Governor Little Should Have “Let The People Go”

By Bryan Smith, Bonneville County Republican Central Committee Fourth Vice Chair

Last week while Governor Little was out of state, Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin, acting as Governor in Little’s absence, signed an executive order that no political subdivision of Idaho could mandate masks.  This action prevented cities, local school boards, and others from mandating masks.  Upon his return, Little immediately rescinded McGeachin’s executive order.  Now local governments can once again mandate masks.

Little called McGeachin’s actions a “self-serving political stunt” and “an abuse of power,” adding, “This kind of over-the-top executive action amounts to tyranny—something we all oppose.”  Little said, “the significant consequences of the Lt. Governor’s flimsy executive order require me to clean up a mess.”  

I think I’ve read about this kind of thing before.  About 3,400 years ago, there was a guy named Moses who was the executive champion of his constituents who really wanted their civil rights restored.  But there was another guy named “Pharoah,” who was the chief executive government official, and who was not the least bit interested hearing Moses’ pleas on behalf of his deplorable constituents.  Pharoah thought he knew best for Moses’ “deplorables” although Moses’ people begged to differ.  They thought they could best decide for themselves.

Moses talked to Pharoah a lot trying to convince him to let Moses’ constituents live their lives without government oppression.  One day, Moses was so frustrated with Pharoah’s obstinance, Moses proclaimed to Pharoah, “let my people go,” but Pharoah was having none of it.  Moses was patient, and when the opportunity presented itself, Moses restored his people’s civil rights.  When Pharoah figured out that Moses had outmaneuvered him and freed the people, Pharoah threw a fit and did what he could to reverse their freedom.  It’s kinds of a long story, but eventually, it didn’t work out well for Pharoah.

News reports at the time say Pharoah in a fit of rage called Moses’ actions a “self-serving political stunt” and “an abuse of power,” adding, “This kind of over-the-top executive action amounts to tyranny—something we all oppose.”  Pharoah also muttered something about having to “clean up a mess” Moses created. 

Just as I’ve never understood how Pharoah could be mad at Moses for wanting his people to be free, I just cannot understand how Little can claim freeing people from government mask mandates is “over the top tyranny.”  Little’s argument makes sense only if McGeachin had issued an executive order forcing people to wear masks.  But how does Little equate restraining government with tyranny?

Little said something else I just don’t get.  Little said McGeachin’s executive order “runs contrary to a basic conservative principle—the government closest to the people governs best.”  But no decision maker is closer to the people than the people themselves.  And when it comes to personal health decisions like wearing a mask, I ask why government needs to be involved at all.  The truth is that each person will make a better choice about his health than any bureaucrat, regardless of whether that bureaucrat makes the choice at a local, state, or national level.  

The fact is that Little offers a false premise that local government can govern personal health choices better than individuals making decisions for themselves. If Little wanted to be true to conservative principles, he would have trusted the people to choose for themselves.  He would have “let the people go.”

Experts Exist to Advise, Not Govern

By Tom Luna – Chairman of the Idaho State Republican Party

Who sets public policy in Idaho? Who determines whether to close businesses, schools, require masks or face coverings, and decide how essential issues should be addressed? In the United States, and in Idaho, our constitutional republic clearly identifies who sets public policy – elected officials. In less than three months, we have an election on Tuesday, November 3, where the people decide who the elected officials will be that are making these decisions. However, some believe policy should not be set by elected officials, but rather experts in the field, whose role is to advise, not govern.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some Idaho GOP lawmakers rightfully expressed concern on how decisions and public policy is being shaped. Idaho’s district health boards have exercised unchecked authority in setting policies that impact social gatherings, religious expression, and the opening of small businesses and schools. In the pursuit to enact sound public policy, some GOP lawmakers disagree with the recommendations of these health boards, and that disagreement is well within the right of our policy makers.

Recently, Idaho Democrats and local media outlets have unnecessarily scrutinized Idaho GOP lawmakers for the simple and foundational principle that elected officials set these policies, not our unelected experts. Good public policy is passed by considering the feedback of all Idahoans. This includes constituents, key stakeholders, business leaders, and yes, also expert opinions. After listening, it is then the role of our duly elected representatives to set public policy in Idaho as this is the role they were elected to do.

Let’s be clear – no lawmaker supports ignoring expert testimony on any issue. In fact, our elected officials consult expert opinions routinely, and it is fundamental to the policy-making process. However, expert opinions are one of many facets our legislators utilize to develop effective policy.

It is a dangerous precedent to allow unelected officials, such as public health boards, unilateral authority in determining public policy. Positions entrusted with the power for policy change are elected at all levels including legislators, city council, and even the local school boards. It is for this reason that GOP lawmakers rightfully supported stripping the public health districts of their unaccountable authority. In response to this unchecked authority, Representative Ryan Kerby said, “[Voters] have no recourse. They have no voice.”

Senator Thayn responded, “We listen to the advice of our experts in Idaho, but it is the responsibility of elected officials to set policy and listen to the people. These unelected officials sitting on our public health boards do not answer to the citizens they represent, and by allowing these officials to set policy, it shifts the balance of power from the people to unelected officials. This shift of power undermines the very foundation of our republic.”

Our founding fathers created a constitution that assures whoever makes decisions is held accountable to the people. These decisions are safeguarded by a system of checks and balances. It is not the proper role of our duly elected representatives to take a backseat in the policy-making process in lieu of the expert opinion of unaccountable officials. These experts exist not to govern but to advise.

It is this philosophy, of wise governance, birthed from the people, advised by the experts, and determined with the interests of all constituents in mind, that is at the core of our Party. The Republican Party trusts the people to weigh the facts and make decisions.


Idaho’s Republican party held its Convention in Nampa this past weekend, with 533 party delegates coming from all over the state. Bonneville County was well represented with 28 delegates. Our delegates worked hard, proposing platform changes that recognized American exceptionalism, the essential nature of the electoral college, and the need for a wall along the entire southern border of the United States. Our delegation also proposed a resolution reaffirming America’s unequivocal support for the state of Israel and its right to defend its sovereignty against terrorist attacks. We also proposed a rule change to better structure the financial relationship between the state party and the seven regions throughout the state. Each of the proposals submitted by Bonneville County was overwhelmingly accepted in the general session of the convention.

During the convention we were able to attend training sessions and hear speeches by Governor Little, Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin, and outgoing State Party Chairman Raul Labrador. We were pleased to include Lt. Governor McGeachin in our County delegation, along with newly elected Representative Marco Erickson and Representative Barb Ehardt. Throughout the convention Bonneville County hosted a vendor table, exchanging Trump items (including gold Trump commemorative coins) for donations. All of the donations from this fundraising event will be used to reimburse delegates for their travel expenses and hotel bills. This prevents any delegate from being excluded because of a lack of financial means to attend the event. We received lots of donation support from other delegates, who expressed the desire that their own county delegations support similar funding programs.

Bonneville County was well represented in the races for various elected offices, with Bryan Smith and Damond Watkins competing for national committeeman, and Mark Fuller being challenged by Tom Luna for state party chairman. Damond Watkins prevailed in his race by one vote, after the withdrawal of Steve Yates, and Mark Fuller lost by the slim margin of only 12 votes. Former Superintendent of Education Luna was much better known throughout the state than Fuller and received the endorsement of businessman Frank Vandersloot, who did not attend but sent numerous emails to the delegates throughout the convention in support of Luna. After the Chairman’s race outcome was announced, Fuller’s concession speech included full support for Luna in a genuine effort to unify the party in its support for President Trump. Fuller received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his remarks.

The nearly equal vote count in both the chairman and national committeeman races shows the continued division within the Republican Party but does not detract from its unity in support of President Donald J Trump. Delegates to the national convention during August in Jacksonville, Florida were also selected, including numerous delegates from Bonneville County. Bonneville County delegates and officers enjoy the respect and friendship of delegates and officers from throughout the state, and conservatives were well-represented at the biennial Convention.

Anthony Tirino
Second Vice Chair
Bonneville County Republican Party