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Reminder: Butch Otter was no conservative, and now he backs the rigging of Idaho’s elections

Reminder: Butch Otter was no conservative, and now he backs the rigging of Idaho’s elections

Wayne Hoffman
September 14, 2023
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September 14, 2023

Butch Otter’s record as governor wasn’t a conservative one. Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane to remind Idahoans of Otter’s abandonment of conservative principles throughout his disastrous tenure as the state government’s CEO. It included:

  • Giving away multimillion-dollar pensions to his cronies in the Legislature.
  • Spending the state into oblivion at every opportunity; 
  • Implementing Obamacare in Idaho and getting frustrated that he couldn’t expand government welfare even more; 
  • Starting a multimillion-dollar corporate welfare program; 
  • Giving tax breaks to out-of-state big businesses at the expense of existing Idaho companies;
  • Binding Idaho to an international child support treaty that injures state oversight and autonomy; 
  • Vetoing a bill to let makeup artists work without having to get a government license;
  • Vetoing a bill to reform Idaho’s civil asset forfeiture laws;
  • Vetoing a bill to let parents use CBD oil for their children with intractable epilepsy; 
  • Vetoing a repeal of the grocery tax; 
  • Raising gas taxes and fees. 

And that’s just the highlight reel. So, let’s not act too terribly surprised that Otter is now backing a plan to rig Idaho’s elections by instituting “ranked choice voting” in the state and turning back the clock on Idaho’s closed primary system. Otter’s upset because politicians of his ilk — the lefty kind who love big government, bought and paid for and run by special interests — are now having a harder time getting their big government initiatives through the Legislature. 

The body is the most conservative it has ever been, and actual honest-to-goodness conservative Republicans are asking a lot of questions about Idaho’s regulations, taxes, and incubation of social justice and school indoctrination programs — problems that either emerged or were afforded protection during Otter’s terms as governor. 

When Otter was in his first term in Congress in 2000, my mentor, Ralph Smeed, asked Otter to write a preface to a booklet version of Ezra Taft Benson’s “Proper Role of Government” essay. Ralph would always ask rhetorically of me, “Do you know why I asked Butch to do that?” To which Ralph would answer, “To keep him honest.” 

Ralph explained that Otter’s commitment to conservative/libertarian ideas was tenuous. Tying his name to Benson’s essay was intended to serve as a reminder of his role in keeping government in its place and to keep Otter in check. It rarely worked.

Sometimes, Otter amazed, such as when he cast one of the few votes against the Patriot Act in 2001. But most often, Otter found ways to prove Ralph right. The governor was unreliable at best, and at worst, a willing conduit for the expansion of government and control by the likes of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, the Idaho Education Association, and the Idaho Hospital Association.  

In 2017, I wrote that a plausible explanation for Otter’s behavior was that he was abducted by aliens and the real Butch Otter was being held in a cage on Talos IV, probably, hoping someone will recognize that there’s a pod person in his place by the crazy leftist governing patterns and positions. 

If we go with that theory, we know we don’t have the resources to mount a rescue. The Idaho Freedom Foundation does not yet own a spaceship. 

But we do have the wherewithal to fight the latest crazy, bad, awful, and downright dangerous-to-Idaho plan Otter is pushing. He's helping a known leftist organization, Reclaim Idaho, undertake a complete rigging of Idaho’s elections so leftists have a better chance of winning. If he’s successful, it will damage Idaho in ways more measurable than any other policy Otter pushed during his tenure.

View Comments
  • Al says:

    Wayne, your article is unpersuasive. I can't find any sentence within it that even addresses how a ranked choice system is "rigged". A rant against Otter and his politics but nothing whatsoever about the very premise of the article you present in the heading and lead-in.
    I'm willing to learn, and interested in why you deem ranked choice systems "rigged" which i will define as "dishonestly arranging for the result of something". Cambrdge Dictionary.
    How is Otter promoting a dishonest system? And since it's apparently obvious to you that everyone would share in your assessment, are you calling Otter dishonest?

  • Bruce Hendricks says:

    Why is it that Otter and Small (aka Little) seemed to be clones of each other? Idaho certainly deserves much more intelligent leadership. Anyway, anyone wondering whether ranked "choice" voting is another leftist scheme to gain control over the lives of people they hate need to look no further then the state of Alaska. Like Idaho, that state is nominally red and has the usual feckless Republican party that managed to convince enough Alaskans to enact ranked choice. The results? The God-awful Lisa Murkowski was re-elected and some leftist zealot elected as their Representative. Case closed.

    • Al says:

      Ranked choice system is neither inherently conservative nor leftist by its design. It can be promoted by some to elicit results they like but it is not inherently partisan.
      And thats basically conservative responses to voter suppression (as leftists call it) among many states, is it not? In other words, a system of prohibiting water bottles for people to stand in line, restrictive voting hours disproportionately affecting minorities, etc, these are laws that facially dont discriminate but functionally have a discriminating effect.
      But even so, Bruce, Tea Party Bob, any one else, esp. Wayne, how is it dishonest or rigged as Wayne claims?
      IFF self-proclaims to be a think tank and resents being called gas-lighters, so I'm interested in Wayne instructing us on this rather than simply accusing Otter of dishonesty with nothing to back it up.

  • Mark Arrowood says:

    You know, I didn’t like Otter, not one bit. He hard hard right ideals, but he wasn’t an extremist. But for this I congratulate him for standing with democracy.

  • Tea Party Bob says:

    This cry for a ranked choice system is just one more venture to the left by establishment republicans just like when 50 of our most prominent republicans backed Tom Arkoosh a Democrat for Attorney General. When are Idahoans going to wake up to the fact that they haven't had a real conservative governor for the past 20 years and the one in office now is not different. It wasn't long after Otter got married to Laurie that he took a hard hockey stick turn to the left and has never come back. He is just one of the elitists who have been running this state and don't intend to give up until they have it completely under their thumb. You want to change our state do some real homework on the candidates and get you butts of the couch on election day 2024 go to the polls and elect those who are true conservatives not the phonies who pretend till they are elected. We are our own worst enemies. Wake up Idaho and throw out the trash that has been turning our state blue for way too long.

  • Daniel Foreman says:

    Wayne, your article is spot-on. Initiatives like ranked choice voting and open primaries are quite clearly efforts by the leftists to improve their chances of winning elections. Their motivations are not rooted in a love of fairness or support for conservative Republican principles. Mr. Otter is certainly free to support the agenda of his choosing. But I am free to reject the assertion he, and those of his ilk, are acting out of support for what they erroneously claim to be our democracy - a form of government deemed by our Founding Fathers the equivalent of mob rule. And Mr. Otter’s endorsement of the goals of the leftist organization Reclaim Idaho underscores the obvious fact his actions are juxtaposed to the interests of the vast majority of Idahoans and our constitutionally described Republican form of government. It does beg the question though as to just who or what leftists like Mr. Otter truly support - and why.

  • enemyofthestate says:

    Rush Limbaugh used to get "seminar callers" (liberal plants) on his radio show and delighted in spotting them. I see some "seminar commenters" on this thread.

    • Al says:

      Probably referring to me. 🙂 Registered Republican, grew up watching Morton Downey Jr and listening to Rush Limbaugh. I have voted for republicans almost without exception since my first ballot for Reagan.
      Yet people delight in calling me leftist when they havent met me, dont really know my political persuasion, just read my critique of IFF here.
      But rather than label and dismiss my comment, enemyofthestate, would you answer my question posed: how is a ranked choice system dishonest? The system, not the people.
      Did Hugo Chavez design it? Is there a backdoor or USB drive that only Giuliani knows about?
      Ok, i am being sarcastic, but, really, it's ok to disagree with democrats. I do. But to simply call them, or RINO's, dishonest because they disagree with you--i just think we can be better, be smarter, than resorting to such tactics. Im getting tired of conservatives calling elections rigged without bothering to support the claim whatsoever.
      I continue to be conservative but its dismaying that fellow conservatives are simply gaslighting and not intelligently countering liberalism. Its my #1 reason for why liberalism is growing in the U.S. if we lack the intellectual and moral upper hand, we shouldnt be surprised at whats going on.

  • LCShaw says:

    He's a rino, and like most politician (including the crummy Boise mayor), he talks one way to get elected and then favors his interests and buddies over the people who fell for his double talk and voted for him. Unfortunately we will rarely have an honest elected official -- they can't survive in the smelly swamp, they are eaten and buried. Instead of taking care of the country, they go on witch hunts -- look at what the swamp is doing to Trump.

  • P. T. Rathbone says:

    If he hadn't married the boss daughter, he would be shoveling shit in a cow barn.
    He is all boots and no cattle and just an out and out prick.

  • Jim says:

    Butch Otter and our current governor are no different than Mitt Romney, all RINO’s. You can say the same for the majority of Idaho’s state senators. I’m not going into the details of why I believe this but based on their records, which I have been following for years, I can honestly make this statement.

  • Habitualminer says:

    Otter is now a shill for the mining industry, representing Perpetua Resources on its Yellow Pine gold and antimony project: https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/northwest/idaho/article226626124.html
    The mine is marginally economic at best and is using sketchy data from drilling in the 1930s and 1940s to promote the project as a solution to the U.S. critical minerals shortage (i.e., critical materials needed for endless wars and technological enslavement). You hire a guy like Otter to grease the wheels--the reward for carrying water for the good old boys for most of your miserable career.

  • Don Crawford says:

    I have been a libertarian previously, but now registered as a Republican and pretty conservative. As I understand ranked choice voting it allows you to give some weight to your second and third choice candidates. This way if the most conservative Republican candidate does not get elected, the next most conservative Republican can get some of your vote rather than losing to the socialist on the Democratice side. Open primaries are supposed to allow independents to select moderate candidates rather than a forced choice between a socialist and a very conservative candidate. This is an important issue and the debate requires some examples that would show how this would be detrimental to the goals of the conservatives in Idaho. Please help with that if you can.

    • Al says:

      Hallelujah, Don, there ARE other thoughtful people earnestly wanting an explanation of this. A ranked choice system can be either helpful to the republican party, or harmful, depending on the voting demographics and the candidates.
      But to call it a "rigged" system is just Wayne being gaslighting Wayne. Unless he cares to chime in and explain what i misunderstand about this.

    • P. T. Rathbone says:

      Primaries are party business. Republicans should elect who will represent them in the general election. Democrats should do the same. If you don't have the guts to declare your party affiliation, you stay home until the general election. The vast majority og states do it this way!

  • PaddleManJoe says:

    I like the idea of ranked choice voting. I would try voting for more fringe libertarian candidates, instead of being forced to choose between Brad Little and whoever the socialist minority is propping up. I am fuzzy on some details though, like what happens when everyone's 2nd & 3rd choice is overwhelming for Candidate "A" and Candidate "A" has almost no "1st choice" votes. How are they all tallied? How are candidates eliminated? The details are very important for how this would work.

    I am also against open primaries. A party has the right to elevate their candidate, without outside interference from non-members.

    However, with the system the way it is, the Republican party chooses our leaders during the closed primary. Idaho is dominated by conservatives, no one is going to vote against the Republican to favor the the socialist. We need a way to challenge the Republican candidate on the ballot without automatically electing the socialist. I understand the concern with "rigging", but we need to change something.....

    What we probably need to do is stop being lazy and start doing elimination runoffs. Ranked choice voting is just the half-assed way of doing that. We need efficient, secure, and convenient voting systems for that to work though.

  • Fred Birnbaum says:

    In a state where Republicans clearly outnumber Democrats, an open primary is ONLY of interest to those on the left who want to influence the Republican primary. The Dems have far, far fewer contested legislative primaries than the R's do. An open primary is designed to allow cross-over voting. Third parties in Idaho don't hold a single legislative seat so the attempt to sell this idea, is about one thing, getting Dems to vote easily in the R primary.

    With respect to ranked choice voting, again in a state with more R's than D's it is more likely, mathematically, to lead to ticket splitting among R's because more of them will run. Again, this will aid the Dems.

    So, when Al says that ranked choice voting is not inherently partisan, that is correct IF you ignore the make-up of the electorate in Idaho. In Idaho, with more R's running than D's it will give D's an advantage they don't have. Right now, with no say in the R primary and weak general election candidates, they only hold about 20% of legislative seats.

    Reclaim Idaho is a leftist organization, funded by national leftists. Why would they support an initiative that didn't help move the state left? Come on, Al!

    • Al says:

      Thank you, Fred. Indeed, as I say, people may promote it to suit their needs, and the outcome is based on the voting demographics and candidates.
      My point - and my only point-is that Wayne calling it a dishonest system is wrong. Simply being advantageous to the left in Idaho does not make something "dishonest". It makes it disliked by those on the right, but to call it "rigged" is a different thing altogether. '
      Reverse the demographics and the candidates in a state where it would aid conservatives, and would you call it "dishonest" still?
      Read the subtlety of what I'm saying. Gaslighting is not the way to turn the tide of growing liberalism in the U.S.
      Come on, Fred! 🙂

      • al says:

        I guess I just have to be resigned to the fact that, in IFF's opinion, the word "liberal" is synonymous to "dishonest" or "liar'. Without explanation or evidence of any particular statement of dishonesty.
        It's too bad that a more intellectual and moral approach is not taken. How can we win over converts from the left to the right when we act like this?

        • Brad Gee says:

          Why does Wayne even care, he isn't even an Idaho resident. Why doesn't he write about Washington issues, oh wait, never mind.

          • Bobby W says:

            Multiple Choice, Brad Gee:

            1. Because he has to keep satisfying the source of his income, funded largely from dark money donors from out of state;
            2. Because he has to keep satisfying the source of his income, funded partially from donors in Idaho;
            3. Like a dog peeing on the carpet from years of being allowed to do so, it's just in his nature; or
            4. He still loves Idaho, just doesn't want to live here.

            Answer: All of the above.

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