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What Doesn't Belong

Hate Crimes in North Idaho or the GOP in Blaine County?

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What Doesn't Belong: Hate Crimes in North Idaho or the GOP in Blaine County?

We got a nasty little reminder that racism is alive and not so well in North Idaho. The executive director of Coeur d'Alene's Human Rights Institute said she found a noose hanging at her home late last week, the second such incident since September.

Rachel Dolezal, who is black, said she has been a target of hate-based vandalism at her homes in Coeur d'Alene and Spokane, Wash. Amy Herzfeld, executive director of the Boise-based Idaho Human Rights Education Center says the incidents "underscore the importance of [the Human Rights Institute's] work."

Herzfeld cites incidents in Boise in February in which flurry of racist fliers were found near Boise State, Boise High School and the downtown YMCA.

"There's a great deal of national political hostility, and [local hate groups] are harnessing that negativity," Herzfeld said.

The Coeur d'Alene Police Department has opened up an investigation into a possible hate crime at Dolezal's home.

The rhetoric was far more public, and the scene equally more civil further south, when Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele visited Sun Valley on June 18 to raise money for Raul Labrador.

The Idaho GOP fundraiser was held at the Sun Valley Lodge, and hosted by Earl Holding, the Sinclair Oil magnate, who also owns the resort. The fundraiser started with a $500 per person VIP reception, followed by a $25 general admission event, which drew a few hundred Republican faithful.

Republicans in Idaho have a lot to be fired up about. The state's First Congressional District is held by Rep. Walt Minnick, the third Democrat to hold an Idaho congressional seat since 1962. To do so, Minnick won his 2008 election by just more than 4,000 votes over controversial Republican Bill Sali. Minnick will defend his seat against Labrador, a state legislator who has called himself a quieter version of Sali.

Friday's event opened with a talk by Bob Bergdahl, father of captured American solider Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl. The Hailey man's speech touched on his family's suffering, community support and the curse of warfare on families of all nations and faiths and was moving, emotional and intellectually challenging. Had Bergdahl been the only speaker, the event could have raised money from Republicans and Democrats alike.

After that, the event was more partisan, with pep-talks by Sen. Jim Risch, right-wing radio host Dennis Prager (via video-chat) and the conservative blogger Eric Golub. After saluting the Bergdahl family, Steele went into attack mode. "We appreciate his sacrifice. We are with Bowe," he said. "I don't believe this [Obama] administration--or its ilk--appreciate the sacrifice."

He punched holes in Obama's cult of personality, warning the crowd that Idaho's youth "can't afford to be beguiled and bedazzled by the great talker."

Steele sounded the siren calls of Western conservative values, urging today's young Republicans to "meet the great doers," rather than just "wait in another government line."

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