Using democracy to destroy democracy

March 26, 2023 4:03 am

Montana’s state capitol photographed as it snows on March 10, 2023. (Photo by Nicole Girten/Daily Montanan)

In order to have a viable democracy four things must be present:

  • A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
  • The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
  • Protection of the human rights of all citizens.
  • A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

The Republican Party in Montana, and its self-anointed (and misnamed) Freedom Caucus, have spent the first half of the current legislative session on an all-out attack on our democracy. How so?

First are the various attacks on the election system here in Montana, carrying on the work they started in the last legislative session. Undaunted that the majority of the bills passed against our election system from that session were ruled unconstitutional, they are devising new laws and ways to accomplish the disenfranchisement of young people, Native Americans and students. Proposing and passing laws that make the election system more onerous and difficult for many voters. So much for free and fair elections 

Second, holding hearings on various bills where the majority party committee members tune out the people who are testifying against right-wing bills and for progressive legislation. It’s all an act that they wish they didn’t have to go through, which is clear if you read their body language. Proposing laws that make it nearly impossible to get a citizens initiative (guaranteed by Montana’s Constitution) on the ballot if it is something the right-wing majority party doesn’t like. So much for participation of citizens in democracy.

Third, proposing and passing laws attacking gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual people, denying them equal rights. Proposing and passing various anti-abortion statutes which are blatantly misogynistic, anti-science, and which relegate women to being second-class citizens. Opposing progressive legislation to recognize Indigenous People’s Day, while proposing legislation to do away with the status of Native Americans as having sovereign nationhood by eliminating reservations. So much for protecting the human rights of all citizens.

Fourth, proposing legislation and tax breaks that favor the wealthy over the average wage earner. This includes “bulls for billionaires” giving special elk tags to out of state landowners who own more than 2,500 acres. Properties this size currently on the market range from $6 million to $18 million. On the tax break side, Gianforte and his buddies will get a refund of around $6,000. while the average Montana wage earner will get about $70. So much for the rule of law being applied equally to all citizens.

If you are a hunter, like I am, you better stop worrying about someone taking your gun away. That’s just a smokescreen. At the rate they are taking away your access rights, and giving preference to the wealthy on big game hunting, we won’t have anything left to shoot except, paper targets, gophers and each other!

Another smokescreen is all the hullabaloo and lies about election fraud. It doesn’t exist. Sen. Theresa Manzella and her “Freedom Caucus” buddies are worried that “artificial intelligence” is going to subvert our elections. I’ll take artificial intelligence over their natural stupidity any day of the week.

Also there is the attack on the judiciary and separation of powers by the division of governmental authority into three branches of government—legislative, executive, and judicial—each with specified duties on which neither of the other branches can encroach. They keep passing laws that are later ruled unconstitutional by the courts. They hate this.

So, Montanans, we better wake up and say something. The Republicans are using the institutions of democracy to destroy democracy. Ninety years ago when this happened, we had a name for it. It was called “fascism.” What is fascism? It’s simply an extreme right-wing political system or attitude that is in favor of strong central government, aggressively promoting your own beliefs and race above others, and that does not allow any opposition. Sound familiar? Today many people don’t want to face the fact that this is what is coming down the road if we don’t stop it.

Speak up while you still can. Don’t wait.

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