Oh, Idaho

Growing up on the west coast of Washington state, we knew one thing about political geography: going east meant going crazy. Ellensburg, about the middle of the state, was OK but a bit off; Spokane is where the ranchers were going rabid; and Idaho…well, Idaho was falling off the edge of the world, the land of neo-Nazis and fundie churches and potatoes, and that was about it. So I’m not surprised to read that a great many loons hold high office in that state.

Several Idaho lawmakers appeared in an Idaho Freedom Foundation video published Tuesday in which they question the existence of the coronavirus pandemic and state that they will ignore any state or local emergency orders that they claim violate their rights.

The video features cameos from Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, state representatives Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton; Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley; Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls; Christy Zito, R-Hammett; Chad Christensen, R-Ammon; Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird; Tony Wisniewski, R-Post Falls and Heather Scott, R-Blanchard; as well as Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, and Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony, both of whom are unopposed for election to the House in November. The lawmakers’ script is a “declaration to Idaho residents and officials” that the Idaho Freedom Foundation published on its website in early October. [Note all those “R”s. Maybe I should change my name to “Myes” to avoid the taint — although some people already spell it that way]

I think the existence of the coronavirus pandemic is settled — the growing number of graves and the fact that hospitals in some states are currently overwhelmed with patients is a testimony to that. This is not a matter of constitutional law.

“The fact that a pandemic may or may not be occurring changes nothing about the meaning or intent of the state constitution in the preservation of our inalienable rights,” Hanks reads in the video.

The declaration goes on to “demand an end to the emergency orders issued by state and local government officials and the restoration of our constitutionally protected rights.”

Isn’t that special? What “inalienable rights”? The right to spread disease to anyone and everyone you want? I have some problems with people who want to point to a piece of paper and declare that it has priority over reality, or that the health and happiness of citizens in this country are somehow less important than whether you have to practice good hygiene, or whether you get to strut around with a gun, or whether you get to pasture your sheep and cows on public lands.

But then, that’s Idaho, the land of abstract privileges that must be defended at the cost of everyone else’s life.

I was talking to some students yesterday who were pessimistic about us returning to normal next year. I think they’re probably right, and yahoos like these Idahoans tell me that the plague years are just beginning.


  1. says

    Illinois is banning Indoor dining in some regions and we’re seeing the same arguments. One judge even ruled against the emergency orders and COVidiots now say they can do anything they want.

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    Having spent my time on among those on that side of the spectrum, I can tell you what motivates them: Toxic individualism and paranoia.

    These insular and scattered people have drunk deep from the right-libertarian well and found it sweet. They believe that NO ONE tells them what to do with their lives and their property, externalities be damned and somebody else’s problem! Only they know what’s best for their lives and everyone else is wrong.

    (That’s why I call libertarianism the Dunning Kruger Effect of Politics: Those who are too stupid to run their lives wrongly think they’re smarter than those who should be running them.)

    With that, comes the constant dread that those from outside their own private empires might usurp their self-rule. The fear gun control, taxation, environmental regulations, etc.. No matter what the stated intentions, they will always result in less self-agency for the individual, sending us down the slippery slope to government tyrants regimenting every aspect of our lives. Even a deadly pandemic is never a good excuse to impose control upon them. They may die of Coronavirus, but at least they’ll die FREE.

  3. says

    I agree with your take: “rugged individualism” is a curse on this country.

    Am I terrible if I think that I wish they’d hurry up and just die, freely?

  4. says

    I grew up in Grant County in Oregon. We were closer to Boise than Portland. Shit gets pretty weird out there. My dad used to drive truck through Sandpoint in the summers. Might as well be Mars. There’s probably more people of color in the apartment building across the street from my house than the entire Idaho Panhandle. It’s no wonder the Neo NAZIs love the place.

  5. anat says

    Just a few days ago O heard on the news that hospitals in Idaho are sending COVID patients to Seattle and Portland hospitals because the Idaho ones are overwhelmed. I guess there is no epidemic in Idaho because they export (some of) the patients?

  6. says

    Several Idaho lawmakers appeared in an Idaho Freedom Foundation video published Tuesday in which they question the existence of the coronavirus pandemic and state that they will ignore any state or local emergency orders that they claim violate their rights.

    They’re just warming up, practicing their lines so they can make sure our response to global climate change is completely ineffective.

  7. says

    Just ship ’em off to the “anarchist jurisdictions” huh? It’s what I been saying for years. Rural communities are only ruggedly independent until times get tough. Then they’re begging the cities for help. I’ve lived on both sides of that equation and I’ll take urban living with all those brown skinned immigrants and nasty LGBTQ people any day of the week. They’re far better company than your racist uncle Larry.

  8. anxionnat says

    Yeah, they’re all individualistic and for personal rights and so on, until it comes to getting up inside a woman’s uterus. Then, of course, it’s all about “the bay-beeeez” and women are uteri with legs.

  9. brucegee1962 says

    My father fought in World War II. Even back then, there were selfish types: people who would hoard goods if they thought there would be rationing, for instance. But overall, a society’s ability to emerge successfully from a war or any catastrophe rests in the willingness of its citizens to make sacrifices for the common good.
    Watergate began the process of Americans losing all faith in their government, but Reagan was the one who accelerated it. Now the Rs have made it a bedrock principle. I like the term “toxic individuality” — it may be the death of this country.

  10. René says

    @6 anat

    I, not O.

    That gave me memories of my early work in National-Language Support.
    Sixties/Seventies Danish keyboards used the same key for 0 and O and for I and 1.

    So, yes, you can say “I, not O.” where the comma is equivalent to an equivalent sign.

  11. Jado says

    When will the first wrongful death civil suit happen, from someone transmitting the virus to someone in a method that they should have known better? if you die cause your boss won’t let you wear masks in the office and you get it from your asymptomatic boss when he insists on coming in even though he has a positive test, will your heirs be able to sue? Shouldn’t they? When do they insurance companies start suing on behalf of their customers they have to pay?

  12. says

    Toxic individuality is a great term; I am uploading it to my vocabulary.

    In David Brin’s The Postman there are oblique references to a character named Nathan Holn – some kind of ideologue preacher of toxic individuality who managed to make civilization’s collapse worse, at the moment when it looked like humanity might pull together. At the time I thought Brin was being too misanthropic but now I think his understanding of people is much deeper than mine. As we can see, sometimes all you need is a noisy asshole in the wrong place and they can knock progress off the rails. Brin is careful not to say exactly what Holn did, but it was some kind of pernicious philosophy. Drop a catalyst like that into a supersaturated solution of crazy and you get rapid crystallization.

  13. says

    if you die cause your boss won’t let you wear masks in the office and you get it from your asymptomatic boss when he insists on coming in even though he has a positive test, will your heirs be able to sue?

    The republicans were trying to push indemnity for exactly that sort of thing, tied to some of the relief payments. You know “cash the check and you have agreed not to sue” your boss for doing exactly that. I forget how they justified it, other than “y’all are Melians, motherfucker!” I don’t know if that legislation got through but I wouldn’t be surprised if the democrats went with it.

  14. naturalistguy says

    The Democrats do not support giving employers protection against COVID-19 liability:

    Pelosi rules out liability protections for employers of “essential workers”

    “What they’re saying to essential workers, ‘you have to go to work because you’re essential. We’ve placed no responsibility on your employer to make that workplace safe,'” Pelosi said.

    “And if you get sick, you have no recourse because we’ve given the employer protection. And if you don’t go to work because you’re afraid of being sick and you have that job opportunity you don’t get unemployment insurance. This is so unfair.”

  15. says

    It was the blatant disregard for my safety that made me quit my job in the middle of this pandemic. I had a day where I almost drowned in waste water while I was supposed to be running the entire facility by myself on a Sunday and managing the counter for walk in customers. I was there by myself for 12 hours and turned in my notice the next day. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that the whole neighborhood was boarded up because of the rioting (Portland), and I wasn’t allowed to lock the door in case we got a walk in. Oh yeah I had to load three trucks that day while I was at it by myself. I had worked there for 12 years but that day broke me.

    Three others followed me out the door in as many weeks.

  16. microraptor says

    For extra stupidness, there’s a group right now that’s advocating splitting off Southern and Eastern Oregon and merging with Idaho, effectively leaving Oregon’s new boundraries as the Willamette Valley and the Pacific Ocean.

  17. raven says

    Idaho sets COVID-19 daily record, hospital too full for kids …www.idahostatesman.com › news › article246675442

    6 days ago — A run of record-breaking days for new coronavirus cases is straining Idaho’s … The record-breaking day was driven by counties in nearly every …

    Idaho’s hospitals are almost full of Covid-19 patients.
    Quite impressive for a pandemic that doesn’t even exist.

  18. says

    @19 microraptor
    They call themselves “Greater Idaho” and they’re absolute morons. Considering that it would take all four state legislatures, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California (yes they want a chunk of NorCal too), and House, Senate and Presidential approval, it’s just not going to happen. If it did happen, congratulations you just created the most impoverished state in the country. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but CITIES PAY SO RURAL COUNTIES CAN PLAY. You cut the cities out, you lose all the money for schools, hospitals, roads, infrastructure. Greater Idaho would start looking like a third world nation within a year.

  19. raven says

    Idaho candidate on abortion: Urges charges, death penalty …www.idahostatesman.com › election › article207845019

    Apr 3, 2018 — Idaho election 2018: Women who get an abortion should be punished, including with death penalty, Republican lieutenant governor candidate …

    If Roe versus Wade gets overturned, quite likely IMO, Idaho may be the first state to execute women who get an abortion.
    They’ve already had bills introduced in the state legislature to do that.

    It makes sense. If a zygote or fetus is a person, then abortion is First degree murder.
    All those inalienable rights they talk about don’t apply to women and their bodies and lives of course.

  20. raven says

    You cut the cities out, you lose all the money for schools, hospitals, roads, infrastructure.

    They don’t care. Douglas county (Roseburg, just south of Eugene), a leader for Greater Idaho, voted a few years ago to close all their libraries. The amount of money they save isn’t even all that much.

    Douglas County libraries to close after voters reject funding …www.oregonlive.com › politics › 2017/03 › douglas_c…

    Mar 30, 2017 — Ten public libraries in rural Douglas County are slated to shutter Saturday, following voters’ rejection last year of a property tax increase to …

    Josephine county, next county south, defunded it’s police force years ago. So did Curry county, on the south coast.

    The Josephine County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) was forced to reduce its staff by 67 percent, cutting the number of patrol deputies from 23 to just three.Dec 4, 2019

    Calls for help often went unanswered in Josephine County …

    No libraries, minimal police, minimal fire department, minimal road crew, and they just don’t care.

  21. xdrta says

    Idaho is one of the few remaining states that protect faith healers from consequences when their children die from treatable illnesses for lack of medical care.

    When a 2017 bill was considered to modify the law, Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, said Idaho shouldn’t be “in the practice of taking away the constitutional rights of a small few in the name of goodness, correctness, and medical appropriateness.”

  22. wzrd1 says

    I’m reminded of stories of the rugged individualist farmer, sidelined at harvest time by a heart attack and suddenly, the community remembers their humanity and quietly brings in his harvest for free.
    Many, denying that they were even there.
    By their own standards, that crop should’ve rotted. So, they can remember, when they forget their false Profiteer in D.C..

  23. Aoife_b says

    Yep, this state is atrocious. Not to mention that during the height of lockdown the legislature convened, not for COVID assistance, but to pass two out of three of the most transphobic bills in the country

  24. asclepias says

    PZ @ 3 If you’re a bad person for hoping that, then I’m an even worse person. I’m with Scrooge: “If they’re going to die, they better do it then, and decrease the surplus population.” There are a lot of really beautiful places in Idaho (I worked in the Sawtooths for a bit), and we might have a better shot at protecting those areas if the people who have decided to be idiots went away permanently.

    Marcus Ranum @7 That ship might already have sailed. I read just yesterday in The Guardian that scientists have discovered methane being released from the Arctic Ocean. We’ve still got to try to save ourselves, though.

  25. microraptor says

    Raven @23: Pretty much. But the people here want to cling to the bonkers idea that we’d be a thriving and prosperous place if only they weren’t in the same state as Portland.

  26. anat says

    If states were countries (including with the ability to print their own money) how many US states would be economically viable?

  27. anat says

    raven @22: If embryos and fetuses are people then abortion is refusal of organ donation without consent.

    xdrta @24: It’s the old embryos are people until they are born, upon which they lose all rights.

  28. unclefrogy says

    As we can see, sometimes all you need is a noisy asshole in the wrong place and they can knock progress off the rails.

    I think that there are always “noisy assholes” around I have never been around any sizeable group of people when there was not at least one.
    The big difference seem to be how many other people are willing to listen to the usual toxic hostility that comprises the bulk if what they have to say. In the olden days I suspect that when some asshole started to spout all of this crap that is in essence anti group, fuck you it is all mine stuff they were pushed out to the outer darkness to go it alone where they either perished or changed their minds.

  29. jffordem says

    Our state is full of right-wing ‘heroes’. Remember when Russ Fulcher (R) bravely stormed the SCIF during the House impeachment hearings two years ago? Good times!

  30. davidc1 says

    In todays Guardian there is an article about the voters in Lordstown Ohio ,where GM is shutting one of their plants ,going on since Nov 2018 ,one woman regrets voting repub ,others say they are still going to vote for the snatch snatcher .
    Very strange people ,but it’s the same over here in GB .

  31. says

    If states were countries (including with the ability to print their own money) how many US states would be economically viable?

    That’s a really good question. I suspect the cooperation of all states makes a big difference in what is viable, both with regards to resources, man power, and regulations.
    Of course, some people aren’t going to accept that, no matter what the facts say.

  32. Ridana says

    So those areas wanting to secede or secede from their current state and join another isn’t going to happen because obstacles. Is there any procedure for the US to kick states out of the Union?

  33. p.phillips says

    Good ol’ Idaho. I find it amusing that the name of the state means ‘enemy’ in Kiowa-Apache (‘ídaahe). It was a name they applied to the Comanche, and colonists somehow picked up the name and applied it to a state. Given how many awful people live there maybe it is appropriate

  34. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I feel there has to be some way to mock them with their acronym of IFF for [Idaho Freedom Foundation].
    At a loss. oh well. pffft

  35. Numenaster, whose eyes are up here says

    I am pleased to report that Josephine County, OR has apparently decided some public safety is better than none after all. From the Sheriff’s Dept. website:

    ​The Patrol Division currently has 24 deputies providing law enforcement services to the community. Within our Patrol Division we have 3 Resident Deputies, a BLM Deputy, a Marine Deputy, a School Resource Deputy and a Deputy assigned specifically to Cave Junction. In addition, the patrol deputies act as Sheriff Coroners, responding to deaths in Josephine County.

    But Douglas County libraries are limping along mostly as non-profits with no public support.