Gregory Graf, Idaho Political Landscape: Politics and Extremism

Now let’s jump right in. Idaho, known for its potato production and beautiful wilderness, finds itself in an awkward situation. It’s not potato farming that has gone bad. We’re veering into the twisty terrain of politics–specifically, the spicy topic of extremism making its home in Idaho’s political landscape.

It was a great conversation with Gregory Graf. Imagine this guy, so involved in American politics, that he may even dream about electoral maps. Greg is observing the extremist movements in America, but Idaho has a special place in his heart. Why? Idaho seems to be a haven for extreme views.

Greg tells it like it is: “Idaho doesn’t only involve conservatives drinking coffee and discussing tax reductions. It’s not just conservatives drinking tea and discussing tax cuts. He told me that, while the majority of people here tend to lean toward traditional conservative values (think of apple pie with less sugar), a small portion of them dances to a completely different tune — a tune which sometimes touches on extremism.

What is Idaho all about? Greg contributes his opinion to the conversation. Idaho’s love for freedom is as intense and unconditional as my affection for grandma‚Äôs lasagna. People who love liberty want to see a government that is as small as an ant.

You can become anyone, anywhere and do anything on the internet. Idaho’s extremists have used social media as a platform to spread their ideas without leaving their homes.

Idaho’s politicians are humming or tapping to extreme songs. Greg explains that the goal is not to label anyone an extremist for a single instance of forgetting to recycle, or thinking taxes are excessive. The point is to recognize when someone goes beyond the boundaries of a healthy political discussion and starts using darker hues.

How can we solve this problem? Greg thoughtfully scratches his beard (I’m assuming; we were talking on the telephone). According to him, education and dialogue are our weapons and shields in the fight against extremist dragons. Step one is teaching people to distinguish between healthy skepticism and conspiracy theory creation.

Next step: Talk to each other, really talk. Greg muse, perhaps gazing out at the horizon or his backyard. Genuine dialogue can help us to bring some people off the edge.

Greg’s final comment, as we wrapped up our discussion, was a gem. “Democracy takes time, energy, and warmth to make it.” Tackling extremism doesn’t mean shutting every single voice out that isn’t in tune; it means ensuring that all voices contribute to a chorus which strengthens the democracy instead of tearing it apart.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but we could certainly find a way to make Idaho politics more palatable. The work is clear, but we must also find ways of sweetening our state’s politics. Keep your eyes open and mind wide-open because this is going to be a rollercoaster ride.

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