In the interest of full disclosure, I'll say first thing that I know Phil Batt personally. In another incarnation, he and I have spent many hours together. Many, many hours, although the largest share of those hours were spent not in discussions political or otherwise, but in stomping our way through such dusty golden oldies as "If I Had You" and "Tin Roof Blues." You may not know this, but Phil is the finest licorice stick man to have ever sat in the Idaho governor's chair. And he is a gentleman.
He is such a gentleman, in fact, that I can't help but feel he is in the wrong party, politically and otherwise. He may have fit right in at one time, back when the Republican Party in Idaho was represented by the likes of Robert Smylie and Len Jordan, honorable men and honest leaders. But those days are over, a sad reality that I believe even Phil has come, or is coming, to realize.
I say that from evidence he himself provided in a speech he made in Nampa for the Lincoln Day event Republicans throw every year to raise money and take undue credit for being the political heirs of the greatest of all presidents. I was not surprised that Gov. Batt—a man slight of stature, yet with a backbone big enough to stand up to the nuclear cartel when they tried to turn Idaho into the nation's radioactive coat closet—could take the stage there in Canyon County, the epicenter of Idaho right-wing nuttery, and declare his support for granting legal protection to the LGBT community. After all, this was the guy who, as a legislator, introduced voting rights legislation and MLK Day to a state not exactly renowned for its tolerance and interracial warmth. And I know from personal experience that Phil is one of the more accepting people to walk this earth.
It was his public resignation to the scorn and rejection that would likely follow, coming from the... as I call them... the frothing asshole faction of his party, by saying "If that makes me a 'RINO', so be it" that moved me to write this piece commending him for his stand. It is no small thing in Idaho to be branded a RINO—Republican In Name Only. I tend to believe it is the fuel that feeds the screaming engine of much of the modern GOP rabidity, that Republican leaders, here and across the country, must go to ever greater extremes to escape the accusation that they might have some RINO blood in their veins. For any Idaho Republican to choose decency over this stigma is a remarkable act, and I'm certain that Phil knows better than I it probably means he has relinquished whatever heft he still might have among his brethren.
Soooo... pal. What say you blow that sour pop stand and come over here where the smart people are? I'm serious. You don't belong there. Sure, you're "tight" when it comes to taxpayers' dollars, but there's plenty of room under the Democrats' banner for a fiscal conservative. Besides, this isn't so much a matter of what the parties offer as what Democrats don't offer.
We do not have DINOs, what I suppose would be the mirror image of RINOs. We have individuals who differ with other individuals over what the proper balances are between state and federal power, regulation and deregulation, socialism and laissez-faire, environment and jobs, etc., etc.... but we do not try to drive those with whom we have legitimate differences from our party. (I admit I've run into a WINO or two in Democrat circles, but you and I both know the GOP has their share of them, huh?... glug glug.)
We do not have any policy or plans to restrict primary voting to registered party members only, with the goal being to squeeze out all but the truest of believers. As opposed to the Tea Party dwarves who hold your GOP by the short hairs, we Democrats actually think it is the grand melting pot of ideas and perspectives and independent thought that makes this nation what it is, not the suffocating hysteria of fundamentalist ideologues who have so distorted and corrupted the significance of principles and values into something not safe for human consumption.
We do not have schemes and plots and conspiracies to prohibit, discourage and disrupt the hallowed act of voting because some people are convinced that they, and only they, should be allowed to hold the reins of governance—and I'm sure you've had more than a few of them slap you on the back over the years. Now, I'm not saying that everyone in the Republican Party believes voting restrictions are a good thing. But this is for certain: It's not Democrats who are purging registration rolls, cutting early voting hours, eliminating same-day registration, and pulling any number of rotten tricks to make it harder for millions of Americans to get to the polls.
Finally, we Democrats do not have a prevailing attitude among ourselves or the men and women we choose as our elected leaders that is evermore openly racist, sexist, homophobic, hostile to science, hostile to working people, hostile to education, hostile to everyone and everything beyond their own claustrophobic caves.
So what say, Phil? Come out of the darkness. Belonging to the minority is actually rather comforting, when the majority is so foul.
And hey, bring ol' Lincoln with you. Anymore, Honest Abe doesn't belong in that party, either.