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“Extremist”: descriptor or insult?

Last week some local Democrats wrestled with the problem of making it clear to voters that there are two conflicting Republican factions fighting for control of the Idaho party–and one is proving to be highly harmful to public education.


Many of us have been following what the New York Times chose to call the “MAGA-fication” of North Idaho College. The catalyst was a statement by the NIC diversity council supporting social justice demonstrations following a Minneapolis policeman killing George Floyd in 2020. New trustees–backed by the local Republican committee–set out to wipe out the “liberal progressive” influence within the college.


The result has been chaos–five presidents in two years, loss of professors and staff, a credit downgrade by Moody’s, a 30% drop in the number of students, and a continuing threat to the college’s accreditation.


In 2021 West Bonner School District elected two similar Republican trustees. This summer, with a 3-2 vote, the board hired Brandon Durst, who’s never worked in a school before, as superintendent. Disruption followed. After the two trustees were recalled Aug. 29, Durst called a Sept. 1 meeting that he would chair to reorganize the board. A court intervened.

Thirty-three staff members have quit.


A look at Facebook postings by some filing for Canyon County school boards this week indicate that persons with interests similar to those in Coeur d’Alene and West Bonner are running to be trustees here.


Now the last time an insurgent group attempted to oust mainstream Republicans they had the courtesy to name themselves as the Tea Party. These days, it’s been left to pundits to come up with names for various factions within the Republican Party–but none has stuck.

Ultra-conservative–in vogue a few years ago–doesn’t seem right for a group that creates chaos.

So our little group of Democrats scanned some columns and decided we would call Idaho’s Republican challengers Extreme–or Extremist–Republicans.

Within hours we saw a column by Chuck Malloy where State Sen. Tammy Nichols attacked the term “Far Right Extremist.”


“I call it label lynching,” Nichols said. “It’s when they disagree with you, but don’t have a solid argument, so they label you.


“What we’ve learned is that the name-calling and bullying we heard on the school playground has not ended. People grow up, but they bring some of the names with them.”


Seriously, Senator, if we were into name calling we’d have settled for neo-fascist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, power-crazed, ultra-nationalist or a host of other terms out there.

What Idaho needs are terms that will help the Republican rank-and-file decide where they stand.

Right now we have the Moon/Nichols/Trakel faction claiming they’re the real Idaho Republicans because they control the state party–and yesterday’s mainstream Republicans claiming the title because they control the legislature. Similarly, they both claim to be the real conservatives.


Both factions stand on the same side of several broad issues. Both support banning abortions, but one side wants to take away pregnant women’s rights to cross the state line.


Both sides look at transgender individuals as deceptive and/or mentally ill, but only one side wants to censor books that imply otherwise. And both sides support a variety of schooling options so parents have a choice, but only one side is ready to destroy the public school system in order to do it.


And you’d think no national party that said slavery of blacks was justified and beneficial would last a week–but a Florida faction has managed to get truth scrubbed from a national Advanced Placement curriculum.


Extreme–or extremist–remains the best we could agree on.


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