Monday, June 07, 2010

Idaho Wasn’t Always Reactionary

My Dad, a very conservative Republican used to repeat the saying that “God took California in one hand and Florida in the other and shook all of the nuts and berries into Idaho (actual author unknown.)”

I think he and I had very different ideas of who the “nuts” were and are, especially after the Goldwater nomination and he turned further right and I went just left of center, making any visit home or holiday dinner a “real” occasion. Idahoans used to be great debaters though and my Dad would switch sides if you ever began to agree with him.

I had progressivism in my blood though, from another Great-grandfather, Ralph (Smith) Messersmith, and I grew up during a time when Idaho elected Democrats and progressives at that. frank_church

Idaho, Utah and Colorado were always much more politically diverse than they are today. 

One of the US Senators representing Idaho during  my formative years was Frank Church, a progressive Democrat and he was preceded by Senator William Borah, a progressive Republican (yes, there used to be actual progressives in the Republican Party, e.g. President Theodore Roosevelt.)

Church, who served Idaho in the US Senate from when I was 8 years old until I was 26) championed an end to the Vietnam War, creation of Wilderness Areas and issues like Hospice Care.  Borah had been influential in creation of the Department of Labor and a champion of child abuse prevention etc.

Borah became Senator just as my Grandfather and Great-grandfather Bowman homesteaded in the Yellowstone-Teton region of Idaho and he served over the same span of Church’s life that Church did of mine.  So no one then thought it odd or un-Idaho-like when I became a progressive.

But today Idaho seems a victim of The Big Sort the title of a book documenting…how America as it becomes more diverse than ever is creating places (including my adopted state of North Carolina where my adopted hometown Durham is an exception)… crowded with people who live, think and vote alike, a sort of “way of life” segregation where our country has become so polarized and ideologically inbred (paraphrased from the link.)

Linked here is an explanation of how my birth state of Idaho was hijacked and became better know for Ruby Ridge and the Arians.  I think even my Dad, who passed away weeks following 9/11 was disappointed by the transformation.

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