Democrats extend progressive ideas

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COEUR d’ALENE — Delegates approved “the most progressive platform in the history of the Idaho Democratic Party” at this year’s state convention, said Kootenai County Democrats chairman Shem Hanks.

Delegates dedicated one of the party’s 14 platform sections to the legalization of marijuana in Idaho. The convention adopted a parallel resolution directing the Idaho Legislature to pass legislation “legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and allow the potential proceeds of that new tax” to be used for schools and infrastructure. The convention also called on state legislators to legalize medical marijuana use and the agricultural cultivation of hemp.

The convention singled out immigration as one of their key areas of concern. In the platform and in a resolution, the state party slammed federal law enforcement agents while praising those protesting them.

“Customs and Border Patrol has killed immigrants fleeing for their lives simply because of who they are and where they are entering, without cause,” stated the resolution, which went on to accuse CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement of “policies that enforce racism, bigotry, and human rights violations.” Simultaneously, delegates resolved to “stand in support and solidarity with our brothers and sisters” who took part in protests across the state and nation on June 30.

Delegates highlighted their concern with the status of health care in Idaho.

“We require accessible, affordable, and comprehensive health care in every community. We believe health care is a human right and not a privilege,” they stated in the platform.

The platform also includes demands for Medicaid expansion, “access to mental health care and other necessary social services,” and affordable drug addiction prevention and drug rehab.

Another resolution urged Idaho to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which if implemented would make an end run around the Electoral College without officially abolishing it. Citing results of the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections, which Democrats lost in the Electoral College but whose candidates would have won “if the Electoral College votes were counted proportionately among the states, instead of winner take all,” the resolution called on Idaho to “place joining the NPVIC on the ballot through a voter initiative.”

The state party also adopted progressive resolutions directing the Idaho Legislature to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and that “rejects the use of government funding” for charter schools.

Hanks explained that the number of first-time delegates was overwhelming.

“The majority of the room were attending their first convention. It was inspiring to see because it shows how the party has grown and created a welcoming space for folks to participate in our party,” he said.

In addition to lauding the presence of many new faces, Hauser resident Paula Neils said the platform-building process was inclusive of everyone’s suggestions.

“I’ve been amazed at how the platform committee is able to honor each of those offerings in some way. Everybody’s part is included somehow or the other,” she said.

Like Neils, Coeur d’Alene resident Shawn Keenan was thrilled with the degree of unity and agreeableness at the convention.

“Most surprising to me was how smoothly the process went and how little contention there was with all the new ideas being presented,” Keenan said. “The platform committee was very respectful and receptive in that they listened to what the delegates wanted and tried to incorporate as many of their ideas as possible.”

Neils said the delegates at this year’s convention made special efforts to add some urgency to the platform.

“They wanted stronger language” than that of mere suggestions, she said. That shift was evidenced by the repeated use of “demand” and “require” throughout the document. She also said that the platform became less ambiguous on Second Amendment and health care issues. Keenan agreed, saying that delegates wanted the platform to be more specific, digestible, and to the point.

“I think that this year’s delegation wanted to make sure they sent a message to Idaho voters that we actually stand for more than just general ideas about our values. For example, we believe healthcare is a human right, not a privilege and specifically support actionable items like expanding Medicaid to 62,000 Idahoans,” Keenan said.

Kootenai County provided two delegates to the platform committee. They were “fearless in participating in the floor debate and making sure that our area was well represented in crafting the party platform,” said Hanks. Keenan singled out Coeur d’Alene resident and Legislative District 4 nominee Rebecca Schroeder, whose willingness to “speak to her convictions and help lead the party during the open hearing sessions” other delegates appreciated.

Hanks encouraged local residents to consider taking part in the next convention.

“A state convention can be stressful at times but at the end of the weekend, there is always a great sense of accomplishment and energy that you have helped set the tone for the next two years,” he said.

Neils testified to the mood at this year’s convention. When they concluded their work on the platform, delegates audibly cheered the platform, she said.

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