Chuck Malloy Small“Be it resolved we adopt in total Senator Bernie Sanders campaign platform for our legislators to work toward.”

Idaho Democrat Resolution – June 17

Now, that’s a break from tradition for Idaho Democrats, who for years have assured voters that the Gem State variety of Democrats were far different from those liberal kooks on the East Coast.

That’s not the case this time around. Delegates at the state convention, inspired by Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders’ spirited presidential campaign, have decided that Democrats here should move left of the national ticket. As if Hillary Clinton is not “left” enough. But Clinton, who lost badly to Sanders in the Democratic caucuses and was perhaps even more badly outnumbered in the party’s convention earlier this month, is not the guiding light for the new wave of Democrats in Idaho that showed up for the convention.

Bernie is. And this new wave of Democrats wanted a resolution reflecting their sentiments.

For Republicans, the resolution was a combination of Christmas, New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July rolled into one. Dave Johnston, the state GOP’s executive director, wasted little time blasting out the news.

“You’ll never believe what just happened at the Democrat State Convention,” Johnston wrote just after the resolution was approved. “They passed a resolution that tells lawmakers to act more like Bernie. What does this include? A weaker military. Support for the Iran deal. Climate change regulations. A higher minimum wage. Socialized healthcare. Free college. All paid for by higher taxes.”

Johnston’s job of uniting the divided Idaho Republican Party may have gotten a bit easier – at least for this election cycle.

“From a strategic perspective, they just gave us gold,” he said.

Not surprisingly, House Minority Leader John Rusche of Lewiston has a different view. The resolution reflected the sentiments of those at the convention – the large number of Sanders supporters, many of whom were getting their first taste political involvement. He says the heart and soul of Democrats is contained in the party platform, in which he and other elected officials had a vote.

The platform includes calls for support of an economy “that works for all Idahoans,” priority given to public education, and ensuring “accessible and affordable” healthcare in every community.

As for the resolution, Rusche says, it’s something that legislators can work toward. Idaho may not provide free college, “but what they want is people not starting their lives burdened with debt. That’s not a bad thing to move toward, is it?”

Idaho may not provide Medicare for all, “but what they are really talking about is healthcare coverage for everybody,” Rusche said. “Again, I don’t think that’s a bad thing to work toward.”

Rusche says he has supported Clinton because she would be a better president. But he does not dispute some of Sanders’ values. “I’m a firm believer that values unite and policies divide.”

Former Congressman Richard Stallings, one of the party’s elder statesmen, is no fan of Sanders, but does not fault convention delegates for their efforts. Stallings acknowledges that socialism, in a broad sense, has not been successful globally. “But there are areas of socialism that we have adopted. Public schools are a form of socialism. Social Security is a form of socialism.”

Stallings says where Sanders has gone wrong is trying to start a political revolution from the top – a mistake that Donald Trump is making on the Republican side.

“You still need Congress to approve initiatives,” Stallings said. “For a revolution to succeed, you need to have like-minded people in Congress. I haven’t seen any great efforts to recruit and encourage like-minded politicians to go in. He wants to change the world by edict.”

Stallings compares this year’s convention-goers to 1972, when supporters for George McGovern swooped in and quickly disappeared after his landslide loss to President Nixon. The test is whether Sanders supporters in Idaho stick around beyond this year or, as Stallings puts it, “go back to their video games.”

For this year, will the Sanders resolution hurt Democrats? Stallings doesn’t think so, and he’s probably right. But it does give Republicans in this red state a rallying cry, and a reason to vote in November.

Chuck Malloy is a native Idahoan, graduate of the University of Idaho and long-time political reporter and editorial writer. He is a former political editor with the Post Register of Idaho Falls and a former editorial writer with the Idaho Statesman. He may be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.