It’s election time in Idaho towns.
Local elections historically are civil affairs, with neighbor debating neighbor in “clashes” of ideas in tones that could be mistaken for chats over the back fence about potholes or who fielded the best float in the parade or whether school buses have been late. Local elections often inspire enthusiasm, but not threats.
Yet, this week, one of Idaho’s Republican state representatives, whose name shouldn’t have any ink wasted on it, tweeted an image that should make every Idahoan sick.
In it is a person wearing a man’s suit with their face obscured by a red map of Idaho. The person grips a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. In the background are posters representing news, conservation, political, medical, business and university organizations in Idaho.
It came with the ugly message, “Idaho has a swamp and there are many players that are working hard to turn it blue. We must stand and not let a Rocky Mountain Heist happen here in the Gem State. Local elections are coming up and they will have consequences.”
The message is unmistakably threatening. It’s the kind of message that earlier generations of Idahoans would have denounced as unfit for public consumption and unworthy of anyone holding public office.
It’s the kind of message that would get a candidate escorted out of a local school board meeting by a safety officer. It’s the kind of message that local mayors would deem out of order and gavel down if delivered in a town meeting.
Social media proclamations like this one should alarm every Idahoan. Is a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire really the message a state elected official should send to other Idahoans who step up and run for office, lobby for a particular point of view or cover the news?
On Wednesday night, candidates for two seats on the Hailey City Council appeared in a streamed Candidate’s Night. Candidate forums have been organized, promoted and conducted by this newspaper for more than 40 years. The candidates’ demeanors contrasted starkly with the tweet’s threatening tone.
The Hailey candidates are neighbors. Their families see each other in stores, restaurants and schools. They include a biologist, a teacher, a psychologist, and a business owner. Candidates like them are running for mayor, city council, school board and fire district seats all over the state.
These grassroots seats, many of them unpaid, are the essence of democracy. Their occupants make their towns good places to live.
Hailey’s candidates conversed about what the city could do about local issues, including managing COVID-19, the housing shortage, growth, water use, climate change and making roads safe. All were earnest, sincere and ready to serve.
We know Ketchum’s candidates will be the same in a streamed forum next Wednesday.
Idahoans of good will should demand that Twitter remove the threatening tweet. The Idaho Legislature should censure its author. At the first opportunity, Idaho voters should throw the author out of office.
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