As of Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Before you know it, news from the statehouse will be in the forefront as the 2018 legislative session kicks off in January. Idaho’s Democrats will be pursuing a dynamic agenda aimed at providing educational opportunities for all Idahoans, improving our low-wage economy and defending Idaho’s public lands. While our colleagues will no doubt debate us on many issues, we are making this pledge to every Idahoan: We will fight for the issues that provide opportunity to all Idahoans, but we will not engage in personal attacks.
These attacks divide our nation, our state and our communities to the point where neighbors can’t talk about important issues for fear of starting an argument. With Idaho struggling to educate its citizens and get people into high-paying jobs, elected officials can ill afford to spend their time taking potshots at one another.
This is not mere talk from your Democratic legislators. Since the 2017 legislative session ended, Idaho’s Democratic state lawmakers have been making the issue of civility in politics a top priority. We have written several bipartisan columns with Republican lawmakers on subjects ranging from invasive species, hunting and fishing in Idaho and how better trade relations with Cuba can benefit Idaho farmers. Our colleagues, Democratic representative Ilana Rubel and Republican representative Christy Perry, will soon be submitting a bipartisan column on legislation they plan to cosponsor in 2018. Representative Melissa Wintrow has worked this off-session teaching other states’ lawmakers how to engage civilly with their colleagues so they can be more productive at their respective statehouses. She even went on a conservative talk radio show – outside of her district – to talk about it.
More importantly, Idaho Democrats and Republicans have been working side-by-side on bipartisan committees tackling issues like campaign finance reform and improvements to Idaho’s foster care system. We have travelled on bipartisan tours of the state with the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee (JFAC) keeping an eye on how your tax dollars are spent. We initiated a bipartisan open letter condemning hate crimes in Idaho. And earlier this year, we posted a tribute to Senator Shawn Keough on our social media pages after she announced she would not run for re-election in 2018. Senator Keough is one of many Republican lawmakers whose professionalism and talent we respect and admire.
That is not to say we won’t have our battles in 2018. In an “arena of ideas” conflict over opposing views is expected. When coupled with positive solutions, drawing attention to the weaknesses of the opposition’s proposals is necessary in order to reach the best result. Introducing fresh methodologies to stimulate opportunities for every Idahoan is a good thing. But let’s be clear, there is no room for the personal attacks that have permeated our political discourse. Certainly not in Idaho where we value civility, courtesy and respect. When we insult each other, we insult every Idahoan and diminish ourselves. You not only deserve our civility, you should demand it.
Representative Mat Erpelding is the House Democratic Leader in the Idaho State House of Representatives. He is serving his third term. Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb is the Democratic Assistant Minority Leader in the Idaho State Senate. She is serving her third term.