (Pre-emptively usurping federal law will be some trick.)

Idaho being "the freest state" should surprise the other 49.

Maybe another superlative applies, however. With Idaho's congressional delegation squarely against health care reform and against the just-passed jobs bill, plus the Legislature's feisty rejection of other federal authority, it may be the nation's most "aginner" state.

Welcome to the state of Ida-No.

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