Last Friday, under threat of political consequences from a petulant Legislature, Governor Brad Little announced a breathtaking roll back of public health and safety precautions that would allow public school sporting events to fill venues to 40% capacity immediately. In the coming days Idaho students, teachers, coaches, and community members will gather in closed air gymnasiums by the hundreds and thousands to cheer on basketball games. This will be held as a victory over the tyranny of boredom during a pandemic but will only be a victory for viral spread.
Today, despite the Governor’s best efforts to make it clear he was sacrificing the health and wellbeing of Idaho students and teachers to the political will of the state’s Legislature, they gathered in maskless anger to vote on provisions to strip the authority of the Governor to place any restrictions at all on any public gatherings. The resolution passed the House overwhelmingly in approval, and the whole state waits with bated breath that the will of its state Senators will bring calm and reason to the proceedings. All of this action is occurring at a time that Idaho’s public health department is declaring most of its counties at high or critical risk, and yet features elected officials making outrageous claims such as there being scientific evidence that the pandemic at large is over.
The state of Idaho is experiencing a critical lack of public safety at the height of a global pandemic because instead of reasoned competent leadership, it is led by an unthinking mob having only gone through the motions of representative democracy. That the Governor can ignore the best science of his own health department to placate the legislature and still we face the universal lifting of restrictions is evidence that there is no effective leadership in the state. What does that mean for Idahoans? It means that music teachers, athletic coaches, and school administrators will be forced to put their students and learning communities into situations they know to be unsafe. I myself have spent the day grappling with how to manage my work responsibilities when they will begin to pose certain health risks to myself, my family, and my students.
The bottom line here is that the political brinksmanship adopted and championed by American politics at large has reached its irrational conclusion in Idaho where mob rule is happy to play games with public health and safety to manage political situations. The leadership in Idaho has turned its back on their responsibility to look after the wellbeing of their citizenry, and are making the cowardly and politically convenient decision to ignore a pandemic after so much effort has been given, so much has been sacrificed, and so much progress has been made to bring us closer to containing it. They are calmly making political calculations on the lives of their constituents and have abdicated any semblance of orderly representative leadership of the State. There is a state of mob rule in Idaho that the Governor is actively losing control over, and its citizens need help to regain control of the chaos, find a path to reason, or get out of the state before the weight of these careless decisions in front of the state government come down in full force on them.
In the meanwhile, not a small number of Idaho workers are going to be placed in the impossible situation of balancing their job performance, the wellbeing of their communities, and their personal or family health. Selfishness abounds in the guise of ‘personal freedom,’ and public health decisions rest on the boredom of Idaho citizens rather than science and effective leadership. “The pandemic is over by all means of data” was declared on floor of the Idaho House of Representatives this week. That is objectively not true, but there does seem to be mounting evidence to suggest Idaho’s ability to competently consider its governing responsibility to the wellbeing of its citizenry has come to an end.