Standing with Texas while leaving Montana to fend for itself

February 8, 2024 4:14 am

Gov. Greg Gianforte speaks at a press conference at the U.S.-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas on Sunday. (Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office)

When Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte traveled 1,742 miles from the Helena Capitol to the made-for-television event at the border of Texas, the publicity stunt was a rat’s nest of ginned up outrage, insurrection and an unserious analysis of complex problems that have been evolving for decades.

Flanked by his Republican buddies, he proudly declared that Montana stands with Texas and its Gov. Greg Abbott, who is doing his damnest to provoke a second civil war by defying a Supreme Court order and ignoring the U.S. Constitution.

So, when Gianforte says that Montana stands with Texas, the rest of us who remain in the Treasure State while he galavants to the border would like a word about that.

For a moment, let’s breakdown what “standing with Texas” means.

Standing with Texas means that Gianforte, like so many Republicans who talk about the Constitution, Founding Fathers and the rule of law, are willing to go against the United States Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, which has ruled that the federal government, not Texas, has the responsibility of border protection. What Gianforte is telling us is that he’s willing to support the law so long as it conforms to his beliefs, after that it’s razor wire.

Standing with Texas means sending Montana National Guard troops to Texas — not for hurricanes or floods or any other national disaster. It means that Montana taxpayers will pay for their own state’s residents to go be a part of this political theater at our expense.

Standing with Texas means that we’re treating many people who are fleeing with their families, with few possessions except for their lives, like criminals — rapists and drug dealers, to listen to Republicans tell it. And yet the majority of those people are willing to give up everything they have in exchange for the hope of America’s promise, which has always been peace, the chance at a more prosperous life, without the constant fear of political retribution or violence.

And in this same nation, with these same politicians who speak with tears about the role of Jesus and the Christian church, these immigrants — strangers — are met with accusations of being criminal monsters. For a moment, consider the fear and desperation you’d have to feel to brave these conditions.

It doesn’t take much to fly on your own private jet a couple of thousand miles away, but it takes a great deal to walk and leave everything behind to be met with no guarantee you’ll arrive safely in America without drowning in a river or being sliced by taxpayer-funded razor wire.

Meanwhile, these same politicians which have been shouting and moaning about the lack of action in border policy are faced with the most comprehensive immigration overhaul in at least a generation, and they’re rejecting that as well.

I may be able to understand the political optics and stuntwork of standing with Texas at the border there. What I have a harder time understanding is what exactly Republicans stand for when it comes to immigration other than dozens of excuses to keep brown-skinned people out of the country.

Maybe Gianforte would do well to remember that if border security is really such a problem, why doesn’t he spend more time at Montana’s northern border? Wouldn’t that be a perfectly porous place for drugs and other things to slip through? It seems to me there’s only one difference between the two borders, and it doesn’t take much to figure out the reason. If border security were really such a priority, the governor wouldn’t have to leave the state to find a boundary.

While the spectacle of governors lined up in their khaki-themed outfits and state seals emblazoned on vests, caps and shirts makes for marginal political television, what Texas — or any other state — does isn’t going to help Montana.

While Gianforte is jet setting to the deep heart of Texas, Montanans are still dealing with the sticker shock of residential property taxes while Gianforte has simultaneously decreased taxes for the state’s largest business. While Gianforte’s handlers remind Montanans that he can pay for his own jet and fuel while traveling to the Lone Star State, more than 10% of his state is now trying to figure out how to pay for health insurance after being booted from Medicaid. And while Gianforte is standing with Texas, the rest of us can hardly stand to open the mail after receiving energy bills that have easily doubled since the same time last year.

That makes me wonder: When is Gianforte going to stand with Montana?

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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.