How Low Will They Go?

We haven’t seen the bottom yet

Yesterday, May 16, Idahoans cast ballots in an off year, nominally non-partisan election for trustee positions on various boards, and, in some jurisdictions, various levies. Traditionally, library trustee positions are filled by dedicated people with a deep interest in libraries, books, and public service. (Library board member is an unpaid position.) This year Republicans nationwide are making positions on library boards a partisan issue by suggesting that public libraries promote sexual deviance among children—implying that libraries are out of control and must be held to account. Total hogwash—but, of course, sex is always a good subject with which to spin up fear, loathing, and suspicion among some people, especially those of a certain self-righteous mindset. 

Imagine for a moment one of the Mom’s For Liberty folk nosing around the local library searching for titles of suspect books on a list provided by the national organization. Is one of those books available on a similarly diligent search by their innocent offspring roaming the public library? Oh my, a busybody’s delight! Never mind, of course, that all manner of sex acts are available to inquiring little minds with a little exploration on a smartphone or after a few keystrokes on a home computer—acts with no particular social or literary value—and totally without contextual placement in the human experience. The nationally inspired paranoia about library books—which do have redeeming social and literary value—is teeming with absurdity—but its thoughtless, emotion-stirring quality is undeniable.

So with that prelude one asks how low local Republicans operatives will go in order to distort reality and fire up their voters? The Spokesman yesterday morning, the day of the election, had the answer in an article entitled “Kootenai GOP ad makes baseless insinuations about library ahead of election”. It should be read as a condemnation of the tactics of those currently in control of the Kootenai County Republican Party Central Committee (KCRCC)—and, by extension, the national Republican Party that lies behind it.

A dramatized video ad paid for by the Kootenai County GOP falsely implies that North Idaho libraries are showing sexually explicit materials to young children.

The video, posted to social media by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee [KCRCC] over the weekend, is part of a campaign to support candidates Tim Plass and Tom Hanley in the Community Library Network board election Tuesday.

The ad depicts a young elementary school -age girl, perhaps 6 years old, who comes home from school to tell her mother, who is washing dishes, about her day. The girl, whose voice can be heard off screen, says she went to the library where “a funny lady” read to her in a “special room for kids.” The woman reading to her gave her a hug, she said, and her face felt “really scratchy, like Dad’s face.”

The girl then explains that the woman showed her a book with pictures of kids “doing things like kissing each other and some of them didn’t have any clothes on.”

Then the girl asks her mother, “What’s anal sex?”

Here’s a link to the video for the full nauseating effect—if you have the stomach to watch it: . It specifically endorses “Tim & Tom” the two Republican-backed challengers for the incumbent trustees of the library board. It is a fair bet that this video was not produced locally. The voice near the end is disturbingly like that of Dinesh D’Souza, the far right Republican film maker responsible for the widespread election misinformation video “2000 Mules”. Before the polls closed on Tuesday the KCRCC video had been shared 22 times just from the KCRCC’s Facebook page (I did not pursue other social media platforms)—and was doubtlessly responsible for driving a certain segment of the Kootenai County voting public to the polls.

This is what the Republican Party has come to: posting what is an obvious and scurrilous misinformation video the weekend prior to a local election with almost no time to counter it before votes are cast. 

Since this ad was fielded (if not produced) by a local Republican Party (and not a corporation) it might have been marginally legal even before the Citizens United v. FEC decision in 2010. That decision invalidated part of the bipartisan Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (aka the McCain-Feingold Act). The details are disturbingly similar to the locally posted Kootenai County video. (Of course, believe it or not, Facebook, the platform on which the current video is posted, was just becoming widely available in 2010.) The Citizens United case was setup for what Republican operatives are doing now. Citizens United, a right wing non-profit corporation, produced a video, Hillary: the Movie, specifically to challenge McCain-Feingold, proposing to air their electioneering video within the restricted 30 day period prior to the 2008 presidential primaries. 

Citizens United prevailed on appeal to the Supreme Court in this infamous 5-4 decision that set the stage for the just-in-time pre-election social media campaigns like the one at issue next door in Kootenai County. 

A certain group of Republicans will stoop ever lower to solidify their grasp on the power and the opportunity to subject everyone to their warped ideology. This ad is emblematic of their true character. It should be noted and broadly condemned.

Keep to the high ground,