Dishonest Rhetoric: A Response to Laurie Lickley

Earlier this week, former state representative Laurie Lickley, who is running for state senate in District 26 and is the chair of the LD26 GOP, penned an editorial in her local paper blasting the Idaho Republican Party and its chair, Dorothy Moon.

The conservative grassroots turned to a fighter in 2022 because they were fed up with the fecklessness of the old guard establishment. For too long, Republican leadership worked harder to ingratiate themselves with power than listen to the voice of the people. The Covid pandemic exposed how many were willing to throw away constitutional rights and natural law in favor of obsequiousness to bureaucracies and big business. They eagerly sought compromise with the far left while attempting to ostracize the far right.

The knives came out even before the convention opened. Former state senator Mary Souza sent a vile email to delegates warning of all the awful things that would happen should they elect Dorothy Moon. In the days after the convention, several people took to social media and the newspapers to express their dismay. I wrote about the lack of unity and graciousness from the old guard establishment here:

Steve Millington, former Chairman of the Twin Falls GOP, urged delegates to walk out of the auditorium before we could vote on our resolutions. More than a hundred people left the Convention early, many of whom were from Twin Falls and Jerome Counties, the people with the shortest drives home. National Committeewoman Cindy Siddoway and Senate Pro Tempore Chuck Winder also participated in the walkout.

Amos Rothstein, an Ada County delegate who currently lobbies for IACI, expressed his disappointment on Twitter that the Idaho GOP decided to “elect an almost entire slate of fringe and out of touch people to the highest positions in the party.” The fact that 60% of Convention delegates voted for new leadership seems lost on Mr. Rothstein. I wonder who is really out of touch.

Outgoing Senator Steven Thayn, now the Chairman of District 14, spoke to Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press on Monday, expressing his concern that “a purge has begun.” Echoing the rhetoric of the anonymous email we received during the Convention, Thayn said “I don’t know what you call it, the Wayne Hoffman wing, probably the libertarian wing of the party… I see them imposing their own form of elitism or tyranny.”

In a public post on Facebook, former Idaho GOP Chairman Trent Clark accused the incoming leadership of “co-opting the Party’s good name,” singling out new 1st Vice Chair Daniel Silver as the lone officer standing against such tomfoolery. Mr. Silver admirably clarified his own positions: “I want to be clear that I do not believe the other members of the executive team are the enemy or power-hungry liberals.” (Mr. Clark subsequently edited his post to remove some of the more incendiary language.)

This divisive rhetoric has continued unabated for nearly two years now. The latest strategy is aimed at the upcoming presidential caucus, from creating a negative association in the minds of voters to outright sabotage. I wrote an editorial to some local papers responding to the widespread dishonesty regarding the caucus, and thus far the Idaho Dispatch has published it.

In that piece, I briefly responded to Laurie Lickley’s article in the Magic Valley Sun-Times, but the whole thing deserves a thorough rebuttal, because it is truly one of the most dishonest things I’ve read in a newspaper, and that’s saying a lot.

As always, feel free to read the whole thing before reading my responses.


As a devout Republican

Let me stop you right there. Liz Cheney is a “devout Republican”. John McCain was a “devout Republican”. Dedication to the party machinery says nothing about ideology or principles. Many of the old guard establishment call themselves “devout Republicans” despite being completely out of touch with the conservative Republican base. They consistently vote against the platform, a statement of principles drafted and approved by the grassroots delegates to the convention.

The Idaho Freedom Index tracks reasonably closely to the Idaho Republican Platform, with a few minor deviations. In her last year in the Legislature, Lickley scored a 33.2% on the Freedom Index, just six points higher than the highest-performing Democrat. Perhaps Lickley would have felt more at home in the other caucus.

As a devout Republican, it pains me to reflect on the divisive legacy Dorothy Moon and her leadership team has etched in our Grand Ole Party. Once a party known for its unity and commitment to once conservative values — freedoms and liberties for all, fiscal accountability, support of science and data — we find ourselves marred by internal conflicts, alienated members, and a distressing departure from our core principles. What does that potential legacy look like?

Let’s go through her statements one by one.

She says the GOP was once devoted to “unity”. What does that mean? There has always been a tension within the Republican Party between those who were socially conservative and those who were socially moderate, between those who supported business unconditionally and those who sought to curtail their worst impulses, and between those who promoted American power abroad and those who sought to turn our focus inward.

The “unity” that Lickley and her friends long for is one in which the conservative grassroots sit down, shut up, and do what they’re told by their betters.

Lickley says the GOP once believed in “freedom and liberties for all”. The only reason to say that’s no longer the case is if you take the stance that opposing the LGBTQ+ agenda or abortion is somehow against the conservative view of liberty.

I searched Lickley’s Twitter account to see what her view of these things might be, as well as what she said during the Covid lockdowns, but she appears to have deleted her tweets between 2018 and 2022. I can only imagine what she said. However, she did take aim at conservative attempts to keep harmful materials out of the hands of children last year:

Lickley lauds “fiscal accountability” which is ironic, considering her Spending Index score in 2022 was 5%, lower even than the Democrats. In the Legislature she was a rubber stamp for bloated bureaucracies and endless growth of government, so any talk about fiscal accountability rings hollow.

Finally, Lickley says the GOP once supported “science and data” which implies that she might well have supported government lockdowns in the name of public health. In a News 6 article from October of 2020, Lickley demurred on mask mandates but urged Idahoans to take Covid more seriously. In 2022, Lickley opposed a bill to prevent businesses from mandating Covid shots for their employees. That same year, Lickley opposed an effort by the Legislature to end the emergency declaration.

Does Laurie Lickley believe that supporting “science and data” means following the whims of Dr. Fauci?

Alienation of respected conservatives: Moon’s insistence on giving a small group of Precinct Committeemen the authority to bring elected officials to tribunals, censure them, and strip them of party resources, with no appeal process, is nothing short of an unchecked power grab. Her zeal for condemning fellow Republicans for not meeting her personal definition of conservatism is alarming. This behavior has driven away respected traditional conservatives and silenced voices that have long been the backbone of our conservative movement. This does nothing but breed an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, stifling the diversity of thought that should be the hallmark of a vibrant party.

Lickley is being dishonest about the rules regarding platform accountability. Over the last year and a half, the State Central Committee has established rules allowing legislative and county committees to request their representatives appear at a meeting to explain why they voted the way they did. If the committee believes its representative has gone against the platform, they can hold a vote to censure him or her. After two such censures, the committee can prevent the representative from using Idaho Republican Party branding in the next election.

Contrary to what Lickley said about there being no appeal process, the Idaho GOP amended the rule at the Winter Meeting last month establishing just that. Lickley surely knows this; as a legislative district chair she sits on the State Central Committee and would have voted on that rule. I’m not sure if she was present or not, but either way, it’s inexcusably ignorant to not know what the party rules say.

When she says “driven away respected traditional conservatives” you know exactly what she’s talking about: the old guard establishment which considers the platform a child’s toy rather than a statement of principles for the party as a whole. Once again, they want you to sit down, shut up, and do what you’re told. How dare you question your lawmakers!

Rules and regulations undermining principles: Imposing rules like the “purity waiting period,” where voters must wait a year before affiliating with the Republican Party, is an affront. Such rules only serve to alienate potential supporters, pushing them away rather than welcoming them into the conservative fold.

This is a consistent position of the old guard establishment. They love to see Democrats switch parties. They don’t seem concerned about whether it came of a heartfelt conversion or just because they want to tactically affect Republican primaries. The same people have no qualms with ostracizing those whom they consider to be too “extreme”, however, as former state chair Tom Luna’s statement regarding Ammon Bundy in 2021 shows.

The truth is that strategic party-switching is a problem in Idaho, but since it helps the old guard establishment, they alternate between saying it’s not happening and it’s a good thing. If Boise mayor Lauren McLean affiliated as a Republican, would Luna and Lickley welcome her with open arms?

Support of extremists and convicted criminals: Moon has lent her voice of support for people like convicted rapist Aaron von Ehlinger, while shaming and even doxing the young woman who bravely spoke out against him. She also shared support for extremist Ammon Bundy. Both — among others — are troubling and undermine the values we should be upholding for our voters. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard.

This paragraph might be the most egregious with its lies. Former representative Aaron von Ehlinger was accused of rape by an anonymous plaintiff. Even before the trial had commenced, local media and political figures had already convicted him in their minds. Then-Representatives Dorothy Moon and Priscilla Giddings urged people to wait for due process, reminding us that every American has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Giddings linked to a story that named the accuser, who turned out to be a former page who has many issues of her own. For that Giddings was censured by the House Ethics Committee, which was chaired by her own opponent in the lieutenant governor’s race. Business as usual for the old guard establishment.

Von Ehlinger was not convicted until after all of these events, so to say that Moon supported a convicted rapist is so dishonest that it might be defamatory and libelous.

Ammon Bundy was an independent candidate for governor who won more than 100,000 votes in the 2022 general election. Does Lickley believe that there are more than 100,000 “extremists” in Idaho? Former (and perhaps future) representative Karey Hanks wrote an editorial right here in the Chronicle this week looking at how the word “extremist” has been weaponized against conservatives.

In any case, Moon did not support Bundy’s candidacy for governor, since he was an independent competing against the Republican incumbent. Unlike old guard establishment figures like former senators Patti Anne Lodge and Fred Martin who publicly endorsed the Democratic candidate for attorney general in 2022 because of their hatred for Raúl Labrador, Moon fulfilled her duty as state chair and supported Brad Little’s campaign, no matter what political disagreements she might have had.

Once again this demonstrates how “unity” is a one-way street for the establishment.

Moon did write letters urging Bundy’s release from prison after the Malheur standoff, a position that was vindicated when a jury refused to convict him of a crime.

Transition to a caucus causing voting chaos: Moon’s decision to transition Idaho from a GOP primary to a caucus will drastically limit the number of people who can vote. What caregiver, blue-collar employee, deployed military personnel or stay at-home mom will be able to dedicate hours of their day to a caucus? This move, made unilaterally, goes against the principles of inclusivity and broad participation that our party should stand for. And now the media cannot participate? Transparency and election integrity seem to be questionable.

I addressed this paragraph in my editorial this week:

When the governor signed a bill to remove the March presidential primary, the Idaho GOP had to come up with a plan. Rather than acting unilaterally, as Lickley and others accuse, Chairwoman Moon has helped to facilitate the will of the Republican State Central Committee, who ultimately governs the party, which voted overwhelmingly to host a caucus on Saturday, March 2nd.

This is a recurring problem in discourse surrounding the Idaho Republican Party. Rather than admitting that Moon is carrying out the will of the State Central Committee, which is made up of precinct committeemen from throughout the state, commentators pretend that she is a dictator, delivering edicts from on high.

This betrays a deep ignorance of how organizations like the Idaho GOP work. The chair is not a dictator, rather he or she carries out the will of the committee. Dorothy Moon can no more rule by edict than a mayor can unilaterally change city ordinances. Someone like Laurie Lickley, with a long history in party politics, surely knows this.

Lickley continues her tirade:

Claiming power to appoint electors: In addition to stripping power away from voters and shifting to a firehouse caucus, Moon has given herself the power to unilaterally appoint 32 GOP delegates to the RNC Convention to determine the Republican nominee for November’s election. With no formal primary, your vote doesn’t matter.

This too is incredibly dishonest. When the Legislature removed the March presidential primary, the party had to figure out how to allocate Idaho’s 32 delegates to the Republican National Convention. One option would be having the chair simply appoint them, but she ruled that out immediately, because she’s not a dictator. Other options were to have the State Central Committee or the delegates to the convention elect the delegates, but the committee chose instead to host a firehouse caucus, which would enfranchise as many Idaho Republican voters as possible.

29 of Idaho’s 32 delegates to the RNC will be selected by Republican voters participating in the caucus on March 2. If a candidate wins an outright majority, then he or she takes all 29. If no candidate wins a majority, then any who poll above 15% will divide the delegates proportionally.

Selecting these delegates involves collaboration between the state party and the victorious candidate’s campaign. Typically convention delegates vote to approve the slates — it’s almost always a rubber stamp — but due to RNC rules this year the slates must be ready before the convention. That doesn’t mean that Dorothy Moon is “unilaterally” appointing the slate.

The remaining three delegates are, by RNC rule, the state chair, national committeeman, and national committeewoman.

Again, Laurie Lickley should know these details. Is she just ignorant, or is she being deliberately dishonest to attack her political opponents?

Growth of political extremism, elitism and pandering to special interests: The rise of political extremism in Idaho is a direct consequence of Moon’s leadership. The concentration of power in the hands of party elites fosters an environment of elitism, alienating everyday Republicans who may feel their voices are drowned out by a select few. Moon’s leadership seems to compromise our values in pursuit of financial support, jeopardizing the very principles we claim to uphold.

Once again with the accusations of extremism. It’s the establishment’s one and only card to play. Anyone with views that were considered normal, even progressive, up until just a few years ago is an “extremist”. Lickley’s accusation of concentrating power in the hands of party elites is absolutely laughable, a perfect example of projection. The old guard establishment is angry that their chokehold on the party has been broken, and is lashing out against anyone and everyone it believes stands in its way of power.

It’s also ironic that Lickley accuses Moon of compromising Republican values in pursuit of financial support, because that’s exactly what the old guard did. When Tom Luna was running for reelection as state chair in 2022, he said nothing about principles or ideology, but focused on his ability to raise money.

Infighting and loss of party unity: A party plagued by infighting is a weakened party. Moon’s tenure has witnessed internal strife, pitting Republicans against each other instead of focusing on the true opposition. Unity, once our strength, is now a distant memory.

This additional attempt to bully her way to power and refusing to welcome viewpoints from her peers could leave Idaho–and the nation–with drastic, long-term leadership consequences.

Consider the chutzpah of one of the people responsible for infighting complaining about infighting. She and her old guard friends have been relentlessly attacking Dorothy Moon and the rest of the Idaho GOP leadership, both within the party and in the pages of the corporate press. This is akin to an arsonist accusing his victim of burning down his own house.

Dorothy Moon’s leadership has left an indelible mark on the Idaho GOP, and it’s not one we should celebrate. As Republicans, we must question whether we want a party that compromises its values, alienates its members, and allows power to be concentrated in the hands of a few.

It’s time to reflect on the direction in which Moon is taking us and consider if this is the party we want to be a part of—a party that risks losing touch with its roots and families but more importantly, with the conservative voters it claims to represent.

Lickley is correct, it’s time to reflect on the last two years of Dorothy Moon’s leadership. She was elected on a promise to fight for conservative values and maintain the integrity of the Republican Party. Those who have fought most fiercely against her have been people like Lickley, representing the old guard establishment that was firmly rejected by the grassroots in Twin Falls. Republican voters can see clearly which faction is interested in advancing conservative principles and traditional values and which is only interested in its own power.

Laurie Lickley and her friends would return the Idaho GOP to the era of ignoring social issues, giving carte blanche to big businesses, and growing government with no end. They are willing to outright lie to regain power, which is a great reason not to give them power ever again. They would burn the party down if it meant they could rule over the ashes.

Grassroots Republicans rejected this nonsense two years ago and I believe they will reject it again in Coeur d’Alene.

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