We recently asked our Boise State Public Radio Facebook followers about what it's like to be an Idaho Democrat, and we got a big response.
We've been profiling some Idaho voters during All Things Considered on KBSX 91.5 FM. My assignment was to talk to an Idaho Democrat about the experience of being in the political minority. That radio story aired last week, but I got so many emails I wanted to share some of those responses.
First, Idaho Democrats know that in a heavily-Republican state they’re probably backing the losing side.
“I don't really believe that I can do enough to make a difference. I do want my kids and grandkids to know, however, that I cared and did what I could. When I am the most discouraged, I keep working because my friends still believe.” - Judy Ferro
Many Idaho Democrats seem comfortable -- even proud -- to accept the role of symbolic voter. They vote not so much to influence the outcome, but to send a message. Here’s an example.
“Even though I'm in the minority and my candidates have little chance of winning, I still vote because I want the winning candidates to know that I'm here… and the politicians can't just assume that everyone they represent agrees with their stance on various issues. I vote for diversity's sake, and because every vote for my candidates hopefully inspires them to keep fighting for the things that matter to me. I want all politicians to know that there is a strong minority that cares, and we will continue supporting the candidates who represent us.” - Jessica Gottlieb
Some Idaho Democrats feel persecuted for their party affiliation.
“I get flipped off, followed, and tailgated in my car at least once every few for all my liberal bumper stickers (Obama, CoExist, Blue Girl Red State). My favorite story, a lady followed me through three lights down Fairview doing this very overly demonstrative double thumbs down motion at each of the lights. It was hilarious! But, also kind of sad that Idaho politics has taken such a negative turn.” - Jen Miesbach
Incivility in political discourse is something members of all parties are likely guilty of. But that doesn’t change the fact that some Democrats feel unwelcome in Idaho. Some say they know people who have left the state to live somewhere less conservative. According to a recent study, that politically-driven geographic sameness is happening in across the country. Others who reached out to us say they plan to leave, like this woman who asked that I not use her name.
“My husband and I moved here 3 years ago,” she says. “He is an R and I am a D. I don’t feel like I can discuss politics with Idahoans at all without getting a ‘look’ and an eye roll. I disagree with many decisions our Idaho legislature and governor are making – but so does my husband! He is moderately conservative and is as disappointed with the state of Idaho as I am. We appreciate the balanced budget, but at what cost? The state of education, infrastructure (esp roads) and living wage jobs in Idaho is very disappointing, so we are going elsewhere. My husband makes a good living as an engineer and can get a job almost anywhere. We choose somewhere else. He has accepted a new job for higher pay, and we are moving out of state.”
Some people say they have already left Idaho because of the political climate, like this woman who now lives in Washington state.
“I made many attempts to contact my Senate representatives about Idaho issues important to me. It was incredibly frustrating; so frustrating, I gave up trying... As a political minority, it was very discouraging to take the time and effort to try to engage with my lawmakers and get nothing back but a "here's why I'm not paying any attention to you". It eventually made me give up on putting any effort into Idaho politics at all, except local issues and races in Ada County and Boise, where I least felt somewhat represented.” - Bree Herndon
But for the most part, the Idaho Democrats who answered my post were hopeful. Respondents take it on faith that someday Idaho will change in the ways they want it to. Even if some are accustomed to defeat, they don’t feel defeated.
“For the general statewide and national races, with the exception of [Walt Minnick who was elected to one term in Congress in 2008], I know my vote isn't likely to put my preferred candidate in office…. I'm pretty used to the feeling of being a Democrat in a red state. It's taught me a lot about compromise and respect for those with whom you disagree. Either you learn to appreciate everyone for their differences or you live in total despair… I've come to realize that my favorite people are minority voters in any given state. They know how it feels to not get everything they want and I think they have a healthier and more reasonable understanding of the political system.” - Brian Rich
What has been your experience of party affiliation in Idaho? Tell us about it in the comment section below.
Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam
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