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Conservative book censors and conspiracy theorists don’t even win in Boise

David Colborne
David Colborne
Opinion
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Look, I was raised by Trekkies. I get it.

I understand what it’s like to follow a show religiously, to trace its ups and downs, and to debate endlessly with fans of other franchises over which franchise is better. I know what it’s like to dedicate one’s time to arguing over whether the U.S.S. Enterprise could defeat an Imperial Star Destroyer (though I prefer Star Trek over Star Wars, not a chance — Star Destroyers are simply too large). I know what it’s like to argue over subliminal, liminal and superliminal messages inserted into episodes by oft-harried writers. I know how much fun it can be to chew on plot inconsistencies or to debate the canonicity of various third-party sources.

At no point in my life, however, did I ever pretend I was doing politics by doing so. The same, regrettably, can’t be said for the consumers of certain purveyors of conservative news commentary. 

This is the only explanation I can give for why school board candidates the country over — even in Washoe County — are running on the same platform: Our nation’s schools need to be “taken back” from an “ultra-left curriculum” which teaches children various harmful “theories” (the label preceding each “theory” rotates depending on who the Big Bad is each week; the described content of each, however, is intentionally divorced from any recognizable epistemology). If you elect them, they promise to ban “harmful” books from our school libraries and fire — if not prosecute — anyone who disagrees.

Which schools specifically are teaching this? Why, our schools, of course — all schools, whether they’re located within walking distance of the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco or the suburbs of southern Idaho, all share the same “Marxist” curriculum, library books and teachers. How do they know this? Well, they saw it on LibsofTikTok. Does that all sound very silly and ignorant to you? Then you might be a “groomer.”

To be blunt, this is all about as real as any piece of halfway immersive science fiction, which is a long winded way of saying it’s not real at all. There are, indeed, schools — just as there are, indeed, recognizable bits of physics in the Star Trek universe. Past that, the connection between reality and fantasy is only as strong as the writers need it to be to advance each plot — each plot and talking point being whatever is needed to keep viewers afraid enough to buy dodgy supplements, fake gold coins, and overpriced emergency survival supplies. Since each talking point is based on the news and a carefully curated collection of home videos instead of The Silmarillion or the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, however, they feel real. 

They are not, however, real enough to a large enough population to win general elections — not even in comparatively conservative Boise.

Boise is both the capital of and largest city in Idaho, one of the most consistently conservative states in the country. Idaho’s voters are so conservative, in fact, that Donald Trump received a larger majority in Idaho in the last election than he received in Nevada’s own Douglas County. Douglas County, for perspective, was the first, last, and thus far only constituency to elect Danny Tarkanian to something in a general election — a decision they openly regretted because Danny and his wife were somehow too liberal (they refused to support some of the internet trolls running for statewide office under the Republican banner, in other words) for their sensibilities.

Now, Boise is admittedly a bit more liberal than the rest of the state, but it’s still no Democratic Party stronghold. If you flip Washoe County’s last election results on their head — if, that is, you take the percentages President Biden (a bit over 50 percent) and Donald Trump (a bit over 46 percent) each received and give them to the opposing candidate — you’d end up with the most recent presidential election results in Boise’s home county, Ada (Boise, confusingly enough, is not located in considerably more conservative Boise County). 

Put briefly, Boise may not be as ruby red as the rest of the Gem State, but it’s still more supportive than not of Republican candidates and causes — and certainly more supportive of Republicans than any county of similar population in Nevada.

Unsurprisingly, then, incumbent politicians in Boise prefer to position themselves on the conservative side, culturally and politically speaking. That’s perhaps why, when Steve Schmidt — an incumbent member of the Boise School Board — received an endorsement from the Idaho Liberty Dogs, a hardline conservative group that previously gained notoriety by claiming libraries in neighboring Meridian were distributing “smut-filled pornography,” he opted first for nuance over outright denunciation.

“Depending upon your personal beliefs, that (endorsement) may give you cause for concern or comfort,” Schmidt wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post. “I am not a member of their group and I don’t represent them.”

That, even in comparatively conservative Boise — even for a widely respected incumbent who received the support of past superintendents and trustees, as well as the local teacher’s union — wasn’t anywhere near strong enough. Local leaders criticized both the endorsement and Schmidt’s reaction. The Idaho Liberty Dogs, demonstrating their character, responded by comparing an opposing rabbi to Hitler and claiming he supports groups that “indoctrinate and groom our children.” All of that led the Idaho Statesman to endorse his opponent: Shiva Rajbhandari, an 18-year-old Boise High student who pledged to take a gap year before college to complete his term if the rest of the school board couldn’t find a suitable student to replace him after he graduates.

On September 7th, Boise’s comparatively conservative voters got their chance to weigh in.

The result? 56 percent of the voters in that election decided they’d rather have an 18-year-old high school student who might leave the position in a year or two than a previously respected incumbent who didn’t have the sense or the spine to clearly distance himself from a bunch of rabid conservative propaganda junkies.

To be clear, Steve Schmidt didn’t run as someone who would ban books or fight some esoteric sociological theory prepended with “Marxist” in the title for narrative effect. He ran as an establishment conservative — the sort Nevada used to produce on the regular. He was, by many accounts, an excellent and professional school board member. 

He was, in other words, a better candidate for school board than any of the candidates challenging the incumbents on Washoe County’s ballots.

But he still wasn’t good enough. When given an opportunity to distance himself from a pack of overzealous fans living in political fantasy worlds, he refused to channel his inner William Shatner and tell them to get a life  — and that was all it took to lose him the election in Boise.

Not Reno. Not Las Vegas. Not San Francisco. Refusing to stand up against conservative media’s most fervent, overzealous fans lost Schmidt the election in Boise.

It certainly must not have helped Schmidt’s cause that the rest of Idaho is ruby red enough for those same fans to seize political control from time to time. Nampa, one of Boise’s suburbs, recently banned 22 books from their school’s libraries because they allegedly contained “pornography,” including Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Meanwhile, the Idaho House (the state’s lowest legislative chamber in more ways than one) tried to pass a law — House Bill 666, amusingly enough — that would criminally charge librarians if a minor checked out a book that was considered “harmful” by that august body; that bill ultimately died in the state senate.

Additionally, since Idaho is so conservative, it’s also paradoxically a punching bag by the very same conservative media some of its residents love so much. After all, if even Idaho is teaching students porn literacy (it’s not, but don’t let that get in the way of a good plotline), surely every other school in the country — including the one in your neighborhood — must be so much worse!

The worst part, if you’re a politician trying to build a constituency, is there frankly aren’t that many fans. Only three million or so people watch Tucker Carlson — if you add up everyone in the country who watches cable news commentary at the same time, you reach a high water mark of around six million viewers out of a nation of over 330 million. That’s not even 2 percent of the population. Speaking as a now-former longtime member of the Libertarian Party, I know a thing or two about trying to win elections with only 1-2 percent of the electorate — it doesn’t work, especially when that 1-2 percent is more interested in demonstrating loyalty to their fellow fans than they are in getting outside, touching grass, and maybe talking to a neighbor or two.

Boise’s voters saw firsthand what happens when you let the fans take over the show. It’s bad enough when it happens to a beloved media franchise (looking at you, The Rise of Skywalker). It’s considerably worse when it leads to school board members bullying children because of their gender identity, books getting removed from school libraries, and politicians leading witch hunts against “Marxist indoctrination” from the capitol grounds because the fans’ favorite talking heads on television or social media showed them a 30-second viral video which proves there are luxury gay space communists infiltrating every branch of Idaho’s — Idaho’s! — government.

So they voted accordingly.

The rest of us, meanwhile, just wish these dorks who keep bringing guns to school board meetings, threatening to ban books, and driving our existing board members towards a mental health crisis would just go home and leave the families of Washoe County alone. Our schools have enough problems without candidates role playing as fourteenth-level Freedom Warriors fighting the Dark Lord of Marxism on the taxpayer’s dime.

David Colborne ran for office twice and served on the executive committees for his state and county Libertarian Party chapters. He is now an IT manager, a registered nonpartisan voter, the father of two sons, and a weekly opinion columnist for The Nevada Independent. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidColborne or email him at [email protected]

Conservative book censors and conspiracy theorists don’t even win in Boise

Look, I was raised by Trekkies. I get it.

I understand what it’s like to follow a show religiously, to trace its ups and downs, and to debate endlessly with fans of other franchises over which franchise is better. I know what it’s like to dedicate one’s time to arguing over whether the U.S.S. Enterprise could defeat an Imperial Star Destroyer (though I prefer Star Trek over Star Wars, not a chance — Star Destroyers are simply too large). I know what it’s like to argue over subliminal, liminal and superliminal messages inserted into episodes by oft-harried writers. I know how much fun it can be to chew on plot inconsistencies or to debate the canonicity of various third-party sources.

At no point in my life, however, did I ever pretend I was doing politics by doing so. The same, regrettably, can’t be said for the consumers of certain purveyors of conservative news commentary. 

This is the only explanation I can give for why school board candidates the country over — even in Washoe County — are running on the same platform: Our nation’s schools need to be “taken back” from an “ultra-left curriculum” which teaches children various harmful “theories” (the label preceding each “theory” rotates depending on who the Big Bad is each week; the described content of each, however, is intentionally divorced from any recognizable epistemology). If you elect them, they promise to ban “harmful” books from our school libraries and fire — if not prosecute — anyone who disagrees.

Which schools specifically are teaching this? Why, our schools, of course — all schools, whether they’re located within walking distance of the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco or the suburbs of southern Idaho, all share the same “Marxist” curriculum, library books and teachers. How do they know this? Well, they saw it on LibsofTikTok. Does that all sound very silly and ignorant to you? Then you might be a “groomer.”

To be blunt, this is all about as real as any piece of halfway immersive science fiction, which is a long winded way of saying it’s not real at all. There are, indeed, schools — just as there are, indeed, recognizable bits of physics in the Star Trek universe. Past that, the connection between reality and fantasy is only as strong as the writers need it to be to advance each plot — each plot and talking point being whatever is needed to keep viewers afraid enough to buy dodgy supplements, fake gold coins, and overpriced emergency survival supplies. Since each talking point is based on the news and a carefully curated collection of home videos instead of The Silmarillion or the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, however, they feel real. 

They are not, however, real enough to a large enough population to win general elections — not even in comparatively conservative Boise.

Boise is both the capital of and largest city in Idaho, one of the most consistently conservative states in the country. Idaho’s voters are so conservative, in fact, that Donald Trump received a larger majority in Idaho in the last election than he received in Nevada’s own Douglas County. Douglas County, for perspective, was the first, last, and thus far only constituency to elect Danny Tarkanian to something in a general election — a decision they openly regretted because Danny and his wife were somehow too liberal (they refused to support some of the internet trolls running for statewide office under the Republican banner, in other words) for their sensibilities.

Now, Boise is admittedly a bit more liberal than the rest of the state, but it’s still no Democratic Party stronghold. If you flip Washoe County’s last election results on their head — if, that is, you take the percentages President Biden (a bit over 50 percent) and Donald Trump (a bit over 46 percent) each received and give them to the opposing candidate — you’d end up with the most recent presidential election results in Boise’s home county, Ada (Boise, confusingly enough, is not located in considerably more conservative Boise County). 

Put briefly, Boise may not be as ruby red as the rest of the Gem State, but it’s still more supportive than not of Republican candidates and causes — and certainly more supportive of Republicans than any county of similar population in Nevada.

Unsurprisingly, then, incumbent politicians in Boise prefer to position themselves on the conservative side, culturally and politically speaking. That’s perhaps why, when Steve Schmidt — an incumbent member of the Boise School Board — received an endorsement from the Idaho Liberty Dogs, a hardline conservative group that previously gained notoriety by claiming libraries in neighboring Meridian were distributing “smut-filled pornography,” he opted first for nuance over outright denunciation.

“Depending upon your personal beliefs, that (endorsement) may give you cause for concern or comfort,” Schmidt wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post. “I am not a member of their group and I don’t represent them.”

That, even in comparatively conservative Boise — even for a widely respected incumbent who received the support of past superintendents and trustees, as well as the local teacher’s union — wasn’t anywhere near strong enough. Local leaders criticized both the endorsement and Schmidt’s reaction. The Idaho Liberty Dogs, demonstrating their character, responded by comparing an opposing rabbi to Hitler and claiming he supports groups that “indoctrinate and groom our children.” All of that led the Idaho Statesman to endorse his opponent: Shiva Rajbhandari, an 18-year-old Boise High student who pledged to take a gap year before college to complete his term if the rest of the school board couldn’t find a suitable student to replace him after he graduates.

On September 7th, Boise’s comparatively conservative voters got their chance to weigh in.

The result? 56 percent of the voters in that election decided they’d rather have an 18-year-old high school student who might leave the position in a year or two than a previously respected incumbent who didn’t have the sense or the spine to clearly distance himself from a bunch of rabid conservative propaganda junkies.

To be clear, Steve Schmidt didn’t run as someone who would ban books or fight some esoteric sociological theory prepended with “Marxist” in the title for narrative effect. He ran as an establishment conservative — the sort Nevada used to produce on the regular. He was, by many accounts, an excellent and professional school board member. 

He was, in other words, a better candidate for school board than any of the candidates challenging the incumbents on Washoe County’s ballots.

But he still wasn’t good enough. When given an opportunity to distance himself from a pack of overzealous fans living in political fantasy worlds, he refused to channel his inner William Shatner and tell them to get a life  — and that was all it took to lose him the election in Boise.

Not Reno. Not Las Vegas. Not San Francisco. Refusing to stand up against conservative media’s most fervent, overzealous fans lost Schmidt the election in Boise.

It certainly must not have helped Schmidt’s cause that the rest of Idaho is ruby red enough for those same fans to seize political control from time to time. Nampa, one of Boise’s suburbs, recently banned 22 books from their school’s libraries because they allegedly contained “pornography,” including Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Meanwhile, the Idaho House (the state’s lowest legislative chamber in more ways than one) tried to pass a law — House Bill 666, amusingly enough — that would criminally charge librarians if a minor checked out a book that was considered “harmful” by that august body; that bill ultimately died in the state senate.

Additionally, since Idaho is so conservative, it’s also paradoxically a punching bag by the very same conservative media some of its residents love so much. After all, if even Idaho is teaching students porn literacy (it’s not, but don’t let that get in the way of a good plotline), surely every other school in the country — including the one in your neighborhood — must be so much worse!

The worst part, if you’re a politician trying to build a constituency, is there frankly aren’t that many fans. Only three million or so people watch Tucker Carlson — if you add up everyone in the country who watches cable news commentary at the same time, you reach a high water mark of around six million viewers out of a nation of over 330 million. That’s not even 2 percent of the population. Speaking as a now-former longtime member of the Libertarian Party, I know a thing or two about trying to win elections with only 1-2 percent of the electorate — it doesn’t work, especially when that 1-2 percent is more interested in demonstrating loyalty to their fellow fans than they are in getting outside, touching grass, and maybe talking to a neighbor or two.

Boise’s voters saw firsthand what happens when you let the fans take over the show. It’s bad enough when it happens to a beloved media franchise (looking at you, The Rise of Skywalker). It’s considerably worse when it leads to school board members bullying children because of their gender identity, books getting removed from school libraries, and politicians leading witch hunts against “Marxist indoctrination” from the capitol grounds because the fans’ favorite talking heads on television or social media showed them a 30-second viral video which proves there are luxury gay space communists infiltrating every branch of Idaho’s — Idaho’s! — government.

So they voted accordingly.

The rest of us, meanwhile, just wish these dorks who keep bringing guns to school board meetings, threatening to ban books, and driving our existing board members towards a mental health crisis would just go home and leave the families of Washoe County alone. Our schools have enough problems without candidates role playing as fourteenth-level Freedom Warriors fighting the Dark Lord of Marxism on the taxpayer’s dime.

David Colborne ran for office twice and served on the executive committees for his state and county Libertarian Party chapters. He is now an IT manager, a registered nonpartisan voter, the father of two sons, and a weekly opinion columnist for The Nevada Independent. You can follow him on Twitter @DavidColborne or email him at [email protected]

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