I used to regard D. Dean Haagenson as a reasonably intelligent fellow. That is, until I saw this letter published in the Coeur d’Alene Press the 1st of August 2010.
Why it fails the test
The editorial of July 21 regarding the state Republican Convention and the fractured direction of the Republican Party was mostly on target. However, I offer a counter argument regarding the advisability of repealing the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, knowing that it won’t happen.
The 17th Amendment provided for the direct election of Senators replacing the original procedure whereby members of the House of Representatives (the people’s house) were directly elected, and Senators were elected by the respective state legislatures. At first this would seem to be an obvious improvement i.e. “Power to the People.” The problem in the television age is that with a pretty smile and a red ribbon tied around him or her you can elect anyone. Witness the empty suit former “community organizer,” currently occupying the White House. Ever wonder who is pulling his strings? He would never have been elected if it was by delegates selected at party conventions who have some knowledge of the substance, capability and integrity of the candidates.
Abraham Lincoln is widely regarded as our best president. Being less than handsome and with a squeaky voice what would be his chance of being elected today.
Likewise U.S. Senators. The same concerns apply. I would prefer a candidate selected by the legislature to one by popular vote, especially in large states where, unlike Idaho, there is little opportunity to know the candidates. Sure there is the “smoke filled room” issue. However a candidate of substance will emerge from the smoke filled room because those selecting will know the individual, and be familiar with the issues facing the state. I’ll take the smoke filled room over the judgment of apathetic, ill-informed voters choosing the shiniest smile. Besides, they get to choose members of the house.
D. Dean Haagenson
Let’s first start with the Idaho GOP. The most extreme factions of the GOP in this state set up a “platform” to which all aspiring candidates must adhere if they wish to get elected. This adherence to the party platform by way of a loyalty oath. However, given the fact that Idaho’s GOP have fielded candidates who have presented some truly bizarre political positions (former Idaho Rep. Bill Sali), ethically challenged such as Phil Hart to the Idaho state legislature, and a willingness to excuse misbehavior as long as the politician had an R. behind his name (former Senator Larry Craig). Given the state of the Idaho GOP could they in fact field delegates of the sort who would indeed select a presidential candidate who had enough political appeal to win a majority vote in the electoral college? Given the credibility problems the Idaho GOP have now, the answer would be no. Consider this, the extremism of the Kootenai County “Reagan Republicans” would be hell bent on influencing what would take place at a state convention. What takes place at the state convention would then go on to influence any national convention.
Mentioning Phil Hart in particular, he was placed before an ethics committee to investigate whether he committed conflicts of interest in refusing to pay Idaho state and federal taxes while sitting on a tax committee. Without any surprise, the Republicans on the ethics committee in the Idaho state legislature fully exonerated him. And these are the people whom Haagenson feels are better suited to selecting Senators for the U.S. Senate. They can’t even recognize an ethics problem when it is sitting in front of them.
Next, quite beyond the fanaticism of fringe elements in the party, is the host of special pleaders. Whether we are talking about the NRA, the social engineers of activist religionists or for that matter major corporate interests; their interests will definitely come ahead of that of the voters. Haagenson isn’t going to “reform” anything with his above stated desire to repeal the seventeenth amendment; corruption and special interests are going to be a major factor behind not only who runs for office, who will get the most financial support for his or her candidacy, but likely whether that person gets elected based solely on the sort of special pleader support plus inevitable corruption that will result upon obtaining office. That isn’t going to change at the state level, it won’t change in who influences the selection of the senator, nor will it change anything when the lobbyists at the state level follow the new senator to his office in Washington, D.C. In short, even if Haagenson wants to deflect all attention to who’s pulling Obama’s strings, he isn’t exactly honest about who would be pulling who’s strings throughout the selection of senators post the repeal of this amendment. The one thing that would change, is the voters are denied a long-held right to vote for the candidate of their sort.
Haagenson wants to deride Obama as an empty suit. I am prepared to also argue that probably the only reason he wants the seventeenth amendment repealed, is that the popular vote of Obama in the 2008 presidential election also created an electoral majority that kept McCain from getting the presidency. In short, there is an underlying racism behind Haagenson’s argument. The seventeenth amendment made it possible for that “empty suit” to become a senator. The popular vote made it possible for that same “empty suit” to become president. Therefore, let us make these drastic changes to make it impossible for more of his kind to actually get into Congress let alone become POTUS. Has Haagenson considered that if his views had been implemented prior to GW running for office in 2000, he likely wouldn’t have fared any better. Even with the name brand of Bush to back him. Oh, but that’s right, we don’t argue repealing the seventeenth amendment if it would inconvenience a guy with an R after his name. Only now, when he has been succeeded by an African-American by the name of Obama who has a D after his name. In this much, Haagenson, you are right, repealing the seventeenth amendment wouldn’t happen. Not if it would pose a problem for popularly electing GOP candidates.
Now to address those apathetic and ill informed-voters. Uh, it does take those apathetic and ill-informed voters to put the entire candidate slate of the state legislature into office. If he can’t trust the voters to popularly elect a senator of some substance (inclusive of Larry Craig), then they are certainly to be no more trusted in selecting the legislature who appoints the senators to Washington, D.C. And it also makes no difference whether that is a factor in Idaho or states with larger populaces. The “fearsome” handsome face and shiny smile that wins over the apathetic and ill-informed voters, is just as easily packaged for TV in state and local races as is the fact in national races. Which does say that Haagenson has a serious problem with being real at this point. Point in fact, I don’t know the first damn thing about Raul Labrador. But his campaign planted a sign in mom’s front yard and we went out to vote for him during the Idaho primaries held in May. I had to learn something about him by the discussions as to his candidacy on Huckleberries online. Shouldn’t that be a bigger embarrassment to Haagenson? The voters should be more likely to be informed about GOP political candidates (and likely are not) in order not to vote for the wrong party (Dems) and the wrong man (Obama)? Labrador is handsome with a shiny smile. So is Vaughn Ward handsome with a shiny smile. Both gentlemen could certainly be packaged for TV. And both would likely prove an immense embarrassment to the state as is the party that desired to field their candidacies in the first place.
The Bonner County Rs became a national embarrassment when they decided to protest the Bonner County Fair Board using the word Fiesta (festival or party) as its fair theme. Decrying the need for English only in all matters. In a state where Idaho (comes from an Indian phrase: Sun over mountain) has French and Indian names for counties and cities. Especially here in the north. And eats “foreign cuisine” the moment they step into a Taco Bell; there is definitely a serious problem here. And Haagenson feels they are better suited to naming our senators to the U.S. Senate? If the party lacks substance, and that was certainly proven by the antics of the Bonner County Rs, then who ever they name to the U.S. Senate won’t have any more substance.
You have got to be kidding, Haagenson.