It's a big weekend here in Idaho. Markos is coming to keynote our annual Frank Church Banquet (thank you, Kossacks, for helping mark this event) and we have a full weekend of party-building activities and camaraderie.
This is great stuff, and now it's also a week when one of the state's top Republican bloggers publicly declared that his party is not representing the middle class. Reacting to Gov. Butch Otter's plan this week to increase vehicle registration fees, Adam Graham wrote yesterday:
Otter’s problem is that Idaho’s middle class is forgotten to him. I think Butch Otter cares about the rich, I think he also cares about the poor as evidenced by his grocery tax credit plan to bring the grocery tax credit to the extremely poor, and he cares about the rich and big business. But the middle class? Not so much. It’s the poor, the rich, and then special interests. Middle class not even on the list.
It's a stark admission. Graham goes on (below the flip) ...
This is the big problem for the Idaho GOP, particularly on taxes. We’ve got an income tax code that makes no sense and hits middle class workers with high rates and is extremely complex. We have some of the highest gas taxes in the nation already and on top of this, Otter’s going to add a $155 vehicle registration fee. By my count, that’s about $118 extra per year for me.
Of course, the Democrats are more better. All we hear from them is that we need more taxes for more services and more government.
Here's how I replied in the comments:
Adam, you say that all we Democrats want are “more taxes for more services and more government.”
You are right. More services and more government - for the middle class (and the poor, of course). It takes taxes, which Democrats believe aren’t some communist plot but a sound investment in a society that works for everyone, but especially “the least of these.” Unfortunately, in our free market society, the least of these include not just the most poor, but middle-class Americans, whom you and I agree are struggling mightily.
I’d argue that the Democratic Party - which has been fighting to take the tax off groceries for years, but especially since (Jim) Risch increased it by 20 % in 2006 - advocates every day for the middle class. Someday, Idahoans who reflexively vote GOP are gonna wake up and say, “Wait a minute …”
And that's the central task before Democrats in Idaho this year. We've watched as people in other deeply Republican states (notably Kansas, Colorado, and Montana) have realized that the Republican ideal of trickle-down economics and governmental neglect simply doesn't work for most families. Democrats here in Idaho have been trying to drive this message for years, and - except in Boise and a few other pockets of the state - it really hasn't resonated over the past few decades.
But Idaho Democrats have a lot going for us this year:
historic caucus turnouts ... four times as many Idaho Democrats caucused this year as in 2004
the potential coattails effect of a Democratic presidential candidate viewed favorably by many Idaho Independents and Republicans
the spectacle of national embarrassment at the hands of one of our top Republicans
a first-term GOP House member who is among the most radical in his party
an Idaho Republican Party that is bitterly divided over whether or not to close its primaries
and now, a top Idaho Republican blogger who is on record as saying that his party doesn't represent the middle class.
It could be a very good year.