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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of June 12 - 18, 2002

  Opinion Columns

Idaho’s vanishing ‘outsiders’

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

This probably is the last year when transplants to Idaho must endure the stigma of that idiotic sobriquet, "outsider," when running for political office.

"Outsider" is a tar and feathering epithet designed to cast doubts about a non-native candidate’s worthiness and qualifications to understand problems of homefolks.

Native Idahoans are being slowly pushed into the minority by in-migrants seeking career opportunities, fleeing the urban chaos of megalopolises and seeking idyllic settings for retirement.

Native Idahoans now constitute only 50.1 percent of the population. A mere 2,740 persons, according to the Census Bureau, keep the state from joining eight others (Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon and Wyoming) where transplants are in the majority.

The most visible "outsider" political candidate in this year’s slate of major races is Alan Blinken, the Democrat running against the formidable U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho native.

The issue of "outsider" and "carpetbagger" is bound to be raised during the campaign, perhaps even uttered disingenuously by Craig loyalists, who themselves are new to Idaho.

One wonders why such aspersions are reserved for politics. Idaho transplants are filling new jobs, donating to charities, performing good deeds, presiding as CEOs over major corporations, treating patients in hospitals, digging ditches, herding stock, policing city streets, fighting fires, protecting forests.

Before accepting services from these newcomers, does anyone ask whether they’re "outsiders"?

Ensconced politicians probably fear that an "outsider" might bring fresh ideas and change the status quo.

Change is good—for a person, a state, an institution. People and government and institutions can get set in their ways without change and fresh ideas.

Look at the revelations about the FBI computer system that lacks even e-mail capability—thanks to former FBI Director Louis Freeh, who disliked e-mails and didn’t even know how to use a computer.

Could the obsolete FBI computer system have been partly responsible for failed intelligence before Sept. 11?

As for resenting newcomers, the fur trapper and miner forbears of today’s Idahoans were "outsiders" when they arrived to disrupt the tranquility of Indians living in what was to become Idaho.

Another choice epithet used in politics to selectively discredit was trotted out by President Bush last week to reject the findings of his own Environmental Protection Agency.

Although he claimed he was waiting for "sound science" to convince him that global warming is a fact, Bush then blew off an EPA report confirming global warming and predicting dire consequences.

The report, he sniffed, was merely the work of "the bureaucracy." He used the word "bureaucracy" as if EPA scientists were clowns.

In the same week, Bush then proposed creating a new cabinet-level "bureaucracy," the Office of Homeland Security, that reportedly will employ 170,000 federal workers—a vastly larger bureaucracy than EPA.

Bank on this: President Bush will accept every homeland security bureaucracy report with praise and without question.

War and talk of war give Bush a rush. His incredulity about global warming is a throwback to the old politics that believed U.S. industry has an inalienable right to pollute because what’s good for industry is good for the environment.

But wait. Not all hope is lost. Bush has reversed himself so many times in the 18 months he’s been president—on foreign policy, on tariffs, on deficit spending, on creating a cabinet-level homeland security office, on not tolerating the appearance of wrongdoing in his staff, etc — he might even change his mind about global warming.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.