This episode is the first in an occasional Theory of Change series of in-depth discussions about the politics of different states and how, unfortunately, right-wing extremism is becoming more common in many areas.
The first state we're going to be discussing is Idaho. It’s one of America's most beautiful states with amazing mountains and lakes, lush forests, and gorgeous fields and plains. Unfortunately, it is also home to many of America's most insane people as well.
MATTHEW SHEFFIELD: Welcome to Theory of Change, Marty.
MARTY KELLEY: Good to be here.
SHEFFIELD: All right, great. So Idaho obviously has a very long history, and we'll get into that.
But let's maybe start off with, I think it's fair to say that Idaho kind of has sort of three basic political divisions. Political regions. The northern part tends to be extremely radical and filled with white nationalists and all assorted. religious extremists as well.
The central part of Idaho, which is kind of the Sun Valley area, which includes Boise, which is where you live and other areas around there. That is basically the area I'm calling the business and Berkeley section of Idaho, where all the money's made and all where all the godless commies like yourself live.
And then in the southeast part of Idaho, that is the heavily Mormon region of the state.[00:03:00] And there's when we'll get into that, but Mormonism in Idaho also has some very interesting divisions of its own.
So you moved to Idaho in 2001 after getting a PhD in rhetoric and composition at the University of Arizona. So, what brought you to Idaho?
KELLEY: Well, my now ex got a job at Boise State University where she is still teaching and tenured and doing amazing things with ESL composition and writing.
And I've stayed because we have a kid together who's now 26. And I can't believe that that happened. And since 2012, I've been writing for the political humor blog Wonkette, my dream job.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well--
KELLEY: I can do that anywhere and Boise is a good affordable place to stay.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, it certainly is definitely a lot cheaper than many parts of the country for sure.
And you know, all kinds of great outdoor activities as I was mentioning. Boise itself also is actually. Pretty nice place to be I have to say it to anybody who hasn't checked it out And you should definitely put it on your bucket list.
KELLEY: I like it.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, so, but now you're You were not born in the region, but for you were born nearby in Washington, right?
KELLEY: No, in Oregon.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, all right. And it should be noted, in the recent past couple of years Idaho has unfortunately gotten some attention for a lot of different right-wing extremist stuff.
KELLEY: Oh, yes. [00:04:30]
SHEFFIELD: Especially with different people trying to move in and ban books and etc. But there's unfortunately a longer history than that.
And I mean, I guess probably, you know, probably the, the... At least we'll, we'll start with the 20th century, I guess, kind of the most famous Idaho right wing extremist was Ezra Taft Benson, who was a native son from Rexburg, I believe and he was, rose to become the agriculture secretary of Dwight Eisenhower and then was a big conduit for people into the John Birch Society and, and also was a big publicizer of another guy.
Now he was Cleon Skousen, I believe he was from Utah but, you know, they were both part of this fringe sect of, you know, extremely right-wing Mormons and those people have always had a home in, unfortunately, all parts of Idaho, but particularly in the, in the Southeast. But, you know, as we kind of move toward More times when people watching or listening or have been alive.
Because I believe Benson was born in 1899. So I need to say that was a while ago, but more contemporaneously Idaho became the focus of national attention in 1992 with Randy Weaver. Tell us about who Randy Weaver was.
KELLEY: Well, Randy Weaver was a very extreme. Survivalist right wing fellow who showed [00:06:00] up from time to time at the Aryan Nations compound in Northern Idaho.
And thank goodness they eventually got shot down in a lawsuit with the SPLC. But in 92, Weaver was I think the feds were trying to arrest him on charges of selling a sawed-off shotgun illegally. And there was the siege at Ruby Ridge and during that his wife and son were killed. You can go to the Idaho state historical society and at their museum, they have the front door with the bullet hole in the glass, which is something to see.
And then of course, after that siege was over, the charges fell apart and it became a rallying point for the entire right wing led to the Waco occupation and siege. And then that led to Timothy McVeigh. Then shortly after we had Idaho Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth-Hage, who was already very, very popular with the militia folks in supporting them.
Who said that Oklahoma City was, was the wrong thing to do, but it was certainly understandable. And that was kind of the end of her career. Thank goodness. You can still see cars around Boise with bumper stickers that say, 'Can Helen, not salmon.'
SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And I guess she kind of has a [00:07:30] spiritual successor nowadays in Janice McGeachin. Tell us about who she is. There's a lot of stories.
KELLEY: Oh, she has lots of spiritual successors now. Janice McGeachin was the Lieutenant Governor of Idaho when Butch Otter was governor and the two in Idaho, the Lieutenant Governor and governor are elected separately.
And so they are not a ticket. So she was constantly trying to do weird right-wing things whenever he would leave the state. And at 1 point during the coven, emergency, he went to a conference somewhere while she was acting governor for a day, she tried to rescind all COVID measures, all mask mandates, and it was she, she got a talking to when he came back and then she did it again the next time he was out of the state.
SHEFFIELD: Yep. And she also became famous for her campaign ads featuring flags and Bibles and, and--
KELLEY: Right, she was in a notorious video sponsored by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which we'll mention again. Soon after they sang a little, I think it was the Idaho anthem. I honestly don't know. They sang a song together and in her part of it she was seen in a camouflaged four by four [00:09:00] holding a gun and a Bible.
SHEFFIELD: Which has, you know, quite a lot of visual similarities to ISIS videos.
KELLEY: Very much so. Everyone noted that at the time.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, although, you know, there was another woman who had been featured in this photographed herself in a similar way, a younger woman. Oh, right. And I forget what her name was, but people she posted it somewhere and, and she soon became a meme.
And then she actually said, ‘I don't know why people are doing this.’
KELLEY: Because it's totally different, different flag, different holy book, different guns.
SHEFFIELD: That's right. Yeah. And, you know, and one other person who may not quite be as nationally infamous as, as McGeehan, is Bo Gritz. He was a guy who actually ran for president as an independent candidate.
He was another one of these Utah, Idaho Mormons. And he was involved, he... Had his own compound kind of, I believe, not too far away from where Randy Weaver had his, you know,
KELLEY: If you live in Idaho, you have to have a compound.
SHEFFIELD: Oh, yeah, apparently everybody's either in Boise or in a compound.
KELLEY: Mine's rented, so--
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well and you know, and I think I think it's and this is a subject we'll come back to at the end But I think you know part of the kind of divide for a [00:10:30] lot of people is that because there are so many vast open areas of Idaho where just nobody's there. You can drive for maybe an hour and not see another car on the road depending on where you're at, and then at the same time, they are not, you know, if you drive a little bit further, you'll come into a you know, modern Western city like Boise, and it can be kind of jarring.
I think to some of these people. It seems like you know, I it's one thing about right wing extremism that I think people who haven't don't have a first-hand exposure to it is that you know So much of it is psychological It's not political. It's just seeing that other people have a different way of living and it's wrong.
KELLEY: That's right.
SHEFFIELD: And it's wrong. I mean, and that's kind of, I mean, that's kind of a, I mean, a large part of what you guys write about it at Wonkette is highlighting that type of behavior from these right-wing figures.
And it's unfortunate because, I'll let you speak to it, but it seems to me that the national Republican party is basically, and not just with Trump, over time becoming ever more like these people who were like Bo Gritz who were kind of laughing stocks in the nineties. Somebody like him, like, another Idahoan, Ammon Bundy you know, they have a constituency their constituency.
KELLEY: Yeah, very much so. We've it's, it's a small, radical, annoying, [00:12:00] strangely powerful sometimes bunch of crazies.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and I mentioned Ammon Bundy.
So he comes from a whole family. Let's talk about them. You want to get the background on those guys?
KELLEY: Well, the Bundys are some Mormon fundamentalists who have a vision of the coming apocalypse. What is the white horse something or other?
SHEFFIELD: Oh, yeah, yeah. So somewhere there's a Mormon prophecy from Joseph Smith that the, that the male priesthood holders of Mormonism are going to save the United States and that there will be someone will emerge as if riding on a white horse. And he will sweep in to become the president and save America right before the destruction of the wicked.
KELLEY: Yes. Yes. And Cliven was into that, and I think Ammon even more so. I honestly don't know Cliven being the father, Cliven being the father who had the standoff in Nevada and then Ammon ran the standoff in Oregon at the wildlife refuge and escaped excuse me, escaped criminal charges in both of those.
In Nevada, because the FBI completely screwed up at the prosecution and didn't share I, as I recall, [00:13:30] didn't share important information during discovery. So it got thrown out and then in the Oregon case, they were all basically let off because the jury, as if you ask me, the jury just nullified the case, they didn't want to prosecute them.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, which, you know, and it's funny considering how much they claim to be upset at writing and looting by Black Lives Matter. Well, you know, here's some law-and-order you guys could have done and didn't exactly do it,
KELLEY: But it's still, you know, it's still okay to shoot federal cops because they're wrong.
They don't have the right to, to enforce laws. And in fact, no parts of the Federal, the federal government isn't allowed to have land outside of Washington, D. C. and military bases. It's a special copy of the constitution that belongs to the Bundy's.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah well, and I guess, yeah, that, you know, that's, those ideas kind of come out of this sovereign citizen.
KELLEY: Right, right, combination of the sovereign citizen and the, the sagebrush rebellion stuff.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, yeah, and, and basically, they had this idea that they don't have to pay taxes as well because the United States as a government was ended secretly, and I always forget the year of the thing.
KELLEY: I believe it was with the 14th amendment in 1865, 1867, whatever that was.
SHEFFIELD: Of course it has something to [00:15:00] do with slavery, right?
KELLEY: Yeah, and then we, and then the U. S. became a corporation, and we were all owned by the government until we put a legal notice up that we are now free persons, and we don't belong to the government anymore.
And that's never held up in court and they keep doing it year after year.
SHEFFIELD: But it makes a lot of money for the people who, who tell you.
KELLEY: It's a great scam!
It is. If I didn't have a, if I didn't have any sense of ethics at all, I could make a lot of money.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah well, I guess, you know what though, you guys do have at least one, another positive thing, a positive thing that you guys are known for, which is Napoleon Dynamite.
KELLEY: That's true. That's true. We have the shots.
SHEFFIELD: That's right. And when, you know, they, they should have, they should have said what high school Uncle Rico had his football career.
But yeah, as somebody who grew up in, in Utah, which has a lot of the same geography and. And characteristics. I was just like, Oh man, this was my childhood on the silver screen. At least the minus the, the fundamentalist Mormonism parts.
But yeah, so, all right. So with the, so that's kind of, I don't know, like a rose gallery, if you will, of, of famous right-wing Idahoans.
but I guess before we get into, get beyond that though, let's I did want to mention, so, we, we've talked about Mormonism [00:16:30] in the Idaho context a little bit and it's kind of interesting for people who are not from Idaho or, or not Mormon is that Idaho kind of, it's got the, the Mormons on Idaho are kind of split with each other that so for instance there is the, the Brigham Young University, which most people know of is in Provo, Utah but then there's also one in Rexburg, Idaho called Brigham Young University, Idaho formerly known as Ricks College.
And Ricks/BYUI has always been kind of like the more fundamentalist version of Brigham Young University. So like, for instance, you're not allowed to wear shorts on campus if you go to Brigham Young University, Idaho. Whereas, in fact, you can have the distinct pleasure of wearing shorts if you go to Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University.
KELLEY: Provo sounds like it's a little weak on doctrine there.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, although I've never seen them where they claim what book of scripture says you can’t wear shorts. I don't know that one. And last I heard, I believe they also don't allow open toed-sandals at BYU Idaho.
KELLEY: As is only correct.
SHEFFIELD: That's right, you know, toe cleavage. You go there and no one has ever even heard of the term toe cleavage. [00:18:00] But apparently it does exist and it's evil.
KELLEY: Well, that's obvious.
SHEFFIELD: That's right. Yeah.
KELLEY: I grew up Catholic, so I can identify.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, the thing though about Idaho Mormons is that they're, they kind of, because of the remoteness, I guess, maybe, or who knows what it was, the Idaho Mormons have always been a little bit weirder than the Utah Mormons. And it's funny for people who have never lived in either of the states, they're like, what the hell are you talking about? People cannot believe that there's any difference, but in fact there is, and people and everybody who's watching this who's from Utah, you can back me up on this, I'm sure.
But yeah, and so, but like they've, I don't know, it's like a lot of the, the, there, there is this fringe Mormon movement, and I know what they call it it's a website called the LDS Freedom Forum is what they call it. And it's full of all kinds of fringe Mormons who love Ezra Taft Benson and Clive and Bundy and, you know, pretty much all these other people.
And they've been very angry about particularly lately about COVID and vaccines, which the mainstream LDS church has actually been very positive about those things. And Utah, as you, as you mentioned in our preshow chat, was one of the, the highest vaccinated states because but yeah, I guess apparently not Idaho.
Is that right?
KELLEY: Not [00:19:30] so much Idaho. No, it's funny because the, the mainstream. Mormon political establishment Butch Otter the current governor Brad Little, whose name isn't nearly as much fun, they tend to be pretty reasonable. And it's bizarre, actually, just, I didn't know until talking to you that I, that there is this.
More radical Mormon subculture here. And I didn't even notice it. Although I give it a moment of thought then yeah, sure. Ammon and his followers. But when I think of Idaho Mormons, I tend to think of the respectable right-wing Republicans who make up one of the two major parties here. The other being the batshit lunatics from Northern Idaho.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well it's true. And then like that was yeah, it's, you know, Mormonism really is kind of the Republican party in miniature. In that it's made of, you know, businesspeople who just want to make money, it's made of people who just want to sing the hymns in church. And then it's made of people who are completely fucking nuts, who hate everyone else.
KELLEY: So it's diversity is what it is.
SHEFFIELD: That's right. That's right. Yeah, and, and I guess, you know, the, the people that are completely nuts, though, they have been really getting agitated lately with all of [00:21:00] this with especially with the COVID pandemic. And so the right wing in Idaho has been growing particularly agitated because of the pandemic and vaccines and other things like that recently, but One of the other things that they've been interested in is the idea of Greater Idaho.
Tell us about Greater Idaho.
KELLEY: Greater Idaho is the brainchild of this guy in Oregon named Mike McCarter, who thinks that it would be a really terrific idea for the right-wing counties. Of Oregon and maybe a few in Washington to join up with Idaho and become a new state. It would be basically everything from anything outside the influence of the Portland and Eugene areas in Oregon would join with Idaho, and then we'd have one big right wing state that would have basically the they think it would be an advantage because there wouldn't really be any change in Congress because greater Idaho would still just have two right wing senators.
And Oregon would, what was left of Oregon would still have its Democrats. And they've actually held nonbinding referendums in something like 10. Counties where it has passed[00:22:30] which basically doesn't mean anything because the legislatures of both Idaho and Oregon would have to sign off on it.
Then Congress would end then the president would. So it's not really going to happen, but it is, it's, it's a brainchild is a favorite idea of some right-wing monitors. They also think that it's important to prevent Boise from ever getting. Enough electoral power that it becomes something like Portland.
So if you bring in all the right wingers from Oregon and Washington into this one state, then there's no chance that the state Capitol will ever be able to outvote them.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah, that's, that's true. And then, and I'm trying to remember, I don't think they've done a vote, any votes in Washington.
KELLEY: I don't believe so. I, I haven't actually kept up with that. I do know that a few years ago in,
SHEFFIELD: Oh, and I guess some of them and some people are talking about. Some California counties as well.
KELLEY: Oh, right, right. Yeah. There are some people who also, also want to include some of the counties in Northern California.
Basically that would be the, this would override the state of, what is it that they wanted to call it?
KELLEY: Jefferson. Yes. Yes. This is an alternative to Jefferson. That would be even bigger. Yeah. Bigger [00:24:00] and bigger and crazier.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, oh, and, but, and if I'm, and they also don't they're so trying to make these other counties be part of Idaho, but then also they don't seem to have a plan for paying for the governmental structures that are owned.
KELLEY: They wouldn't need to because it would be small government, and everyone would take care of the homes.
SHEFFIELD: Ah, yes. Yeah. Like the hospitals, nobody would use those. And schools. No one would use them
KELLEY: There wouldn't be enough of a taxpayer base to pay for the basics. Like, and they could all homes against Russia. I'm not against Russia against Canada. Probably.
SHEFFIELD: Well, there is a Moscow, Idaho, right? Now that now that I think about it, which, and actually they've got some great wine over there.
I have had some over there. It's an excellent place for wine. Yeah. And so, but it's, you know, it's like. It's just like this, this prolonged fantasy.
KELLEY: That's all it is. It is never going to happen. And yet they really think it's a neat idea. So there will be, there will continue to be referenda and it will continue to do nothing.
Even when they met with some right-wing members of the Idaho legislature a couple of years ago, the most that the Idaho people would say was. Well, that's interesting.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and as I [00:25:30] understand just this year there was a resolution in February to discuss the idea. It wasn't even a discussion.
It was literally, can we have the discussion? And they said yes. And then they didn't do it.
KELLEY: Well, they're too busy banning books and outlawing trans people.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and actually let's, let's talk about that. So yeah, books, books have become suddenly very controversial in Idaho.
KELLEY: As with everywhere else, as with everywhere else.
Yeah, the, the cultural wars are running hot as ever here in the Boise area, fortunately it's gone fairly well. There was an attempt to I was the library board, as I recall, and it went nowhere in not in Boise, but in nearby Nampa or Meridian. I think it was Meridian. When there was a library board meeting that one group of crazies wanted to storm everyone else heard about it and outnumbered them 10 to 1.
So at least in the same part of Idaho libraries are safe, but in other parts of the state there have been a couple of libraries that were shut down because there was just no more funding or no one to work at them. So yeah, it's, it's very sad. And the legislature [00:27:00] last year passed a couple of absolutely crazy bills in the house that fortunately went nowhere in the Senate because the Senate so far is still tends to have more of the pro-business normal Republicans, rather than the crazies.
But, but this year they, they did manage to do the trans the transgender excuse me, the gender affirming healthcare ban which is just awful they also passed that bizarre bill outlawing travel to Oregon or other States to get an abortion. So people could be put in jail, not for crossing the state line, but for traveling toward.
Oregon or Washington to get an abortion with a minor who wasn't their own child in the car. So a parent wouldn't be arrested, but an aunt could.
And it was signed by Brad Little, who, despite being one of the more. Sane, comparatively conservative Republicans knows that he's got the crazies always looking for a chance to go after him.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, that's true. [00:28:30] And I mean, it's when you think about it, just to compare the Democrats, I mean, in Idaho, you, you said, you know, nothing about the democratic politics in Idaho because we never hear from them.
KELLEY: Exactly. It's, it's true. I mean, we, there are definitely. Democrats who are very good, especially in the Boise area and they do well, they have their voice in the legislature, and they have managed to keep some sanity in the place.
But as far as being any kind of a counterweight to the crazies, I don't know what they would do frankly, because there's just not enough of us.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, because I mean, the Boise metro area has about 750, 000 people and Idaho has a lot more than that. And, but you know what though, I mean, I think it is, it's worth pointing out that a lot of this craziness probably does—I mean, you were saying that it does, they're trying to counteract that they believe a lot of people have moved into the Business and Berkeley section of Idaho and they're trying to do something to sort of disenfranchise them.
KELLEY: We aren't quite to the point of where was, Oh of, of Texas [00:30:00] where they took away the elections board from the biggest County out for, for Houston.
Yeah. They just said, nope, you can't have your own elections board anymore.
SHEFFIELD: But you know, they're thinking about it. Yeah. And you know, and, but I mean, I guess, you know, nationally probably the, the only Democrat that from Idaho that anyone had ever heard of. And, and this is just barely, it's Paulette Jordan who ran for governor in 2018, and I guess she ran for Senate in 2020 no idea what she's doing nowadays, though.
KELLEY: Yeah, I'm not sure. I'm not sure. It's. A, almost a suicide run for an Idaho, for an Idaho Democrat to run for major office. I don't know when our last, let's see, I can't recall when we last had a statewide Democrat in a major office.
SHEFFIELD: I guess what Frank Church?
KELLEY: Well, right. Frank Church was certainly the last Senator from Idaho.
We did have a Democrat who was elected, I think for one term after, after, boy, we had a one term Democrat within the last 10 years in one of the two congressional districts but lost again. You know, former Idaho representative Raul Labrador, who is now [00:31:30] the state attorney general. It's crazies everywhere.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah. Well, one of the big progenitors of that craziness is the Idaho Freedom Foundation, right?
KELLEY: They are very big. They said a lot of they managed to have an outsized voice in Idaho politics. They were central to the protests against COVID lockdowns. Not that we ever actually had them against any kind of reaction to COVID against masks, against any kind of public health orders.
They and Ammon Bundy did things like protesting outside the home of a. Police officer who arrested someone for violating the lockdown nuts. There was a public burning of masks on the steps of the Idaho Capitol. So that was a good use of fire and plastic. And the Freedom Foundation is they just have all sorts of.
Wonderful ideas about how we can make Idaho more right wing. They have a, an annual freedom index that tells you which members of the legislature are sufficiently to the right. They're very involved in the school censorship business and their blog.
Most recently [00:33:00] is running articles about great Americans during June because the Democrats are doing something else during June. They won't even name pride. Oh, this is their little joke. It's called pride in America. So they have promo Elon Musk.
And Charles Lindbergh, the article on Charles Lindbergh talks about what a great patriot was he was and what a great aviator doesn't have one word about the anti semitism or the America first thing. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, he helped us stay out of World War Two until it was unavoidable. And then he was a great patriot during the war.
Nothing about his medal from Hitler. Cause why would you mention that? It's not like we have, not like there's anything wrong with being a Nazi.
SHEFFIELD: No, no, there's, according to them, there is not. And it's just a difference of opinion. You know, why would you, why would you cancel someone for being a Nazi? Oh, right.
And I guess there's, you guys also had some people trying to start up a Patriot Front group up in Coeur d'Alene that I guess they got arrested recently.
KELLEY: Oh, right. Yeah. They, it wasn't that they were, were running one, but, but yeah, they, they came in from all around the West and tried to March at a pride parade last year.
I'm not sure whether they were armed with anything more than, you know, clubs and, [00:34:30] and the usual armor and, and shields. But yeah, they were certainly a nasty group and most of them were convicted. And the fun thing of course, is that. Now on Elon's Twitter, you'll be told that if you mention the Patriot Front, you'll be told, Oh, wait, no, they're just an FBI front group.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I've seen people say that and I've asked people that and according to them, it's obvious that they are. It's just obvious they are, yeah. Because they have clean clothes and uniforms, and that makes them FBI.
KELLEY: That must be it.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well and it's like well, hey, I guess you never heard of Mormons, But you know and I don't know but you know, I have to say though I do still feel like though that I mean, you know, we, we discussed Paulette Jordan, you know, earlier in the episode that I mean, she did a lot better than a Democrat has for governor in quite some time. And you know, a lot of people are moving to Idaho to the.
Voicing area and in Sun Valley. And I mean, you know, is this just do these people see the writing on the wall for themselves? Do you think?
KELLEY: Well, it's hard to say. I think that. So far, Idaho has been lucky in having more sane people than crazies. Going back to the Aryan nations there [00:36:00] were certainly Nazis there, but there was also a very, very strong pushback from the Corn Lane community.
You still see bumper stickers that say Idaho is too great for hate. In fact, in Boise, we now have down by the library, we have an Anne Frank memorial that was put up by people who were disgusted by the reputation that Idaho got from the Aryan nations. So., I like, I, without sounding like a Pollyanna, I like to think that at some point sanity will prevail, but we're going to go through some stuff.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, I mean, there is a group out there called reclaim Idaho. Have you ever heard of those guys?
KELLEY: I don't know. There's a Twitter group called the Idaho 98% that I certainly like the name of that does what it can to oppose the crazies out there, or at least to point out that they are spouting nonsense.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and I think you know probably what's going to have to happen is that you know, it’s like People who live in more progressive parts of the country. I think it's hard for them to really grasp the dilemma that progressives in these reds in red states have is that [00:37:30] you know, you the national party has--
KELLEY: Why don't they just move?
KELLEY: I live here. I'm an American!
SHEFFIELD: I have the right to live where I want to live, or I have to live where my job is, you know?
SHEFFIELD: Or whatever it is. Or my, where my family is or whatever. And the national Democratic Party did really, and this is part of why I'm doing this series, is that the national Democratic Party for a brief few years when Howard Dean was the chairman, actually had a 50-state strategy. But once Obama was able to come in and put his own people in, he was like, okay, you know We don't need that because I can win without this stuff. Let's just save our money guys And let's not do that.
And so as a result, I mean, you know a lot of Democrats and red states feel like no one gives a shit about is that, you think that's a fair assessment?
It feels that way sometimes. I don't know about missing out on national attention, but although that is reality,
A lot of it comes to, I think that there was this, so there was a book that came out it was around the time that Obama first came on the scene, it was called The Emerging Democratic Majority and the thesis of the book, people only took the first half of the thesis. The thesis of the book was, if Democrats can take their existing electorate and then [00:39:00] add on a new group of people who are college educated and are, you know, Hispanic or Asian who are immigrating in, then they'll have a majority. But. They basically, the National Democratic Party, especially under Hillary Clinton they basically kind of lopped off that first part of keeping the existing constituency.
And they're like, hey, well, we got, we have the emerging majority here. Let's go for it, guys. We were let's put all our money into the presidential races. I mean, I think that might be part of it also is that. You know, they were shut out. The Democrats were shut out of the presidency for, for, for 12 years during Reagan and Bush and Bush 41.
And they, I think to some degree it kind of made them miss their priorities that they took Congress for granted. But they, and so they became obsessed with the presidency and kind of lost the--
KELLEY: I absolutely agree with that. And also the, the left has, the Democrats, the left have simply fallen down on what the right was so good at going back to when I was in college when the right was making sure that there were right wing people running for school boards and for local county officials.
And you just don't see that kind of organizational effort on the ground [00:40:30] from Democrats. We should be doing the school boards. We need to be doing state legislatures at every level, not just every four years saying, okay, let's elect a president. Cause we can probably do that, but without the building, the party building that goes on with the lower-level efforts, you just don't have, Oh God, I'm going to use a sports metaphor.
You don't have a bench.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, it's that also, and it's that, you know, they're missing the crucial aspect of the American electoral system, which is that, you know, it's deliberately. Like, I always hear people complain about, Oh, the Electoral College is unfair. The Senate is unfair. And it's like, guys, we've kind of been that way for more than 200 years.
So, so, you can, you can complain about that. And you can complain about, you know, various Senator is not doing what you want, or you can try to do something about it. And, you know, and I guess to some degree, you know, the, the greater Idaho fantasy of, of the Western right wing is, it's almost like there's a left-wing version of that.
And that's, you know, let's, we're going to expand the Senate. We're going to have Puerto Rico as DC as a state, and we're going to break up California, and we're going to do this and that. And it's like, okay. When are you going to get the power to do this ?
KELLEY: Right, right, [00:42:00] exactly.
SHEFFIELD: Who's going to give it to you?
SHEFFIELD: The other thing though about it is that, you know, so the American political system is not just, you know, the Senate's biased, obviously, for, for smaller population states but also, you know, just the fact that, I mean, you know, people on the, on the left talk about how.
The presidential system should be about people rather than land, right? You know, you see those maps of you know, look at all this land that voted for Republicans. And it's like, that still does actually matter. That, you know, if you--
KELLEY: It's what we've got.
SHEFFIELD: It's what?
KELLEY: It's what we've got.
KELLEY: And, you know, we're not going to, to change that anytime soon.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and it's, it's also that you can't like, let's say you do somehow, let's say there is enough population shifting such that, you know, the, the blue states quote unquote, end up to having a permanent house and presidential majority. It's going to be problematic that you're creating a country that is just so incredibly geographically polarized.
And it's, and not just for the, for the sake of national unity in the, that the Senate's not going to be that way, number one. And then number two, you're creating a huge problem for people who do live in urban areas like Boise or like, let's say Albuquerque, Mexico, or, you know, Texas Democrats. And [00:43:30] you can't just wave them one and say, Oh, well, you know, we'll have a national divorce.
And that's like, guys, you're literally probably, you know, consigning a third of the people who you consider your political compatriots.
SHEFFIELD: You're consigning them to a confederacy. That that's what you're going to do.
KELLEY: No, thank you.
KELLEY: It's not that we it's not that we need to redo secession and let that go for, we need to do reconstruction 2. 0 and do it right. Although how we do that, I don't know.
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, but it, you can't start it until you start talking about it.
KELLEY: Right, right.
SHEFFIELD: And that's just, you know, and, and because I mean, cause that, that is, it's actually an opportunity when you think about it. Because, you know, the, the Republican party in these different states.
And not just the national party, but at the state level you know, even, I mean, here in California where I live, I mean, the Republican party here is nuts. Like they're insane. Like they're actually probably more insane than the national Republican party. And you know, so, but especially in red states where the, you know, people, the majority of people had been voting like in Idaho, I, I think since the nineties for, for actually no, since LBJ, I think he was the last Democrat to win Idaho in the presidential election. You know, like, so you've had one party rule. In many states in the country for [00:45:00] decades.
And what has it gotten people, you know, it hasn't, it, there's all kinds of problems and, and it there's, you should think of that as an opportunity if you're a progressive to come in and help people and say, look, you have been abandoned, like that's, that's the thing people don't get about, about Trump and the appeal of Trump is that the reason why he has such loyalty from people is because Republicans abandoned these people.
And so, and you know, he doesn't really care about them, but at least he pretends to.
KELLEY: Right, right.
SHEFFIELD: And they, and they love him for that.
KELLEY: He's given up so much for them!
SHEFFIELD: Yeah, that's how they feel. But at least he's acknowledging that they exist. And that's kind of hard to say that the national Democrats have really done that. I mean, when you look at where they put their ad dollars and, and their campaign cash.
Well, so we're coming up to the end here. And I think we've hopefully covered all the, all the major points here and other Idahoans will have to chime in if we, if they think we missed anything, but I mean, do you have any, any parting thoughts for, for the audience as we wrap it up here?
KELLEY: When you think about the polarization in the red states and the lunacy, remember that there is never a 100% vote in any of these red states. In Idaho, [00:46:30] Democrats do get 20 and 30% of the vote. That's the same in other red states too, and we can't just forget the people, the, the, the progressives in the red states.
SHEFFIELD: Okay. Yeah. No, I think that's a good point. Good point. All right, so you are--
KELLEY: Oh and read Wonkette. You should definitely read Wonkette.com. That's a...
SHEFFIELD: Yes. There we go. Yes. W O N K E T T E.
KELLEY: Yes, dot com.
SHEFFIELD: For those who are listening. All right. And then I guess you are at least until it falls apart, you're on Twitter over at Doktorzoom. That's with a K though, not with a C. So people can follow you on there as well.
All right Marty Kelley, thanks for being on Theory of Change.
KELLEY: Well, thank you very much.
SHEFFIELD: All right. So that is the program for today. I appreciate everybody for watching or reading or listening. And you can go to theoryofchange.show to get all the other episodes. And if you're a paid subscriber, you can get full access to video, audio, and transcript of all the episodes. And I do appreciate everybody who supports the show like that.
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