By Seth Ogilvie
Earlier this month Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation leaned over a brown table In the Idaho Public Television break room looked me in the eyes and said “We’re not Washington D.C.” He took a beat. He let the political Haiku have the space it needed. When the room had processed the juxtaposition he continued “People see the tags we wear and the building we work in and just assume the Idaho State House is just like congress. It isn’t.” Idaho is different. The Idaho State House is different. The politicians are different.
Idaho is the last frontier. Men and women still come to till their field, mine their claim or build their future with the hope that their success rests solely on their own ingenuity. Things are not as simple as when J.R. Simplot quit the eighth grade to work on a farm near Declo. The entrepreneurs of today’s Idaho work in binary, plastics and genetics but that fundamental belief that a man or woman with expertise and the desire to work can be successful at any level remains. In the Idaho Legislature these same people come together to make policy.
Idaho has a Jeffersonian government. Our House and our Senate are not made up of an intellectual aristocracy; they are made up of the people, “just that average quality of citizenship” that Theodore Roosevelt talked about in a 1903 speech in Idaho. Farmers, insurance salesman and doctors coming together to create policy that they have first-hand knowledge of. The legislators of Idaho work real jobs and interact with real people. They are not career politicians detached from the working class.
This blend of personalities is one of the things that makes Idaho unique. Farmers consulting on agricultural policy, doctors helping to write new medical laws. Jefferson idealized the citizen-run government and over 200 years later his hopes still live on in Idaho, a place that is definitely “not Washington D.C.”