Idaho

The Conquest of Northern Idaho

From Orange County to Coeur d'Alene

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The High Country News has published an interesting article headlined "How right-wing emigrants conquered North Idaho." It's about a process comparable to the influx of hippies who pushed Vermont to the left a few decades back, or the effort by the libertarians of the Free State Project to do something similar in New Hampshire. In this case the migrants are conservative Republicans of the old southern California variety—indeed, many of them used to live in southern California—who have moved to Kootenai County, Idaho, quadrupling the place's population and transforming it into "the most Republican county in the most Republican state in the nation." (You can debate that status, but let's stipulate that it has few rivals for the title.) The piece is locked behind a paywall, unfortunately, but this should give some of the flavor:

Coeur d'Alene, Coeur d'Alene/Does whatever a spider cain'

Southern California was struck by a series of disasters in the early 1990s—a recession, an earthquake, race riots—that together marked the beginning of an exodus. Between 1992 and 2000, excluding birth and death rates, California lost 1.8 million more people than it gained; collectively, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona gained 1.4 million more than they lost. More than half of the immigrants to Idaho in that period came from California. Of the top four counties that lost emigrants to Kootenai, three were in California—San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange.

Like many other mass movements, this one spread by word of mouth. In 1990, the Coeur d'Alene Press reported that one Orange County family had convinced "half its neighborhood" to relocate to Coeur d'Alene. A pastor told me that "whole (evangelical) ministries" came north together. By the end of the 1990s, more than 500 California police officers had retired to North Idaho, among them Mark Fuhrman, who committed perjury in the prosecution of O.J. Simpson. One officer told the Los Angeles Times that he left Anaheim because "the narrow roads got wider, orange groves became tract homes and street gangs became too numerous to count." He went looking for "another Shangri-La," and found it in Kootenai County.

Till we have built New Anaheim/In Idaho's more pleasant Land

Indeed, as the county's population soared above 100,000, it began to look less like Idaho and more like suburban California. The prairie was paved with curling cul-de-sacs and gridded with Starbucks, Del Tacos and Holiday Inns. The old Potlatch Mill on Lake Coeur d'Alene became a golf course, and another mill site, just past the outflow into the Spokane River, became an office complex and parking lot….

Pundits predicted that Californians' migration to places like Kootenai County would have a moderating effect on the politics of the Intermountain West. The newcomers "are finding work in jobs unrelated to the traditional timber, mining and agricultural fields," observed Timothy Egan, a Western correspondent for The New York Times, in 1993. Egan suggested that these "lifestyle refugees" would cause an "environmentalist tilt in the (Western) electorate." But he overlooked a key detail: The counties from which these refugees came were the most conservative in California. They were, in fact, the birthplace of modern American conservatism—home to the John Birch Society, early evangelicalism, the 1978 tax revolt that led to property-tax limits in Proposition 13, and two years later, Reagan's election to the presidency.

When California's conservative bulwarks faltered in the 1990s under the weight of rising taxes, stricter regulations, Mexican immigration, and the state's steady liberalization, conservatives went looking for what they believed they had lost. Many told me that Kootenai County became their idea of "God's Country"—an American utopia, a refuge from "a world turned upside down."

I don't find the new arrivals' agenda all that attractive—Mark Fuhrman is not my idea of an appealing poster boy, and whatever libertarian instincts the immigrants may have on guns and taxes are mixed with far-from-libertarian notions about a state-enforced moral code. But setting aside the specifics and looking at the larger pattern, is it a good thing that a corner of the country can take on such a strong ideological shade?

The article's author, Sierra Crane-Murdoch, isn't enthusiastic: She worries that "counties, red and blue, where the majorities' values are reinforced in every facet of local government" are becoming echo chambers "where it's easy to forget the way the other half thinks." But her story ends with a local pol making an exception to his love of lower taxes, pitching a school bond to the sorts of activists who spend their days purging RINOs, and helping the measure pass with 72 percent support. Whatever else you might say about that, it does not suggest an electorate unwilling to consider other points of view.

At any rate, the piece is a good read. I'll leave you with one more quote from it, in which Tina Jacobson, formerly of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, offers what may be the best excuse a political figure has ever given for leaving office: "She told me that she wanted more time to work on her novel, a paranormal romance about an ambitious anti-tax crusader who is elected to the Idaho Legislature and falls in love with a ghost."

Bonus link: "The Western Lands."

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  1. Let’s face it, the real reason for the move is because they were more comfortable living in a flyover state. Of course, once California pulls Washington and Oregon into the sea with it, ocean front real estate once again!

  2. “She told me that she wanted more time to work on her novel, a paranormal romance about an ambitious anti-tax crusader who is elected to the Idaho Legislature and falls in love with a ghost.”

    Make that a high school girl running for school council and I think you’ve got a book deal.

  3. the influx of hippies who pushed Vermont to the left a few decades back

    Is there a libertarian way to keep that from happening?

    1. Mandatory bathing ordinances via title covenants?

  4. “How right-wing emigrants conquered North Idaho.”

    Wait a second. Right-wingers leaving northern Idaho conquered it? Did they leave behind some sort of killer robots?

  5. “I don’t find the new arrivals’ agenda all that attractive — Mark Fuhrman is not my idea of an appealing poster boy, and whatever libertarian instincts the immigrants may have on guns and taxes are mixed with far-from-libertarian notions about a state-enforced moral code.”

    Oh, come on. Furman was flirting with this would-be screenwriter, telling tall tales about police (mis)behavior, and using the “n-word.” Just under ten years later, the OJ lawyers asked him if he’d said the n-word in the previous ten years. He denied it, end ended up getting a stiffer sentence for his perjury than OJ got for his double murder. What happened to picking up stakes and making a new life elsewhere?

    And assume (for the sake of discussion) that the “only” enlightened opinions these migrants have are on guns and taxes, and that they want to impose morality in other areas. Contrast this with gauleiter Bloomberg and his city’s antitax, antigun, pro-enforced morality culture and decide which is better. I mean, it’s not as if the liberal/blue/Democrat areas are less insistent on enforcing morality, they simply have a different morality to enforce, only *their* morality includes high taxes and bans on guns.

    1. *protax,* antigun, etc.

    2. assume (for the sake of discussion) that the “only” enlightened opinions these migrants have are on guns and taxes, and that they want to impose morality in other areas

      No need to assume, Eduard. The article includes quotes from locals who favor lower taxes & smaller government but who get shunted aside by these activists because of their opinions about stuff like teh gays.

      Contrast this with gauleiter Bloomberg and his city’s antitax, antigun, pro-enforced morality culture and decide which is better

      The question was whether I find their agenda appealing, not whether it’s better or worse than Michael Bloomberg’s.

      1. Idaho has gay marriage and no criminal sanctions against homosexual acts, as far as I know.

        Doesn’t seem like this great exodus has brought with it a great imposition of legal sanctions.

        1. But try getting oral sex at noon in Coeur d’Alene on a weekday.

        2. Doesn’t seem like this great exodus has brought with it a great imposition of legal sanctions.

          I didn’t say it did. It was a comment on the agenda of the activists described in the article, not on what they’ve actually enacted.

          1. Ah. Well, I’ve heard about enough “agendas”, from the Gay Agenda to the Gun Owners’ Agenda, that I’m not too worried about what is in the end mostly inflated talk and hearsay.

        3. and no criminal sanctions against homosexual acts

          Only because of Lawrence v. Texas prevents them from enforcing the law still on their books that punishes sodomy with life imprisonment.

          1. Baseless speculation is baseless.

          2. I’d love to hear you point out all the gay people who were thrown in prison for life in Idaho in the years directly prior to Lawrence v. Texas.

            That law had been on their books for years and was rarely enforced by the time of Lawrence v. Texas. Moreover, had L v. T never happened, do you really think that they’d still be enforcing that law in 2013?

            1. That fact that a law isn’t being enforced but is left on the books to justify the police harrassing “the wrong kind of people” makes it even worse in my opinion.

              1. Your entire line of thinking on this subject is based entirely on speculation.

                First, you speculate that anti-sodomy ordinances would be enforced barring Lawrence v Texas.

                Second, you speculate that enforcing such ordinances is a goal of the emigres discussed in the article, who as quoted have expressed beef with gay marriage (but not with a lack of enforcement of anti-sodomy ordinances).

                Third, you speculate without any proof that the group of Idaho emigres would have changed Idaho’s political situation on this topic in any way, even if they were inclined to support anti-gay laws. I would point out that the Islamic immigrants in MI and other states haven’t caused a sea change in the legal status of gays there, despite having much less accommodating views on the subject on average.

          3. Is that true? How often did these use it before Lawrence?

            There are plenty of unused laws on the books. Its quite possible Idaho had stopped using that one well before Lawrence.

            1. Yes it’s true:

              http://www.legislature.idaho.g…..8-6605.htm

              Oh and apparently the news hasn’t gotten around yet that the law isn’t being enforced:

              http://www.cdapress.com/news/l…..4330f.html

              COEUR d’ALENE – The Kootenai County Sheriff said Friday that he is compelled to drop the department’s Boy Scouts of America charter because the organization is promoting a lifestyle that is against state law.

              “It would be inappropriate for the sheriff’s office to sponsor an organization that is promoting a lifestyle that is in violation of state law,” Sheriff Ben Wolfinger said.

              Sodomy is against the law in Idaho, he added.

              “I have talked with Chris Peterson about this and sent him a copy of the law,” Wolfinger said.

            2. On sodomy prosecutions in Idaho through the 90s:

              In 1992, the Idaho Court of Appeals decided State v. Hayes, interpreting the penalty provision of the “crime against nature” law. For what a jury believed to be consensual, rather than non-consensual sodomy, Brian Hayes received a sentence of 5-12 years in prison. The Court of Appeals first reaffirmed the Miller precedent that the failure to state a maximum penalty for sodomy meant that the maximum could be life imprisonment.

              The law, the court noted, had remained unchanged in wording for more than a century, indicating

              that the citizens of Idaho, as represented by the legislature, consider the offense grave enough to remain opposed to the conduct prohibited by the statute. Our conclusion is supported by the brief repeal of the statute in 1972…The legislature quickly repealed this law [the repealer] and reenacted the original statute. We assume that a statute which received such treatment and which has remained unchanged for so many years retains its vitality and public support.

              …the Court of Appeals conceded that Idaho was the only state that permitted a life sentence and was one of only a few which would allow a sentence even of the minimum of five years. However, the sentence that Hayes received “is not so extreme as to shock the conscience of reasonable people.”

              1. In 1996, the state’s sex offender registration law was amended to make the registration requirement, including for private, consensual sodomy, for the person’s lifetime, rather than just 10 years.

                So, not only did they not stop using it, they continued to amend it, as well as to reenact it after a repeal. I’m sure not a huge number of people were prosecuted, but what is it we say about selective enforcement bullshit usually?

                1. But is this because of the “right wing” north or the Mormon south?

                2. …which still doesn’t say anything about whether this group of CA emigres would have changed anything about Idaho’s enforcement or lack thereof in lieu of Lawrence v Texas.

                  That said, boo on Idaho for having and selectively enforcing such shit laws.

      2. But…but…KULTUR WAR!!!

      3. Jesse Walker,

        With all due respect, sometimes it seems that you and your distinguished colleagues are not trying to prudently judge among existing alternatives but, instead, denouncing everyone who is impure from a strict philosophical cosmotarian viewpoint, and discounting the possibility of political alliances with said impure people….unless they’re on the left.

        Now, I could always be exaggerating. But that’s the vibe I’m getting. Am I missing something? I’m open to persuasion.

        1. With all due respect, sometimes it seems that you and your distinguished colleagues are not trying to prudently judge among existing alternatives but, instead, denouncing everyone who is impure from a strict philosophical cosmotarian viewpoint, and discounting the possibility of political alliances with said impure people….unless they’re on the left.

          I’m happy to cooperate with these people on the areas where we agree. Or I would be if I lived in Idaho, which I don’t.

          I think you’re missing the point of the post, which was (a) to point to an interesting story about a migration from California to Idaho and its political consequences, and (b) to disagree with the author’s notion that this kind of federalist sorting is a bad thing. You seem hung up on my comment that a bunch of ex-cops from the L.A. area don’t share my politics, but as far as I’m concerned that’s just an obvious point to get out of the way before we can get to subject (b).

          1. All right, that’s fair enough. Strictly speaking, I have no standing to complain, since I’m not a “pure” libertarian. I simply think the pendulum has swung just a tad too far in the statist direction, and I was kind of hoping for a broad coalition to put things back to equilibrium, after which the members of the alliance can go back to fighting each other about how far to go in the anti-state direction.

            Right now, I’m just trying to get a hat tip for the education articles I posted in the A.M. links, but so far, not a nibble. Do I have to start posting nude pictures?

    3. decide which is better

      Can’t I decide that both are just two different sides of the same dystopia, like the Eloi and the Morlocks?

      1. Swipe! I am so using that! Consider yourself violated.
        Especially. if. I. learn. to. type.

        1. Ow? I guess.

          Oh, and RAPE CULTURE!

    4. “I mean, it’s not as if the liberal/blue/Democrat areas are less insistent on enforcing morality,…”

      They also do not like to call it “morality”.

  6. Idaho is high on my list for permanent residency after PA school. It is incredibly friendly to medicine. Low cost of living, mountains, low population are big draws too.

    I am troubled by the morality police in ID, but I was under the impression that the Mormons in the southern part of the state were the main force behind moral codes. The morality police are everywhere anyway, and it doesn’t matter if the state or politicians are blue or red. I am in Minnesota now. Home of the 21st century marriage, and 19th century drinking laws.

    1. One thing to remember about Southern Idaho is that it isn’t quite that monolithic. Southeast Idaho is the Mormon stronghold, from the Wyoming border to about Burley. There, the smaller the town, the greater the Mormon majority. Once you get to Twin Falls, you still have a large Mormon minority, but not as large as further east. Boise has fewer Mormons, though Meridian has its fair share, but not enough to have the control as in Eastern Idaho. (And I say this as an Eastern Idaho raised Mormon, living in Boise)

    2. Swarley,

      Come to Idaho! It’s wonderful here…particularly North Idaho, which I would define as Latah County and northward. I visit CDA frequently and have never witnessed the sort of uber-conservative mind-set that this guy claims to be present. Ron Paul did very well in North Idaho in last year’s caucus, taking a clear majority (not just a plurality) in the first round of voting in multiple counties. Very few places can make similar claims.

      The quality of life here is fantastic. The weather is not nearly as extreme as you would think. We actually have both milder winters and milder summers than the northeast or the midwest. Home prices aren’t as cheap as you might assume, but they’re very reasonable considering all the amenities of the area. We’ve got practically non-existent crime. Some of the country’s best skiing, hiking, snow-shoeing, rafting, and kayaking are right outside your door. And the people of the inland northwest are ridiculously friendly and considerate.

      I’ve lived a lot of places (11 different states, from coast to coast, as an adult), and Idaho is by far my favorite.

  7. […]whatever libertarian instincts the immigrants may have on guns and taxes are mixed with far-from-libertarian notions about a state-enforced moral code.

    Really? How so? I am constantly informed of imminent Republican theocracy, but to be frank examples of such in 2013 are few and far between. To paraphrase a popular quote, it seems to me that the dark night of fascism is always descending in the conservative states and yet lands most often in the progressive states.

    1. It’s such bullshit. The GOP sucks ass for a variety of reasons, but it’s not going to impose a theocracy, outlaw abortion, or give corporations the vote. Leftist bogeymen not withstanding. The GOP has had control of the government several times, and not one of those things came even close to happening.

      1. Umm, the GOP regularly tries to outlaw abortion (at the state level in various places) and only fails because of court interventions.

        1. I’m talking the federal level, but that’s a fair point. Still, look at how a conservative Supreme Court was just destined to ban abortion. Never even came close.

        2. Considering that plenty of libertarians are pro-life on grounds that are far from religious, I would hardly categorize such as an example of theocracy in action (though I agree with you that more states would be pro-life if not for a certain errant and highly un-Constitutional Supreme Court ruling).

          1. There is no firmly libertarian position on abortion, since the whole thing hinges on when you think a person is a person. If it’s at twelve weeks, then killing a fetus might be a problem after that.

            I see the point to both sides of that debate, but I think the idea that one side is fighting for liberty and the other against is silly.

            It’s utterly absurd that a substantial number of voters focus on this issue in national elections, year after year.

            1. It is true that abortion activism is far out of proportion to the impact that such activism can have on the issue, barring a Supreme Court ruling favorable to states’ rights. Unfortunately the truth of it is that, since one side of the abortion debate has to be right, one side or the other is committing a grave violation of fundamental rights.

              If a fetus is no more than a clump of cells, then pro-lifers are enslaving women en masse without any right.

              If a fetus is a person with rights, then pro-choicers are enabling a crime against humanity within our borders.

              1. Maybe the anti-abortion people should just pay women to not have abortions.

                1. Some anti-abortion groups do exactly that, or offer to pay expenses to make it easier for women to bring their pregnancy to term.

                  1. Given the complete change your body goes through during pregnancy, I imagine there are plenty for whom merely offering to pay the medical costs is not even in the realm of enough money to convince them to bring a baby to term.

                    Afterall, look at the costs for surrogacy. Now take all the women who don’t do it. I imagine their price would be a large multiple of the leading surrogacy rate.

        3. A feminist wisecrack from the 70s said that “If men could have babies, abortion would be a sacrament.”

          Well, they still can’t but, according to Reason commenters, it is.

          1. Eh. I’d say that the commentariat is about evenly split with a slight pro-choice plurality, which matches both polling and my own anecdotal experiences of libertarian opinions on abortion.

        4. I have a hunch they’d stop trying if they knew no court was going to bar their product.

    2. “…it seems to me that the dark night of fascism is always descending in the conservative states and yet lands most often in the progressive states.”

      Bingo.

  8. …is it a good thing that a corner of the country can take on such a strong ideological shade?

    Of course it is. Self-government is a basic human right. Beyond that, let any small group decide how they want to govern themselves, and compare the results. We can all learn from the results, avoiding the worst outcomes with only those small groups suffering if they make bad governing choices.

    Unlike in the USA, where we’re all stuck with Obama thanks to the 20 percent of the population who voted for him.

  9. The Free State Project is up to 14,219 signees… with 1,170 already in New Hampshire.

    Should make big news when they hit 20K and the real invasion begins…

    I wonder how many of the 14K remember that they signed up and plan to move?

  10. Back in the 1980s, I remember Kootenai County being newsworthy for having a “large” neo-Nazi/skinhead presence. I put “large” in scare quotes simply because it wasn’t really more than a handful of people, but they did manage to make news elsewhere.

    Also, it has a large and culturally conservative Mormon presence, if I recall correctly. I doubt the newcomers are really all that different, other than being more suburban.

    1. That whole neo-nazis in north Idaho myth is such crap. There are certainly people who come here to live life how they see fit, with minimal governmental control. The so-called ‘neo-nazis’ of north Idaho are just racists who mind their own business and hole up in a cabin. They’re not trying to interfere with anyone else’ way of life. If they want to have wacky/ignorant beliefs/values, what’s wrong with that, as long as they’re not hurting anybody else?

  11. The claim that Furman committed perjury (he did plead guilty to it) is a bit weak. His case is WAY weaker than Clinton’s, who was allowed to plead guilty to contempt of court for a clearly material false statement. Whether Furman’s lie was material to the case, is the issue and imo (and that of many attorneys I have read on this issue) – it wasn’t.

    Regardless, Furman is truly a guy who has done heroic work since his retirement – bringing Skakel to justice, among other things, something the CT authorities couldn’t do.

    Furman was a good cop who was smeared with the race card, and instead of wallowing in defeat, began a solid career as an author and a civilian (so to speak) investigator, upon retirement.

    Not to mention the case involved the rarely used one man grand jury. Truly weird.

    Just giving props to a good cop and a good person, one who has brought a murderer to justice (no, not OJ. Skakel)

    1. Whether Furman’s lie was material to the case, is the issue and imo (and that of many attorneys I have read on this issue) – it wasn’t.

      No, what was material to the case was when Furman was asked on the stand if he’d manufactured any evidence or filed any false reports in the case and his response was to take the fifth. A number of the jurors have said that the acquittal was entirely a result of that one answer.

      Furman was a good cop who was smeared with the race card

      He was a shitty cop who let a murderer go free because it was easier to just frame people then to do actual police work.

      1. First of all, Furman didn’t frame anybody. That’s ludicrous.

        And taking the fifth was not the element of the perjury charge. The perjury charge came from his claim about not using the “n” word, when in fact he had used the term before, spefically in a screenplay treatment he did a taped interview on.

        Even if what you say about taking the fifth is true, it’s completely irrelevant to the PERJURY charge which was the charge I was referencing.

        Furman did good police work on the OJ case, and ironically, some of his best police work, as a “civilian” investigating the Moxley murder.

        1. First of all, Furman didn’t frame anybody.

          Of course he did. That appears to have been the SOP for the LAPD: find the most likely suspect, frame them, and then hope you framed the guy who actually did it. And usually it worked, because the most likely suspect was poor and couldn’t do anything to stop it.

          Unfortunely in the OJ case they tried it on someone who was rich and got caught because he could afford a competent attorney.

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