The Montana GOP’s favorite f-word

July 5, 2023 4:44 am

Don “K” Kaltschmidt addresses the crowd at the GOP annual winter kickoff in January (Arren Kimbel-Sannit/The Daily Montanan)

On June 27, the United States Supreme Court soundly rejected (in a 6-3 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts) a bogus constitutional law theory promoted by the conservative right wing of the Republican Party, the Freedom Caucus and their cult leader, Donald J. Trump.

The case in point is Moore vs. Harper, which involved whether the Election Clause (Article I, Section 4 of the Federal Constitution) validates the Independent State Legislature theory.

If theory had been a valid interpretation of the Election Clause, it would have conferred upon state legislatures the exclusive power to redraw congressional districts for federal elections, appoint state electors—and, thus, effectively gerrymander congressional districts to favor one political party and to otherwise subvert citizens’ fundamental right to vote.  I emphasize exclusive power because Plaintiff Moore argued that ISL means that there can be no judicial review of the legislature’s decisions, even if their decisions violate the state’s own laws and constitution.

Michael Luttig (a former Fourth Circuit Court Judge, appointed in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush) described Moore as “the most important case for America that was pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Indeed, if the Court had ruled otherwise it would have upended election laws in every state, and set the stage for the sort of chicanery and corruption that Trump and his minions tried in order to steal the 2020 presidential election after his loss to Joe Biden.

Montana’s Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen joined 10 other attorneys general in filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the theory. And, in the ongoing legal battle over new election administration laws passed by the 2021 legislature, Republican Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen filed a brief supporting the independent state legislature theory.

Ironically, the Supreme Court’s decision was handed down the same day that Donald “K” Kaltschmidt, chair of the Montana Republican Party, published in the Helena Independent-Record his self-laudatory guest view praising his party of “freedom” from “socialism’s tremendous successes,” its values, and flipping Montana into the red-state column.  

“K” also pointedly trashed Sen. Jon Tester as a woke, hypocritical, corrupt socialist.

“K” apparently has no clue of what socialism actually is—a theory of social organization that advocates for the ownership and control of the means of production, distribution, capital, and land through a centralized government.

But more to the point his party’s advocacy for the Independent State Legislature theory and the 2021 and 2023 sessions’ war on Montana’s courts and judiciary, on LGTBQIA+ people, on the drag folks, on public education, on women’s right to control their bodies and reproductive choices, on parents’ rights to make health care decisions for their children, on freedom of the press, on freedom of speech and on the right of suffrage and initiative—the sessions that banned books, one form of social media, practiced medicine, bullied doctors, adopted the Biblical, albeit false definition of sex, rejected science, and thumbed their collective noses at the Constitution and at nearly every group and citizen that was not wearing a MAGA hat–or a tinfoil one,  belies “K’s” designating the Montana GOP as a party of freedom. 

In fact, what the Montana GOP has become is the party of authoritarianism–a political system in which individual freedom is held completely subordinate to the power or authority of the state and is not constitutionally accountable to the people.

A party of freedom, Montana’s GOP is not!  Quite to the contrary, based upon the above there is a more malignant f word describing where the Montana GOP is headed:  Fascism.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

James C. Nelson
James C. Nelson

James C. Nelson is a retired lawyer and former Montana Supreme Court Justice. He lives in Helena.