During a debate just days before the 2010 general elections, then-state Rep. Raul Labrador of Eagle lobbed a stinging rebuke of his opponent, Democrat Walt Minnick.
"Being called the least liberal member of Congress is like going to a dance and being told that you are the least ugly guy at the dance," Labrador said.
Through the campaign, Minnick positioned himself as the most moderate member of the Democratic Party and a bridge-builder between divided congressional factions.
Today, I see Idaho as the “least ugly” guy at the dance of freedom. Sure, it’s not a great position, but it could be worse.
My colleague, Parrish Miller, wrote a very thoughtful piece about why he won’t celebrate Idaho Day today. Miller, a passionate defender of limited government and individual rights, suggested the state is no defender of those principles, evidenced by its recent embrace of Obamacare and other pro-big government laws.
I understand why he feels that why. I really do.
Here’s my view: Idaho could be worse. Much worse. We could be Chicago or Detroit, crumbling and suffering after decades of rule by big-spenders. We could be New York City, which for a time banned sodas too large for government’s taste. We could be San Francisco, where big government foot soldiers have banned plastic bags.
We could be one of a number of states facing crippling debt loads brought on by posh pension for unionized workers.
We could be Illinois, Ohio or Pennsylvania, where government gives unions the power to steal worker wages and funnel the money to progressive and socialist causes.
We could be California, where the Supreme Court just banned all judges from participating in Boy Scouts of America due to the organization’s social views.
We could be Oregon, where drivers aren’t even allowed to pump their own gas.
But we’re not.
[Tweet "Here in Idaho, I’m mostly free to raise my beautiful kids as my wife and I see fit."]
Yes, big government continues to creep forward in cities, counties and the Capitol here in Boise. Just yesterday, Rep. John Vander Woude decided he and Rep. Fred Wood are better parents than you. That duo banned indoor tanning for youth under the age of 14, regardless of parent consent. That’s ugly.
In the same session, though, Reps. Steven Harris and Kelley Packer beat back furious opposition from Vander Woude and Wood to pass a bill that would end a special pension privilege that enriches a select few lawmakers upon retirement.
It was an ugly fight, but Packer and Harris prevailed. Plus, I’ve got to give a nod to House Speaker Scott Bedke who could have unilaterally killed the bill, but didn’t.
Gun rights advocates are incensed a constitutional carry bill isn’t receiving a full hearing in the Idaho House. Context matters, though. Constitutional carry is the idea that law-abiding residents should be able to tote a pistol without a concealed carry permit. How would that idea fly in the Golden State or the Empire State?
Here in Idaho, I’m mostly free to raise my beautiful kids as my wife and I see fit. We’re unencumbered by government edicts and mandates, and more or less able to carve out our future.
Could Idaho be freer? Sure. Could government do more to leave more money in my wallet and open the market to more innovation and opportunity? Of course.
Miller is right suggesting big government has engulfed Idaho. It has. But it could always be worse. If bigger, costlier government is inevitable, which it seems to be, then I want to live in the state creeping there the slowest.
That’s why I will be celebrating Idaho Day.