Idaho’s GOP Voters Push Back Against Trump’s Picks

For decades, Idaho has been a hotbed for far right organizing. The era of the early 1990s, it helped seed the modern militia movement, and hosted Aryan Nation organizersand other white supremacist organizations looking to set up compounds at remote mountainous reaches.

Idaho Lt. Gov. was elected in recent years. Janice McGeachin appeared as a speaker at a white nationalist event, the “America First Political Action Conference.” She has also denounced the governor, fellow Republican Brad Little, as being a sellout for permitting localities to impose mask mandatesDuring the pandemic. She used a time when the governor was on a trip to issue an executive order to prohibit such mandates. (Governor Little rescinded that order when the governor returned.

With former President Donald Trump’s backing, the extremist McGeachin ran against Little in the GOP primariesThis was earlier in the month. She was soundly beaten. The far right candidate to succeed McGeachin, a fighter pilot, and state representative, was also named Priscilla GiddingsWho was it? censored by her own colleaguesLast year, the name of a teenage girl who claimed that another former state representative had raped it was circulated.

Giddings soundly lost to Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke, the epitome of “establishment” in the state’s politics. In the primary for the secretary of state’s position, a moderate county clerk, Phil McGrane, beat out two opponents who denied the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s November 2020 election victory.

Given how conservative Idaho — which in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was home to some of the most radical unions and progressive politicians in the country — has become in recent decades, the successful rearguard action fought by traditional Republicans against insurgent far right rivals was, on the surface, surprising. After all, recently, in nearby rural regions with a political makeup similar to that of rural Idaho, such as California’s far northern Shasta CountyMilitia-backed politicians have had great success at the polls.

Since Trump won more than 63 percent of the vote in Idaho in the 2020 presidential election, it would not be surprising if candidates either running with his backing or buying into his signature grievances around stolen elections and politicians he denounces as being “Republican in name only” (RINOs) would do well in the primaries. They have been defeated overwhelmingly.

It hasn’t gotten much attention in the national press, but a battle has begun in Idaho between moderate Republicans and the wreckers of the right who want to just blow it all to kingdom come. Despite the rightward drift of many Republicans across the country, the Idaho old guard seems to have temporarily risen to the top in 2022.

This could partly be a delayed recognition by Republicans that their voter majority is not as secure, as it would seem, in part. Idahoan political insiders have talked about the topic for years. conflict between ideologues and pragmatists having the potential to weaken the Republican PartyEven in its moment of greatest ascendance.

Like Washington, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, the state’s population is growing, with increasing numbers of newcomers from more expensive, more liberal states in the west making Idaho their home. Some have even suggested that this means the state is primed to begin a gradual march away from decades of Republican governance and toward a revitalized Democratic Party — though I wouldn’t hold my breath that this will happen any time soon.

The GOP establishment knows that while McGeachin and other candidates are adept at serving red meat to their base, they lack the ability to pivot to the middle in the general election. McGeachin’s taped address to the white nationalist America First Political Action conference earlier this year may not have phased Trump, but it surely spooked mainstream Republicans in Idaho.

This event triggered the creation of the Take Back Idaho PAC, its board of directors a who’s who of senior moderate Republicans in the state, called on McGeachin to resign. She didn’t, but her gubernatorial ambitions seem to have been effectively self-sabotaged by her incendiary action.

It’s true that, in many states, Trump’s ongoing death-grip on the GOP remains as tight as ever. For example, his intervention was very effective in pushing for legislation. J.D. Vance over the finish line in the Ohio primary contest for the party’s Senate candidate. It was also a key component in moving Mehmet Ozinto the lead in Pennsylvania’s primary (although as at May 26, Oz has a narrow margin over Dave McCormick and a recount looks likely).

Yet, below the radar, in many states what remains of the pre-Trumpian “establishment” within the GOP seems to be mobilizing in support of candidates who aren’t entirely in thrall to Trump, to his outrageous claims about fraudulent elections, and to his allies within the militia and white nationalist movements.

The primaries’ loss by Trump-aligned candidates in Idaho mirrors failings by the twice-impeached ex-president’s chosen gubernatorial candidates in Nebraska, in Georgia, and, in all likelihood, in MarylandLater in the primary season.

If Trump’s star begins to wane in the GOP, as, surely, it eventually will, what happened in Idaho in the spring of 2022 will likely come to be seen as a turning point. That Trump’s backing so spectacularly failed to lift McGeachin’s candidacy shows that even the grand puppet master himself is, at the end of the day, limited in his powers of manipulation.