Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Remarks to Bonneville County Democrats in Idaho

Remarks to Bonneville County Democrats in Idaho

A lovely visit to the Gem State.
(image credit: Bonneville County Democratic Party)

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This past weekend, I was invited to deliver the keynote speech at the Bonneville County Democratic Party’s annual Truman Dinner in Idaho Falls, Idaho. It was my first time visiting the Gem State, and I was captivated by both the gorgeous scenery and the warmth of Idahoans.

When I was invited to the Truman Dinner a few months ago by Chairwoman Miranda Marquit, I accepted immediately. And I’ll tell you why.

Idaho is a deeply conservative state. It has not gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964; that year, Lyndon B. Johnson, despite trouncing Barry Goldwater—winning 44 states (and D.C.), 486 electoral votes, 61 percent of the popular vote—won Idaho by less than two percent.

Idaho has not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1974, a Democratic governor since 1990, and with the exception of a single term served by Mr. Walt Minnick in the 111th Congress (2009-2011), it has not otherwise elected a Democrat to the U.S. House since 1994.

Idaho is among those states that actually increased their support for Trump from 2016 to 2020, despite his loss to President Biden.

Abortion was formally banned in the state two months after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling (except in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother during the first trimester), and LGBTQ rights in the state are abysmal, although public polling of Idahoans illustrates a more complicated picture (about 70 percent of Idahoans support LGBTQ non-discrimination laws).

So, yes, it is accurate to say that Idaho is deeply conservative.

But I spent the entire weekend with Idaho Democrats, and I found myself in awe of their dedication, kindness, and unyielding pride in Democratic values. They did not feel sorry for themselves. They did not make excuses. They had no time for pity.

I was in the company of so many wonderful people who get up every day and fight the good fight for their families, their neighbors, and their state. I wish that so many Democrats living in solidly progressive areas of this country had a tenth of the courage and commitment demonstrated by the Democrats I met in Idaho.

I am so tired of some Democrats living in solid blue parts of the country looking down their noses at folks putting in the work in conservative swaths of our nation, questioning their sanity in living where they do, as though uprooting one’s family from the only home they’ve ever known is a feasible option for most people.

The unflappable worth ethic of these Idaho Democrats reminded me of how proud I am to be a progressive from Texas and how much I bristle when someone who lives in a solidly blue state condescends to Democrats living in conservative areas.

Anyway, the full remarks of my speech are below, and if you would be so kind, I highly encourage donating to the Bonneville County Democratic Party. Please help them build the future of Democratic politics in the state.


Good evening!

My name is Charlotte Clymer, and I am proud to be a member of the Democratic Party.

It’s an honor to join y’all tonight.

When your chair Miranda Marquit extended an invitation to me a few months ago, I immediately agreed. You see, I’ve never been to Idaho, and every person I’ve ever met from Idaho has said to me: “Oh, don’t come here. You’d hate it. Nothing to see at all. No gorgeous scenery. No nature. It’s so boring. And tell your friends not to come here, either!”

Idaho is a wonderfully kept secret. So, I knew I had to come for that reason, alone.

But I also accepted the Chairwoman’s invitation because I know what it’s like to be a proud Democrat in an area of the country where Democrats aren’t so plentiful. 

Because let’s face it: I know that there are a lot of folks in this county, maybe even some folks in this room, who look at me and only see a trans woman, a progressive trans woman, who has flown in from Washington, D.C.

What could I possibly know about what it’s like to live in a conservative area? What could I possibly know about having a lot of conservative friends and neighbors and constantly being in spaces with people who are not gonna see the world as I do?

This is what I call box thinking. It’s become one of the biggest problems for our country: this relentless need to place everyone we know in a box and call it a day.

There are a lot of folks who live their lives believing there are only two boxes and you need to belong to only one of those two boxes and it had better be their box.

And if you chose to place me in a box before getting to know me, you’d miss out on a lot.

You’d never find out that I served in the U.S. Army for six years and I am very proud of my service. You’d never find out that my Christian faith is one of the most important things to me and that I go to church every Sunday. You’d never find out that I’m very proud to be from the South, that I come from two lines of family raised in the South. You’d never find out that I played high school football, that I grew up around firearms, that I was raised on country music, and I am proud of all these aspects of who I am.

I know what it’s like to be from a part of the country that people living in more progressive areas look at and say: “Oh gosh, I’m so sorry,” as though I’ve just told them my dog died.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. If I told them my dog had died, they would probably have asked about South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem’s whereabouts.

But it’s true. We live in a nation of people who insist that there are only two boxes.

And I’m not just talking about people on the right. I’m talking about people on the far-left, too. So much of the far-left can’t stand me because I defy their box theory. They believe that I, as a trans woman, am not supposed to be proud of our military, that I am not supposed to go to church, that I am not supposed to disagree with them.

That’s the thing they still don’t realize. The brutal truth is that the far-right and far-left have one thing in common: they both live in fear of talking with a reasonable adult who disagrees with them.

Well, folks, here’s my message to them: this country is a whole lot damn bigger than two boxes.

I have not come this far in life to allow myself to be defined by strangers who are scared of reasonable disagreement. Who I am is between me and God, and no one else gets a say in that.

And this goes for geography, too. 

I’m from the great state of Texas, and if all you knew about Texas were our state’s political leadership and their incessant irresponsibility and selfishness and cruelty—if that’s all you knew about Texas—you probably wouldn’t want to visit.

But you see, I’m very proud to be from Texas, probably for the same reasons that all of you here are proud to be from Idaho. And you should be. Because this is home. This is where you first learned about community. It’s where you first understood what it means to live alongside others and take care of your neighbors and work hard to ensure that no one gets left behind.

It hasn’t surprised me one bit to find out that folks in Idaho are kind, hardworking, empathetic, and resilient. And I think that goes double for Idaho Democrats.

It takes guts to walk up to door after door and knock on it, knowing that the person behind that door is more than likely going to be resistant to your message, knowing that you’re going to have to do the thankless work of communicating a vision of solidarity and progress with your neighbor, who may have been fed a lot of disinformation and hateful propaganda.

I hope you’ll hear what I’m saying: it takes courage to be an outspoken Democrat in a place where few exist, but more than that, in states like Idaho and Texas, it takes courage to swallow your pride and meet people where they are and get them to see how the Democratic Party has their best interests at mind.

It takes courage to do the hard and necessary work of constantly extending a hand to folks who don’t agree with you on most things.

But it is necessary. It is absolutely necessary. You are doing the work that needs to be done, and thank god for that.

I think it’s quite appropriate that we’re gathered this evening at a dinner named for a president who understood, better than most presidential candidates of the 20th century, what it means to be the underdog.

Harry Truman was not supposed to win the 1948 presidential election. The winner that year was supposed to be New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, who was very popular with his base and very charismatic. Of the 500 newspapers in the country at that time, nearly 80 percent endorsed Dewey. One famous pundit said two months before Election Day that the race was basically over.

Most of that campaign can be summed up this way: the press thought Dewey was going to win, the pollsters and pundits thought Dewey was going to win, and Dewey thought Dewey was going to win. In fact, even President Truman’s closest aides and his wife Bess privately thought Dewey was likely to win. So, it was clear that Dewey was going to win. It seems the only person who thought Truman could win was Truman.

You see, President Truman was an incredibly capable commander-in-chief. He had successfully led the United States out of World War II and began the process of rebuilding Europe. He had common sense and stood up for working class families. He was a great chief executive.

But he wasn’t flashy. Many folks didn’t find him very exciting. Around this time that year, in mid-May, his approval rating was 36 percent. He was challenged by people in his own party. He was doubted by the press. There were some folks who openly wondered if it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Mr. Truman to drop out of the race and give another Democrat a shot.

There were third party candidates like vicious racist Strom Thurmond, who threatened to take votes from President Truman and weaken him against Dewey.

And meanwhile, Thomas Dewey was saying nothing much at all. He wasn’t articulating any new or interesting policy ideas. He wasn’t laying out a vision for all Americans. He was pandering to his base and playing it safe otherwise.

So, an incumbent who’s a great leader but isn’t considered very exciting, a challenger who isn’t saying anything new but is considered by many to be charismatic, a bunch of third party clowns mucking up the process, and a political press that seems to be asleep at the wheel.

Does any of this sound familiar?

President Truman went on aggressive whistle stop tours of the country, giving speeches at train stations all over, hammering the GOP and Dewey, refusing to back down, refusing to give up, and absolutely certain he was gonna win.

I want to read you a quote from a speech President Truman delivered by radio in St. Paul, Minnesota about three weeks before the election:

“Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home--but not for housing. They are strong for labor--but they are stronger for restricting labor's rights. They favor minimum wage--the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all--but they won't spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine--for people who can afford them. ...They think the American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.”

You could take that quote and put it in a speech by President Biden now, and you wouldn’t miss a beat.

Mr. Truman didn’t play it safe. He didn’t hesitate to fight for his values. He didn’t try to pander to zealots and clowns. He was a warrior for democracy and working families.

Three weeks after that speech, President Truman won. The pundits were apoplectic. All night, radio announcers told the public that Truman’s lead in the national vote was temporary. There’s no way he could win. Political reporters said he couldn’t win, so how could this happen?

The day after the election, President Truman held up the front page of the Chicago Tribune that had been printed and distributed erroneously, with that iconic headline in big bold letters:


And he didn’t just win. He got two million more votes than Dewey and trounced him in the Electoral College.

I want to be very clear about something tonight. If you walk away with anything from this event, I want you to walk away with this:

Joe Biden is going to be reelected President of the United States. We are gonna win in November. And it’s not just because our party has ideas that actually help working class families. It’s not just because President Biden’s policies have saved our economy. It’s not just because Republicans don’t have any new ideas or new solutions.

No, here’s why President Biden is going to win: because he trusts the American people to understand what’s at stake.

We don’t want to live in a country where any elected official believes he’s above the law and should be treated like a king.

We don’t want to live in a country where the state gets to decide what women do with their bodies.

We don’t want to live in a country where politicians get to tell parents what health care they’re allowed to provide their children.

We don’t want to live in a country where the richest people still get unfair tax breaks while working families struggle to provide for their children.

We don’t want to live in a country where those in power turn their backs on the labor movement and working class families.

We don’t want to live in a country in which life-saving and comprehensive health care is only accessible to those earning six figures or more.

That’s it. That’s all that matters. And the leadership of the Republican Party lives every day in fear that more and more working families are gonna realize that.

The polls don’t matter. Listen, y’all, I’ve been following politics all my life and working in politics for most of my career, and I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt that polls don’t worry me.

What did the pollsters say in 2018? That Democrats were right to be anxious. What happened? Democrats took back control of Congress in an enormously embarrassing defeat for Trump.

What did the pollsters say in 2020? That Democrats were headed for a catastrophic defeat at the polls. What happened? President Biden was elected, and Democrats took back control of Congress.

What did the pollsters say in 2022? Do y’all remember? They said a “red wave” was coming and Democrats were about to be wiped out in Congress. What happened? President Biden had the best midterms performance of any first term Democratic president in six decades. The red wave turned out to be a red trickle.

Folks, I say again: there is no doubt in my mind that we are going to win in November.

President Biden and Vice President Harris will be reelected, we will take back the House, and you know what? I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that we’ll hold the Senate, too.

And when this all happens, the pundits and pollsters will make excuses like they always do. And the Republican Party will make excuses like they always do. And the press will make excuses like they always do.

Let it be known right now: the Democratic Party ain’t got time for excuses.

There are working families to support, homeless veterans to house, minimum wage workers to be helped, children to be fed and educated, and a country, a proud country, to believe in.

That starts right here in places like Bonneville County. It starts in places like my home state of Texas. It starts in the places in this country most in need of building bridges by folks like yourselves who are doing that thankless work because it needs to be done.

I am grateful for you, and I want you to know there are Democrats all across this country who are grateful for you.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your hospitality. Have a wonderful evening.

yes, please buy me coffee

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Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte Clymer is a writer and LGBTQ advocate. You've probably seen her on Twitter (@cmclymer). This is the podcast version of her blog "Charlotte's Web Thoughts", which you can subscribe to here: