4 min read

Paulette Jordan for Idaho governor

Have you heard?! The democratic civil war in Idaho is over!

What civil war, you ask? The one the national press has been writing about the last two years. Bernie Bro’s vs Hillary Bots. The far left against the left of center. The dreamers against the pragmatists.

Jokes aside, Tuesday’s Gubernatorial primary was an epic upset for Democratic “establishment” politics in Idaho. I put establishment in quotes because I personally don’t really equate Idaho establishment Democrats to what we consider DC establishment Democrats in policy or politics.

But, A.J. Balukoff was definitely the establishment in form and function. He had the money, endorsements, T.V ads, and conventional support. And even with all of that, the grassroots progressive wave sweeping that nation, and Idaho, carried Jordan to a resounding victory. 

It’s true, literally, everyone says Balukoff is a good guy, and I believe he is. He’s a committed public servant and a valuable asset to our state party. I’m thankful he ran and is so committed to the party. But Idaho was ready for a left-leaning message and Paulette leaned left. At least in appearance. Position wise, both candidates mostly agreed on the big stuff.  

I think part of what we saw in this election was that Idaho Dems and liberal-leaning Independents are a rugged group of political warriors. Though seemingly outnumbered at every turn in “deep red” Idaho, they still choose a candidate who seemed ready to take forward the good fight. Opting for the long shot by conventional wisdom. Hopeful for new leadership that can break the political complacency that has plagued Idaho for a decade. 

The influx of new, possibly younger, voters into the state in recent years is also moving things to the left faster than even I expected. A forward-thinking candidate like Jordan, who would allow Idahoans the chance to make a statement at the ballot was perfectly timed.

Where I see conflict now is in the way forward.

Jordan garnered almost no support from the current elected Dems in Idaho for the primary. In essence, she was politely asked to get out of the primary and let the more “experienced” and well-funded candidate run unopposed. Thankfully, she did not. And, both candidates handled themselves honorably and didn’t go the route of the Republicans tearing each other apart like spoiled school children. Bye Felicia (Labrador)!!

As we move toward the amazingly challenging task of turning out more Democratic votes on November 8th than Republican votes, it will LITERALLY take every single conventional Democrat, progressive Democrat, Independent and even some Republicans to put Jordan in the Governor’s seat.

But, will the “establishment” get behind her 100%? Will they recognize what a majority of Idaho voters have just clearly communicated? A desire to turn left on health care, education, taxes and even marijuana?! The Democratic party holds the majority opinion all these positions and we need a plan to present to the people fearlessly. The party must recognize the days of running to the middle and trying to attract centrists Republicans are gone. The era of running on bold ideas and the needs of real people is long overdue. There is a reason to be hopeful, as Jordan might not have this plan perfectly laid out yet, but I believe she is willing to listen to the people to build it together. It’s not clear that would have happened with Balukoff.

In a state with a red supermajority, it’s not immediately as important to focus our energy on governing as is being thought leaders and moral crusaders. EVERY Idahoan needs to be inspired to believe the values and the focus of the Democratic party is, their future and their families welfare. We need leaders who will say what needs to be said about minimum wage, health care, and education, and say it with conviction!

Could Jordan lose in November, no matter what Donald Trump tweets the day before? Yes, of course. And, it would be a political upset of seismic proportions for her to win. But, it is possible if we all believe and, more importantly, work towards it, no matter what the price.  What would have never have worked, is having a candidate who didn’t recognize the power and energy of the progressive wing of the party. Balukoff, no matter how nice and well-intentioned would have been viewed as the same old Democrat saying the same old thing. An impossible recipe for success in Idaho moving forward.

Jordan is a long shot, but she also represents the future of American politics. Diverse, grassroots and, ultimately, more feminine.