June 21, 2023

Empty Rhetoric
A Reponse to Daniel Silver

By: Brian Almon

Brian Almon

Empty rhetoric is the scourge of political discourse. Flowery language and nice words can easily cover up a lack of concrete ideas and principles. While I enjoy the art of rhetoric, I do my best to make sure I’m not just throwing empty words into the wind. Yet those empty words can often sound convincing.

The battle within the Idaho Republican Party continues as the 2023 Summer Meeting commences this weekend. The proposal to strip voting rights on the state executive board from the leaders of three independent clubs, which was tabled at the Winter Meeting in January, will be decided once and for all. This debate has once again exposed the fault line between two distinct factions within the Idaho GOP.

1st Vice Chair Daniel Silver, currently the only elected state officer who aligns with the more establishment faction, took to the pages of the corporate press with one last exhortation in favor of the status quo. Read the whole thing here.

As you might recall, it was Silver who called an emergency meeting of the Judicial Committee to handle complaints about Chair Dorothy Moon’s response to a petition. If you want the whole story you can read it here. It was all sound and fury in the end, because both the complaints and the petition that prompted them amounted to nothing but hurt feelings.

Daniel’s silver tongue won him the position of 1st vice chair over incumbent Machele Hamilton by a mere six votes, and he continues to use it to excoriate conservative Republicans while making himself seem calm and reasonable. However, when you strip away the flowery language and biblical allusions in his Idaho Press editorial you are left with a rather two-faced attack on fellow Republicans that uses the very same tactics he decries.

I want to note that I hold no personal animosity to Daniel Silver. All our interactions have been cordial. However, he chose to attack his fellow Republicans in the pages of a mainstream newspaper, so I believe it deserves to be taken seriously.

Silver’s words are in [italics], while my responses follow.

This week is the annual IDGOP State Central Committee summer meeting where the direction of the party and rule changes are voted upon. There are some consequential rule changes being proposed that will impact every Idahoan. To prepare, I have spent time reflecting on the past year and engaging with voters to hear how they feel.

I think Silver is overstating things here when he says the proposed changes will “impact every Idahoan”. On the contrary, the proposed rules are mostly inside baseball, stuff that even political junkies don’t care about. The only people who are really worked up over the proposal to strip voting rights from the Idaho Young Republicans, Idaho Federation of Republican Women, and College Republican presidents are the current and former members of those groups.

Silver, formerly the IYR president, obviously believes that group is an integral part of the conservative movement in Idaho. But perhaps living in that bubble causes him to overstate its impact. When the IYR convened to elect new officers earlier this year, around two hundred voting members took part. That’s a very small group to claim to represent hundreds of thousands of young people in the state of Idaho.

We have eleven months left in our term as leaders of this party. We have a presidential election, an opportunity to take back congress, and legislative races across the state. There is a lot on the line.

First, it has been an honor to serve Idaho Republicans. I care deeply for each of you and have seen amazing accomplishments. We had great results in swing counties like Ada and Latah winning practically every county race for Republicans. I have seen volunteers spending countless hours knocking on doors. We have more young Idahoans voting conservative than ever before. So many things we can be proud of.

Later in the piece Silver will claim that more people are disaffiliating from the GOP than in the past decade. That is one of the hallmarks of empty rhetoric – twisting information and ideas in sometimes contradictory ways to support a narrative. That’s the dirty little secret of rhetoric: you can make words say whatever you want. But unless they correspond to reality, what’s the point?

Also, are young Idahoans actually voting conservative? What does that mean? How do you measure that, exactly? But it sounds good, so let’s go with it, right?

But I care too deeply about this party to not share the other side I have witnessed. Things we should not be proud of. Tactics that do not represent the character of Lincoln, Reagan, and other great Republicans of history.

Considering that Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and imprisoned journalists, I’m not sure we want to use him as an exemplar of honorable tactics. But that is typical rhetoric from too many political figures, not just Silver. The NeverTrump “Lincoln Project” is perhaps the laziest example of this trope.



Moderate Republicans have long played a game where they compare new conservative firebrands unfavorably to the statesmen of old. However, should young firebrand turn out to be a success, then they invariably claim him as their own. Reagan was hated by the party establishment, right up until he won two of the biggest electoral landslides in history. Then he was always their guy.

I recently saw a post by someone on our committee saying, “good people will have to do bad things to stop bad people from winning.” Let me be clear, doing bad to others never results in good.

This is another piece of rhetoric that sounds nice but means nothing. When the world was plunged into war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, the United States did not sit back and say “We can’t engage in combat because that’s what bad people do.” No, we built guns and planes and tanks and nuclear bombs and won the war. I’m not necessarily comparing internecine fighting within the Republican Party to Nazis, rather I’m simply pointing out how vapid the statement is.

Darkness does not drive out darkness. If anything, we end up gaining the world but losing our soul.

Every writer has a temptation to insert phrases from famous works to elevate their own discourse. I do my best to avoid that temptation, though I’m sure I fail often enough. I think it’s important to let your words stand on their own without trying to bolster them with quotes from better men.

Terrible tactics have been occurring far too often. From accusations and fights almost occurring at county central committee meetings.

Any examples, or is this more empty rhetoric?

To a county chairman inexcusably posting that legislators should have a millstone hung around their neck (a biblical reference to drowning someone) for not voting the way he wanted.

It’s fairly common in Christian circles to use the millstone analogy with regards to people who harm children, or allow harm to come to them. Daniel knows this, but he’s simply using it to bolster his rhetoric about the other side being bad.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” – Mark 9:42 (ESV)

This year the Legislature considered several important bills regarding protecting children but several Republicans voted against such protections. Some, such as Sens. Geoff Schroeder, Treg Bernt, Linda Hartgen, Abby Lee, and Rep. Matt Bundy even voted against H71, which protects children from transgender mutilation surgeries. Frankly, the millstone rhetoric is perhaps too kind, yet moderates like Silver get more upset by such statements than they are about the evils being done to our children. That is a hallmark of the nice brigade – they always come down harder on conservative responses to leftist horrors than they do the horrors themselves.



To nationwide negative media attention brought towards Idaho when a youth committeeman was recorded attempting to convince Republicans to lie about their party affiliation and steal democratic precinct races.

Silver seems more concerned with Republicans stealing Democrat PC spots than he is about Democrats crossing over to vote in Republican primaries. Or is this another case of not wanting to stoop to their level? It reminds me of a quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: “Your punishment for having a knife when they searched you would be very different from the thief’s. For him to have a knife was mere misbehavior, tradition, he didn’t know any better. But for you to have one was terrorism.”

We expect Democrats to lie, cheat, and steal their way to power, but we are supposed to keep careful watch on our own side lest anyone do anything the least bit untoward. Better to lose everything – our country, our communities, our families – than do anything that smacks of underhandedness. Does Daniel Silver believe that Boise State should return the 2007 Fiesta Bowl trophy because they won the game using deception? I doubt it.

I have seen senior leaders breaking party rules and harassing other members to resign.

I suspect he’s referring to the kerfuffle over National Committeeman Damond Watkins, which I’ve written about extensively. However, as is characteristic of this editorial he does not give specific examples, only innuendo.

Witnessed the public shaming of elected officials

Heaven forbid we shame our elected officials.

and attempts to remove delegate votes if counties don’t pay dues.

The dues issue is a complex one, but Silver simply uses it as another bullet in his rhetorical gun.

Actions like these tell me it’s not about what is best for our party. It is about trying to secure individual power at the expense of others.

One could say the same thing about writing editorials in corporate news outlets that attack members of one’s own party.

If we had a product at the state level that truly helped counties and candidates, they would be glad to invest through paying dues and making contributions. If our tactics and messages were broadly resonating with Idahoans, we would be gaining members so quickly that Democrats would not be as competitive as they are in some races. Today, we are seeing more people unaffiliate faster than any time in the last decade.

Notice how Silver wraps a pretty sharp criticism of Dorothy Moon and the rest of the state leadership (himself excepted, obviously) in fluffy rhetoric. In any case, his claim that more people are unaffiliating from the GOP than any time in the last decade needs some evidence. I went through the last 15 months of voter registration data and came up with this chart:

As you can see, there was a sharp increase in registered Republicans during the 2022 primary. This was followed by a small decline, then an increase leading into the general election, then a decline, and now a small increase again. It is quite a trick to infer from this data that Dorothy Moon is bad, but once again this is all empty rhetoric.

There are many Republican leaders who seem less concerned with ideology than they do sheer numbers. If, hypothetically, every voter in Idaho registered as a Republican, would they see that as a victory? We have a serious problem in this state with leftist activists who register as Republican so as to vote for liberal candidates in the GOP primary. Anyone who dismiss this problem is either dangerously naive, or is being strategic in that they also support the liberal Republicans.

We don’t need to focus on blame.

After 500 words of blaming others, now he says we shouldn’t look to blame. Sure.

Now is the time to unite and lock arms together.

Apparently that doesn’t extend to people like Daniel Silver, rather it’s what he expects of everyone else. Perhaps Silver should lock arms with Dorothy Moon and get on board with her conservative agenda rather than fighting it every step of the way, as he has done since last summer.



We shouldn’t even consider alienating groups like Young Republicans and Republican Women. Going into an election year, not only do they make up our largest volunteer base, but they have direct influence with the groups that Republicans have the lowest success with.

Now we get to the heart of the matter. One thing that Silver does here, and IFRW president Tracey Wasden likes to do as well, is conflate the clubs in particular with the population in general. The IFRW and IYR are not representative of all Republican women and all Republicans 40 years of age and under, respectively, rather they are relatively small independent clubs that each do their own things. Sure, they have events, and they volunteer their time, but so do many other clubs that are not given the status of voting membership on the state executive board. Should the Pachyderms have a seat at the executive table? The Reagan Club? Why are we engaged in identity politics in the first place? Should we have official Hispanic Clubs? What about a Republican Men 40 and Over Club?

As I wrote more than six months ago when the proposal was initially debated, it seems to be an historical outlier that these clubs were given such representation in the first place. Every Republican voter is already represented by their precinct committeemen, who themselves are represented on the State Central Committee by their district, county, and region chairs, their state committeemen, state committeewomen, and the youth state committeeperson. Isn’t that enough?

My sense is that the IFRW and IYR are less concerned with promoting conservative values than they are promoting themselves. The IYR was clearly a stepping-stone for Daniel Silver himself, propelling him into state party leadership, and who knows where in the future. This debate over whether or not the private clubs should have voting rights on the state executive board is not about their ability to get out of the vote or recruit volunteers, rather it is about their own power.

To wit:

Tracey Wasden probably cannot win an election to state leadership on her own, but she controls a club that has an automatic seat at the table, and she uses that control to decide who gets to be a part of the club and who doesn’t. I have heard more than one story from Republican women who want to be a part of the IFRW but were denied by Wasden herself because she knew they would not support her continued leadership. I can’t speak to the veracity of such stories, but I am convinced that a private club with such opaque rules about eligibility should not get an automatic seat at the table.

Last autumn, several members of the IFRW openly campaigned for a Democrat candidate in the general election. Patti Anne Lodge, Lori Otter, and several other “Republican” women hated Raúl Labrador so much that they endorsed his Democratic opponent, Tom Arkoosh. Were these women expelled from the IFRW for such treachery? I’m not sure. Mere weeks before she signed a letter endorsing Arkoosh, Lodge, who was still a sitting state senator at the time, was honored with the IFRW Tribute to Women award. Does this sound like a club that should have special privileges in the state party?

In fact, contrary to her current narrative that removing the IFRW president from the executive board disenfranchises women, Tracey Wasden attempted to have Canyon County’s entire slate of delegates thrown out of the 2022 Convention. You see, conservatives had won control of the Canyon County GOP and selected a slate of delegates that matched their ideology. Wasden, angry about not being in charge anymore, filed a complaint with the Credentials Committee. Does that sound like someone who is motivated by making sure everyone has a voice?

The same issue occurs with the Idaho Young Republicans. There were numerous reports of voting irregularities in their most recent officer elections, where an establishment slate defeated a group of insurgents despite the fact that dozens of potential members were denied the right to vote for one reason or another. Maybe it was all above board, and the complaints were simply sour grapes by the losers, but the fact that they had such trouble with their elections once again calls into question whether or not they deserve a seat at the executive table.

As mentioned above, the Young Republicans consist of less than 200 members in a state with close to half a million people aged 18-40. Is it really the end of the world if that club no longer votes on the state executive board? Jake Miller, Jacob Cluff, Ryan Finney, and the rest of the IYR leadership are welcome to run for county chair, state committeeman, or any of the other myriad positions that put them on the state central committee. I think the angry reaction to this proposal comes out of a concern for this club’s own power and influence.

The way they imply that their participation in Republican Party outreach is contingent upon having a seat on the executive board says it all, doesn’t it?

I know because I was the Chairman of IYR before being elected to this role.


Most Idahoans don’t realize the gravity of several proposed rules being voted on this weekend. They risk further fracturing our party. They will take power away from Idahoans and give it to a select few.

This is incredibly disingenuous, considering what I just wrote about the IFRW and IYR. These clubs are designed to consolidate power in a select few and then elevate those few to the same level of power as the officers elected by the State Convention. As I said before, every registered Republican is already represented on the state committee in myriad ways. One could even argue that the presence on the executive board of these three private club presidents dilutes the representation of the average Idaho Republican.

Silver’s warning that these rules “risk further fracturing our party” is also rich, considering it is his friends who are causing the current fractures in the first place. This is like threatening to harm yourself if your loved ones don’t do what you want; definitely not a sign of a healthy relationship.

Are you aware that there is actually a proposal to eliminate your ability to cast a vote for legislators, even for US President, and give it to a handful of republican leaders?

This too is disingenuous. It was Secretary of State Phil McGrane and Rep. Dustin Manwaring – neither of whom can be accused of being part of the liberty cabal that Silver is decrying – who pushed through a bill that inadvertently removed Idaho’s presidential primary. That has left the state party (which strongly opposed the bill, remember!) scrambling to figure out how to make Idaho’s voice heard next spring.

There are many options on the table. Technically, the state chair herself could unilaterally pick Idaho’s delegates to the Republican National Convention, which seems to be what Silver fears. Yet I know (and Silver knows) that Dorothy Moon absolutely opposes such a solution. We will either end up with a private primary or a caucus, both of which will ensure the voice of the people will be heard. By including this in his litany of abuses, Silver is once again engaging in empty rhetoric designed to attack fellow Republicans while claiming to be calling for unity.

This is not a Republican value. Nothing we do should ever erase the voice of the voter. We need to inspire voters, and not purge them when we disagree. Doing so turns our state Democrat. Just ask Colorado.

I suggest that opening the tent too wide is how we turn blue like Colorado. Once it’s clear that the Republican Party stands for nothing, then why does anyone care? Why spend hundreds of hours knocking on doors, making phone calls, passing out literature, and registering people to vote if there is no material difference between a Republican and a Democrat? Does Silver think that we can “inspire voters” with meaningless rhetoric, perhaps with a few quotes from Abraham Lincoln and the Bible, while ignoring ideology entirely? That is how the Republican Party lost its way over the past few decades. We are not going to fix the problem by using the same tactics that caused it in the first place.



There is a cult of niceness that lives within the GOP. Figures such as Silver seem to argue that it is better to lose with honor than to win, and that we should not fight fire with fire. They present this image of the incorruptible statesman, the idealized Mr. Smith on his way to Washington. There’s an old quote attributed to Robert Frost that says “A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” What he called a liberal we might call a conservative today. If you’re not willing to fight for what you believe in, then why are you even here? The goal of politics is not to be nice, it’s to win, so that you have the ability to create the society in which you want to live.

If you’re not in it to win it, then it’s just a pointless game.

Of course, as this editorial demonstrates, Silver is in it to win something, only his guns are pointed toward the right, not the left.

I’d encourage everyone to research the rules being voted upon this weekend. Let your IDGOP State and County leaders know how you feel. Regardless of your perspective, you need to be aware, and your voice should be heard.

I agree with this. Read the proposed rules yourself and come to your own conclusions. Don’t take my word for it, nor Silver’s.

More importantly, we need to return to true Idaho values of listening, being respectful, and working together for the betterment of our state. We have the talent and passion to create a legacy that will last for a generation, but no one can do it alone. We must do it together. Not through authoritarian tactics, bullying, and intimidation, but through good policy, building relationships, and bringing Idahoans together.

Silver closes with yet more empty rhetoric. He doesn’t even seem to realize that he is doing exactly what he accuses his fellow Republicans of doing. Consider that in the previous Idaho GOP administration, Tom Luna did what he pleased. He unilaterally declared that Ammon Bundy was not welcome in the Republican primary. He used his influence to tip the scales in favor of establishment candidates like Brad Little and Scott Bedke. And, of course, he personally sued the Bonneville County GOP. Does that sound like “authoritarian tactics, bullying, and intimidation” to you? Who was standing by Luna’s side the whole time? None other than Daniel Silver.

Tom Luna, former GOP Executive Director Tyler Kelly, and Daniel Silver at a 2021 rally

Silver claimed recently he opposed the lawsuit, which is good, for sure. Yet I wonder why he never attacked Luna and his team with as much verve as he has for Dorothy Moon and hers. I don’t remember any Idaho Press editorials denouncing the bully tactics of Tom Luna.

I think you and I both know the answer. It has become clear that Silver’s moderate tone is never going to be equally applied. He has chosen his side, no matter how much he pretends otherwise.

I really don’t mean to pick on Daniel Silver so much, but this editorial in the Idaho Press demanded a comprehensive response. It’s not just the empty rhetoric, but the way in which he attacked fellow Republicans in the guise of “can’t we all get along?” that demanded an answer. You can’t call for unity while attacking your own side, and you can’t use winsomeness as a cover for those attacks.

It is too easy to wield rhetoric in place of solid political and organizational ideas, and we need to call it out. The only way we build the society we want our children and grandchildren to inherit is if we understand our principles and do what is necessary to implement them. That will not be accomplished with words alone, nor is it helped by attacking the people on your own side who are most actively in the fight.

Note: A descendant of American pioneers, Brian writes about the importance of culture and about current events in the context of history.  His work can be found on Substack, here.





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