5 min read

With 2018 in sight, many of us in Idaho, and nationally, are dying for political change at EVERY level. Decades of losing local races have left Democrats searching high and low for new leaders willing to run for state seats, the governorship, and the House (congressional) seat for District 1.

I’m here with some bad news about one of the first Democratic candidates to announce. Candidate for Congress in District 1, James Vandermaas, has little chance to win this race to Washington.

Of course, sharing this opinion is a little uncomfortable. James seems to be a good man. He has good intentions and is on the right side of many issues. What his message is missing is threefold.

James Vandermaas for congress in Idaho

James Vandermaas talks to potential supporters at the Innovation Den in Coeur d’Alene Idaho

The first is passion.

James lacks the ability to express passion for the issues he says he stands for. His inability to show passion and inspire interest in topics was painful to watch at his candidacy announcement in Cd’A last week. His delivery left a lot to be desired as he clumsily read his entire opening speech off a pile of papers.

Now I’m no fan of public speaking myself, but when we are talking about becoming the voice for the whole of Western Idaho, and representing the people in DC, it seems one would be more prepared and passionate while asking for support. Truth is, it was hard to watch.

If James can’t inspire and connect with Dems, how can he reach new voters?

The second is policy positions.

Many of James stated positions feel middle of the road, even leaning conservative. For instance, consider his take on the second amendment:

From his website:

2nd Amendment: “Pro!”

Huh? In this day and age where we witness weekly mass shootings with AR-15 assault rifles, you’re going to take the easy road to appease hard-line gun owners? Look, we know it’s not an easy task to articulate common sense gun control, but the time has come to do just that. AR-15 assault-style weapons have to go. We must have a conversation on reasonable gun laws, while considering external influences, such as mental health, and social and economic inequality. That is the leadership we DEMAND to have on this issue.

I’m not saying it’s the sole matter of concern for legislation this term, but we need a leader who will get the dialogue started.

Climate Change:

James doesn’t not even say the words Climate Change on his website. That’s just amazing, and frankly, frightening.

The Middle Class:

“A strong and productive middle-class with affordable jobs is the key to a strong and productive economy, and key to keeping our country healthy and safe.”

This sounds like the typical generic political response, but fine.

What about the massive attack on the middle class by Donald Trump? Corporate America? The Republican Party? Are you not passionate about defending against the complete annihilation of unions? The relentless kickbacks to the wealthy?  Nothing to mention about the fact that we are sliding into a plutocracy? Again, where is the passion for the most important issues of the moment?!


“I will fight to cut waste”. Now does that not sound like a Republican position?! Sure does to me.

James talks a bit about the economy, but nothing about raising taxes on the mega-wealthy to balance the budget and provide the resources we need to bring back the middle class.

To be fair he does take conventional democratic positions on Medicare, Citizens United, and immigration; though his positions are sprinkled with conservatism. James is definitely a middle of the road democrat. And that’s ok. What I believe Idaho needs is a strong progressive.

James Vandermaas for congress in Idaho

James Vandermaas fields questions from Coeur d’Alene residences about the 2nd amendment, health care, and issues facing Idaho.

The third is the failure to embrace a progressive message.

2016 Caucus results by county

Bernie Sanders is the outreach chair of the Democratic party. Nowhere on James website, or during my interactions with James has he mentioned support for Bernie or progressive positions. Does James not understand that 70% of people under 30 voted for Bernie?!

Now before you call me a Bernie Bro let’s talk about the numbers.

Fact: 78.044% of Idaho caucus-goers voted for Bernie Sanders.

From Wikipedia: “He was also bolstered by rural support from Southern Idaho to the Northern Panhandle, and in Central Idaho including Treasure Valley. Such regions are among the most remote and radically conservative areas of the country.”

If James, or any Democrat, is unable to see the writing on the wall, then we are at an impasse.

A progressive message is supported by a strong majority of Dems, a number of Independents, and even some Republicans. That is proven in the data. We want strong progressive leadership even in a red state. We want the truth to have its rightful place in our political discourse.

In Idaho, and nationally, Republicans have created a false reality in which to live. Protected and supported by the real “fake news” organization FOX, they have mastered identity politics over common sense, facts, and morality. They have literally hijacked the consciousness of half our nation. Only bold and honest leadership will guide us in a new direction. “The truth will set you free” is a cliche saying for a reason.

In conclusion, I think everyone should give James a fair look. He deserves that for being willing to step up and run for Congress in Idaho. In a state lacking candidates on every level, I am thankful to James for his desire to run. However, I cannot personally support someone who believes playing to the middle is the way forward. We are in new political times and an audacious and progressive message derived from common sense and critical thinking is the only chance we have of pulling Idaho back from its continued drift toward one party political apathy.

James Vandermaas website: http://votevandermaas.org/

Sources: Blue text links.