Opinion » Bill Cope

Tsk-Tsk, IEA

With friends like these ...


One of the deepest frustrations I have with my side of the modern political teeter-totter is that there remain scads of progressives who continue to believe, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that conservative leaders might still be persuaded to behave like civilized human beings.

Our president is one of the worst offenders in this hopeless snipe hunt for Republican graciousness. Even now, after almost four years of the slathered right swatting away his every extended hand, spitting on his visage and vision, wishing him failure at every juncture of his administration, regarding not only him but his family as squatters in a house that should have never been theirs, Barack Obama continues to voice the possibility that, for the sake of something dear to all of us (our children? our country? our Earth? our future?), some of the more rational Republicans might swab the spittle from their lips and work with him.

It amazes me that as far back as his first year in office, Obama, as smart as he is, didn't realize there would be no accommodation from this senseless mob the moment they hooted like howler monkeys over Michelle's failure to convince the Olympic Committee to let Chicago host the 2016 Games. Remember that? It was the day I understood the true depth and toxicity of the right's dementia.

Lately, we've seen a more local example of this misbegotten impulse to stroke the rabid animal's belly. I speak of the Idaho Education Association's absurd decision to endorse Rep. Mike Simpson at the expense of his challenger, Nicole LeFavour.

Before we go any further, in the interest of full disclosure, I must remind you that LeFavour was once my boss. The most avid LeFavour fans will know this, but long before she was a legislator or candidate for Congress, she was first a reporter, then an editor in the lofty halls of Boise Weekly. In matters political and social, I came to consider her an ally. And, for about 15 years, she's been a friend. I know her as a remarkably intelligent, passionate and committed person with an unlimited reservoir of patience, without which she could not have tolerated working for long either with me or that clutch of legislative hayseeds who rule over our state. Right here and right now, I announce that I endorse her without reservation. As a member of Congress, she would make smart Idahoans once again proud to be Idahoans.

But that's not why I'm writing this particular column. A month ago, the IEA announced it was not endorsing LeFavour, but instead was endorsing Simpson.

The politically minded understand why the IEA would strike such a pose as pretending it would rather have an off-the-rack Republican representing Idaho than a person who has repeatedly demonstrated her dedication to public education. It wants to appear not overly partial or beholding to one political party over the other. And to do so, every election season, it goes fishing through the candidate pool, looking for the least offensive Republicans to endorse. I imagine it also hopes the endorsee might one day return the favor and support it on some issue or the other.

Of course, the joke is anymore, the IEA is the only one playing at this masquerade, for there is no longer any hope whatsoever that any of its GOP endorsees will support it on anything. There are no least offensive Republicans left.

Take Simpson. There was a time before the entire GOP was commandeered by shuffling zombie cannibals whose only function in the universe is to destroy all good things when Simpson might have been considered a reasonable man. No longer.

There is no place in today's GOP for reasonable men. And for those who abhor the thought of returning to their pre-Congressional lives--forever gone from the cold glow of Washington, D.C., prestige, once more pursuing their puny early careers as pig farmers, bug exterminators or dentists--they will suppress any hint of reasonableness, or it's back to Blackfoot. Simpson has already had a challenge from the right, and in Republican primaries, the only way to survive the threat of being replaced by a stupid gob of tea bag effluvium is to get even stupider than the gob. The old Simpson is gone and will never again dare let his reasonable side out into the fresh air where a comrade might see it.

Yet this is the man the IEA chose as a more suitable advocate for public education.

When BW first reported this unnatural and entirely one-sided alliance, a representative of the IEA questioned how this paper could be so shocked at the endorsement.

"I thought you were our ally," she complained to the reporter.

She was partially right. BW reporters stay purposely unallied, but as the longest running opinion columnist, I have steadily promoted and defended whatever progressive spirit rises in the otherwise stony desert of Idaho conservatism. That makes me a natural ally of both the IEA and public education in general. But it also means I'm an ally of those politicians who support the same institutions as I do. When one ally is dumped in the pursuit of political expediency, is it any wonder that their other allies are offended?

And come November, when the biggest threat to both Idaho educators and Idaho education to ever come crawling out of the corporate Republican collective--those Tom Luna reforms--are at last before the people for a final decision, can there be any question who will stand with the IEA in spite of its betrayal, and who will be snickering along with his allies that the IEA was naive enough to have endorsed him?