Republicans in the Legislature don’t think you’re smart enough to notice

May 4, 2023 4:28 am

A political cartoon by John C. Moore.

Rep. Kerri Seekins-Crowe thinks you’re an idiot. Or clueless.

Maybe both.

But, if it’s any consolation, she believes that about me, too.

Seekins-Crowe, a representative from Billings, believes that even though a majority of voters rejected the language of Legislative Referendum 131 last year at the ballot box, which supposedly put into law that doctors can’t kill babies — something already well established before LR 131 — that she’d just go ahead and enlist some of her Republican buddies to codify the failed referendum in a sort of legislature-knows-best attempt.

On Wednesday, Gov. Greg Gianforte said he’d likely sign the legislation.

The voters had their say on the issue last year, and lawmakers didn’t respect or like what was said, so they just went ahead and did what they wanted to do anyway, probably a metaphor for the entire legislative session.

Montana voters, liberal and conservative, have repeatedly rejected efforts to restrict abortion and other reproductive issues at the polls because, to put in a way that even arrogant lawmakers can understand, it’s none of the government’s damn business what we do with our bodies.

Rep. Kerri Seekins-Crowe makes statements about comments she made during a debate on the House Floor on mental health, transgender issues and suicide. She is speaking with other members of the House Republicans behind her on May 1, 2023 (Photo by Nicole Girten of the Daily Montanan).

I can’t think of a better example of Montana’s libertarian, gov’ment-git-out mentality, than how state residents generally respond to the idea of state government putting its nose where it doesn’t belong.

Seekins-Crowe believes that either Montana residents aren’t sophisticated, moral or intelligent enough to understand that the premise of LR-131 wasn’t about protecting situations that simply don’t happen or are already protected by law, she had the audacity to introduce the failed measure even after the voters rejected it. Instead, I’d suggest voters may have just seen LR-131 for what it was and voted against it.

If you’re not insulted, though, just wait.

Seekins-Crowe didn’t just disregard the will of the people – the same ones that put her in office. She reintroduced the bill, believing that those same residents who rejected it wouldn’t notice.

During legislative discussions about abortion and reproductive rights, Senate Minority Leader Pat Flowers used a precise and exactly accurate analogy about the duplicity of the Republican Party, which continues to pull funding away from social services that would help developmentally disabled people, while insisting that women who are carrying a fetus with these same disabilities must carry them to term.

Sen. John Fuller, R-Kalispell, took “exceptional exception” – his words not mine – to Flowers’ observation.

Keep in mind, Fuller is a one-man discrimination machine who has insisted on legislation that attacks transgender kids and their families.

During the same debate on abortion and funding, Sen. Daniel Emrich, R-Great Falls, said that the legislature’s role was protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves. But, the last time I checked, there weren’t a lot of pregnant women with punching gloves. Then again, a woman to the Montana Legislature is only valuable insofar as her uterus. And if Emrich is right that the legislature’s proper role is to protect those who cannot protect themselves, then they have a ton of explaining to do about what they’ve done to the LGBTQ+ community, which the GOP has seemed to relish marginalizing and ostracizing.

Many of the policies and laws passed during the 2023 session are indeed insulting and dangerous, but here’s my ask: Don’t try to fool us, Montana Republicans. Take your marching orders from the Freedom Caucus or whatever cultural threat is most pressing from transgender kids to pregnant women to seniors with nearly nothing to lose because they’re already on Medicaid.

Yet give residents enough credit to see that this session gave folks earning $400,000 more money, but Republicans had to be dragged kicking and screaming to put more money to nursing homes. Or, worry about the unborn, but question why we need daycare. We saw that you tried to make it harder on residents who want recreational marijuana, while secretly counting the tax dollars roll in.

The party of freedom continues to talk about medical choice except when it comes to abortion. They suggest arming teachers but don’t trust them with the books in elementary school libraries.

No party has cornered the market on doublespeak or being opportunistic. And, by all means, we know tear-filled speeches with words like “freedom,” “liberty” and “responsibility” warm the ears and the hearts of constituents.

All I ask is that you take the votes you need to without playing the rest of us for fools.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming.