By David Ripley
Idaho Democrats and media folks will be making much this week of Cecil Andrus, the recently deceased former governor of Idaho. And, honestly, there is much about Andrus’ career which is very noteworthy. There is no doubt, for instance, that he is one of the state’s most effective politicians. With his time as Interior Secretary (under Jimmy Carter), Andrus became one of Idaho’s most prominent national exports, ranking with the likes of William Borah and Frank Church as a player on a national stage.
He worked hard to move Idaho in a leftward trajectory during his second stint as governor, and Democrats are, as one would expect, lauding his work at improving education funding and expanding public lands.
We note, however, that the many obituaries and tributes proffered to date fail to mention his most significant historical moment: As the entire nation watched, Cecil Andrus vetoed HB 625 following the 1990 Session of the Idaho Legislature. This bill would have severely restricted the practice of abortion in Idaho. As a pro-abortion Democrat consultant in those days, I was among those urging his veto of the bill. And I was present in his office at the moment he stamped his veto on the bill; much to my shame, I joined with those cheering his action.
Prior to that moment, Andrus had always campaigned as “pro-Life” and something of a moderate. And in that he was not alone. Most Idaho Democrats holding elective office in the immediate post-Roe era identified as “pro-Life”.
But as the lives of thousands of preborn hung in the balance, Andrus chose to defend abortion-on-demand. He then persuaded most Democrats in Idaho to abandon their historical position to eventually become the party of abortion rights. Andrus and Idaho Democrats enjoyed some initial political success with their new “progressive” strategy.
Over the decades since, however, Idaho Democrats began to swallow more and more of the radical social agenda on marriage, homosexuality, abortion and transgenderism. They began to abandon the public argument that they were different from more radical national Democrats, and, today, make little pretense of seeking to represent the values or opinions of the Idahoans they seek to “represent” in office. I believe this alienation is the key failing of the modern Idaho Democrat Party, and central to the reason they hold so few seats in the Legislature.
This transformation was exemplified by Cecil Andrus himself when he heartily endorsed Barack Obama for president.
So, for all his brilliance and skill as a national-grade politician, Cecil Andrus can be rightly charged with leading his Idaho Democrats into a political cul-de-sac. But that is just more politics.
I write this with a heavy heart – not so much for the loss of Cecil Andrus, who enjoyed a long and richly blessed life. No. My heart is heavy in realizing that many thousands of Idaho babies have been lost, many women and men damaged, as a result of that seminal decision by Andrus back in the spring of 1990. My own preborn son is among those casualties.
Perhaps Andrus’ most enduring legacy will be the fact that in the Idaho Statehouse today, Democrats continue to follow his lead by fighting any attempt to restrict their most cherished civic value, abortion-on-demand, at any stage of a pregnancy.