Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Commentary / The straw Legislature of 2021

The straw Legislature of 2021

photo of fred cornforth

Fred Cornforth

Idaho’s most powerful politicians want us to believe we need solutions to problems that do not exist. As the Legislature voted away some of our precious rights — such as our right to citizen-led initiatives — supermajority politicians focused their energy and our attention on fake issues. Now, Idaho is on the verge of being known more for its “straw” than its potatoes. I’ll explain.

One leading Republican noted that Critical Race Theory (CRT, which has never been taught in Idaho schools) consumed the most legislative time this year. Misguided political leaders worried that white students are being trained to feel ashamed that their ancestors supported slavery and that some people are denied opportunities based on their skin color or ethnicity.

Within hours of the claim by radicalized grandstanders, the Republican-appointed Idaho Education Board disputed the claims. Yet, even though CRT never existed in Idaho lesson plans, they passed unnecessary bills and spent a tremendous amount of time in frothy, heated debate.

Here’s where the straw comes in.

Straw Man Theory is a weak form of argument with three simple steps: 1) the politician creates a problem that doesn’t exist; 2) they develop an unneeded solution and 3) they take credit for solving the “problem.” The invented problem is the “straw man.” This is what legislators in the supermajority just did to us.

Now watch as they take credit for solving problems that never existed.

More straw

As a businessman, I know there’s been a labor shortage in Idaho for over a decade. But recently, you may have heard some say that the Idaho worker shortage is the result of the federal government paying people more to stay home than to work. That is simply untrue.

A stabilized workforce (no shortage, no overabundance of workers) is around 5% unemployment. We spiked to historic highs of around 11% during the pandemic, mainly in the service industry from hotels to restaurants. Today, Idaho’s unemployment rate sits around 3.5%, to pre-pandemic levels. The Gem State simply doesn’t have enough workers — for many reasons. One reason is that, nationally, about 63% (2020) of high school graduates go on to attend some college or trade school, whereas, in Idaho, only 38% (2020) of students “go on” to improve their skill sets and become more marketable. This number has declined over the last 10 years! Another reason is that a record number of Idaho students who do “go on” move to neighboring states for higher wages.

It’s a wrong to ascribe a long-term labor shortage to short-term unemployment insurance. Bottom line, Idahoans are working in record numbers. Many have two jobs. We lack workers because we discourage higher education and attack the very education system that produces the workers Idaho businesses need.

Sadly, there’s political gain to be had by casting the federal government as Straw Man and taking away unemployment benefits from regular Idaho families.

More straw men

Gov. Little and his Legislature feared that Idaho’s population threatened the political power structure through passing citizen initiatives. A Straw Man, stuffed with fearsome and false claims that rural Idaho was somehow being jilted, was quickly brought to life. The solution to this imposing Straw Man was to make it nearly impossible to qualify citizen initiatives to the ballot.

As supermajority politicians roared about CRT, they tossed individual rights on the fire. And so, again and again, this year, a Straw Man was deployed.

I had lunch recently with a high-ranking Republican leader and the topic of voter fraud arose. He held up his hands and said, “I don’t understand the protections in place that prohibit voter fraud from occurring — but there’s something to voter fraud.”

I explained that each voter is given an affidavit number and that ballots are tagged with that number electronically. That system ensures that the voter only has one vote counted.

“That sounds too simple,” said the leader.

Nonetheless, the Legislature then burned more time to create and pass unneeded laws to fix another nonexistent problem.

This is how the Straw Man Supermajority “serves” the public. Now watch as they head home to take credit for protecting Idaho voting systems — which have long been the safest, most secure systems in the world of democracies.

But let’s challenge these self-serving politicians every chance we get. Let’s make them tackle our real problems with real solutions. Let’s stop them from making Idaho the “Famous Straw State.”

Fred Cornforth is chair of the Idaho Democratic Party.

About Fred Cornforth


  1. Fred Cornforth

    Thank you Byron, for the chance to provide documentation on my article’s references. Notice too, that only 30% of young men who graduate from high school go on. Fortunately, almost 50% of women go on.

  2. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The legislators are taking steps to ensure CRT and voter fraud don’t occur in Idaho in the future like is happening in other states. Anyone with common sense paying attention to what’s going on around us understands that. Fred – you don’t back up any of your arguments except one inaccurate claim of a 38% Idaho grad. “go-on” rate. It’s actually closer to 45% – look it up. Still not great depending on your perspective but that likely doesn’t include those going on to Trade Schools. There is as much or more demand and opportunity for those going into trades as those coming out of college. And they typically have far less student debt. Again, look around you and pay attention. I know – hard to do as an overpaid, out of touch CEO (see below).

    Fellow Idahoans – rather than “challenging these self serving politicians” we need to thank them for their foresight. Fred is the epitome of self serving. He is the CEO of a “non-profit” company, CDI Group, that develops affordable housing. Sounds nice right? Except that this non-profit pays him around a half million bucks a year. Oops – maybe Fred didn’t know that info. is available – Sounds like the epitome of a self serving individual to me who has figured out how to make a lot of money off lower income citizens and get out of a lot of taxes in the process. This Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing is who we need to be challenging (and ignoring).