The Idaho GOP Caucus filled the Taco Bell Areno March 6 in as much a way as any concert does: with throngs of boisterous, riled-up politicos and some very quirky attire. It was a zoo, and Terry Shepard knows zoos.
It was hard not to notice the man sitting on the edge of a row in a three-cornered hat, holding an American Flag with a matching scarf around his neck. In fact, those are staples in Shepard’s wardrobe—he’s a Benjamin Franklin impersonator, and part-time security guard at Zoo Boise. Shepard is the man behind the Boise Patriot Day, which takes place every April 19, and the Idaho State Liberty Tree. He contemplated attending the caucus in full costume, but decided against it, opting instead for the hat/scarf combo to help demonstrate his support for Ron Paul.
Shepard loves the Constitution more than most. He’s been a Republican for approximately five of his 15 years in Boise but dislikes party divisions for the most part, because “when people vote as a block, they don’t look at the issues,” Shepard said. For Shepard, one of the biggest issues in the upcoming election has to do with wealth and the level of government necessary.
“I personally feel that the Federal Reserve system is running our country,” Shepard said. “I want to see all of the power go back to the people, like what we have here tonight. We’re all going to vote. That has some meaning to it.”
Shepard’s fascination with Benjamin Franklin began after the Patriot Act was instituted, and he saw a protestor with a signboard baring a Franklin quote.
“I wanted to do something positive to keep the flame going,” the North-end dweller said. That’s how he began impersonating Franklin, and eventually his son caught on and started dressing as Davy Crockett. Shepard believes the colonial-era inventor’s advice still rings true today.
“The young people are so much for Ron Paul because they want that liberty, and they don’t want that debt. That debt is slavery. Benjamin Franklin said that continuous wars and continuous debt will destroy a nation.”
Another group of debt opposers was also hard to miss. In the middle of the arena floor, young women in tall Uncle Sam-style hats crowded together. Jane Pinkerton, Charity Cockroft, Michelle Hagner and Kari Conser are all mothers in the Meridian/Boise area in their 30s. They have 20 children among them and met at church. They planned their venture to the caucus weeks in advance, booking babysitters and donning tall, American flag top hats and red, white and blue hair ornaments. For Pinkerton, the national debt is of the utmost concern.
“If I have to live on a budget, so should the government,” Pinkerton said, her friends echoing her sentiment. The quartet registered with the GOP just prior to the caucus and posed for photos while offering their support to Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
For Lois Belveal, festive hats are a way of life. The hat shop owner donned a bright blue fuzzy cap alongside her friend Gayle Visser, who donned an impossible-not-to-see fluffy white brimmed creation, both the work of Belveal. The two Kuna residents carried signs supporting Rick Santorum.
“[Santorum] stands for what the country was built on,” Visser said. “Judeo-Christian values … the people.”
Both women said they’ve been with the GOP “forever” and that should their favorite candidate lose out, they’d support anyone but Barack Obama.
“One way or another we’re gonna get Obama out. He’s destroying our country,” Belveal said.
“We need a strong president. Obama is always apologizing,” Visser concurred. “There’s also just too much government right now. We can take care of ourselves.”
Milton and Jan Edgerton would also like to see the incumbent lose the presidential race, saying they’d take “anybody but Obama.”
“I just don’t like him. He’s anti-American,” Milton said, noting that he has a knack for reading people. “He supports Muslims and not Christians.”
Super Tuesday marked the Idaho-born couple’s first caucus. They chose to venture to the arena because they “wanted to vote” and are lending their support to Romney because he seems “like a good guy.” The couple was easy to spot in the crowded space, with Milton in a fringe-laden jacket hat banded with snakeskin alongside the patriotically dressed Jan. Both sported Romney stickers. The Meridian residents admitted they weren’t wild about Santorum, saying “he seems devious.” For Jan, the central issue in the election is the economy.
“All this cutting off of money from seniors—what will people live on?” She wondered.