COEUR d’ALENE — Led by Kootenai County delegates, Idaho Republicans took bold stances at their recent state convention in Pocatello. Not all of them ended with agreement.
Republicans debated but did not adopt a platform plank declaring the party’s support for “enhancing penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens in the agricultural sector.”
Region 1 Chair and Coeur d’Alene resident Bjorn Handeen called it a simple matter of law and order.
“You can’t knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Their status must be checked,” Handeen said. “But there were many, particularly from eastern Idaho, who even knowing that they’re illegal practices were proud to say that they would continue to do this.”
Opponents cited the perceived poor work ethic of their kids and grandkids as reasons why, he explained.
“It was really shocking to me, the harshness with which they spoke about their fellow citizens,” Handeen said. He added: “Eastern Idaho young people need to replace their political leaders, because their political leaders want to replace them.”
The proposal was not accepted by the platform committee, but did garner enough support from committee members to warrant a minority report and a full hearing in the general assembly.
“Supporters included both establishment and more conservative Republicans,” Handeen said.
Though the measure failed by about 220-170, Handeen was pleased that centrists and conservatives united on the issue.
The party also tackled the thorny topic of free speech by way of Tommy Robinson, whom British courts jailed May 25 for reporting outside a courthouse where members of an alleged Muslim grooming gang were on trial for allegedly forcing British girls into prostitution. By court order, his case was temporarily banned from discussion on British airwaves, according to Newsweek. His imprisonment was protested in Israel, Germany, Holland, the U.K., and other countries May 27-28. Several British newspapers petitioned to have the gag order lifted, which the courts did lift on May 29.
Robinson was sentenced to 13 months in prison for live-streaming outside the courthouse while the jury deliberated on its verdict. The Idaho GOP resolution called on Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch to join with Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar to “assist in the release of political prisoner Tommy Robinson.”
As a bastion of free speech on Earth, the U.S. has to speak up for those whose governments censor them, said Coeur d’Alene resident Roger Garlock. Post Falls resident Nick Henderson said that with the political clout of Idaho’s Republican Party comes the responsibility for taking leading positions on human rights. The issues aren’t as distant as they may appear. Just as police locked up Robinson and courts censored speech about his case in the U.K., “conservative speakers are shouted down on campuses, or thrown out of restaurants” here in the U.S., Henderson said. “Our voice is in the early stages of being censored, and Tommy Robinson’s ordeal in the U.K. can stand as a grim foreshadowing of what we can expect here in the United States if we don’t take a stand now and change course.”
The body also condemned the creeping genocide of farmers in South Africa. According to the CIA World Factbook, South Africa’s total population numbers 54.8 million, with a small 8 percent white minority and an 88 percent black or “colored” majority. According to statistics released May 5 by South African Minister of Police Bheki Cele, 561 white South African farmers were attacked last year alone. Farmers have been targeted for attacks ranging from robbery to brutal tortures such as being burned with boiling water, before being gang raped and murdered in front of family members, according to News Corp Australia reports in March. As reported by the Independent on March 19, farm wife Hannetjie Ludik, 56, explained how four days before Christmas 2017, three black men invaded her home, robbed them of all their money, tied up her husband, and gang raped her. No one has been arrested, the Independent reported. Cele said 3,059 attacks on white farmers have been reported since 2012, with an average of 56 murdered per year.
The resolution called on Crapo, Risch, and Reps. Raul Labrador and Mike Simpson “to draft a compelling resolution for the United States Congress calling for the immediate cessation of economic support for the country of South Africa until a verifiable end is brought to the South African ruling majority’s racism and human rights violations.” According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, American taxpayers sent $597.2 million to South Africa in 2016, and $360 million in 2017.
“Whether it has something to do with Idaho or not, one of the main things we talked about is that Idaho has the potential to be a leader,” Garlock said. “Just because it’s not happening in the state doesn’t mean that as Republicans, Christians, or as a state that can step up in the Union we shouldn’t condemn this stuff.”
Along with a resolution congratulating Israel on the 70th anniversary of its independence “and reaffirming the bonds of friendship and cooperation between Idaho and Israel,” the resolutions on Robinson and South Africa passed without debate, said the delegates.
The convention was also significant because the state party made its first platform changes since 2012, Handeen said. While they were minor issues, “any change shows that there is something upon which all factions agree enough to get a majority.” He said that of all the state conventions he had attended since 2010, he had never seen the various factions of the party working together so well. “Maybe that’s all because we’re hopeful about Brad Little. We have a lot of hope. The Brad Little people are welcoming us.”
Hayden resident Jennifer Locke was also elected first vice-chair of the state party.