Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Make Informed Choices in the Election.

by Jerry Ellwood
| September 13, 2020 12:00 AM

The Aug. 9 guest editorial in the Inter Lake by Don Kaltschmidt, presents a prophetic fork-in-the-road choice confronting voters this coming November. He refers to the election as “a referendum on the America we know and love,” implying American culture and our way of life can only be preserved by voting for Republicans instead of Democrats. As chair of the state GOP, Kaltschmidt is forced to resort to such fear mongering because his party can’t make a positive case for its own candidates. So instead, he has to try making enough people fearful about enough things so they overlook their weaknesses, the historic ineffectiveness of the GOP as a governing party, and the distaste for all the chaos and cruelty of the Trump administration and its enablers.

Kaltschmidt is confronted with the reality that the GOP candidates do not have much to offer except for representing a party that remains a white, backward-looking, and mostly older Christian party that is in decline in an increasingly diverse and changing society, making it ever more difficult for Republicans to win national elections. So, in asking readers to join him by thinking monolithically and choosing only those on the right when they vote, he is obliged to overlook the truth about his party’s weak candidates and its abject failures in dealing with all the varied challenges facing this State and this country and in attracting voters from a broad cross-section of society.

So, Kaltschmidt’s resorts to more fear mongering by falsely asserting that Democrats are catering to a few on the far left who, in his words, hate our country and our system of government. This is a laughable canard of the close-minded GOP -- if anyone dare criticize anything about our government or questions its policies when the GOP is in power, it can only mean they hate government. If a Democrat points out any negative ways in which our country is exceptional, they are called unpatriotic rather than honest. For someone from a party that is the most ideologically monolithic, Kaltschmidt’s claim that Democrats are guilty of group-think is laughable hypocrisy. Almost every elected official in the GOP is afraid of political retribution if they voice any public criticism of Trump, his political appointees, or his policy choices. Looking for independent thinking in the GOP is harder than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

It’s most unfortunate that almost no one in the GOP, including Kaltschmidt, have demonstrated any courage to acknowledge their party has been a collective failure at governing, defending democratic institutions and the rule of law, addressing growing gaps in economic wealth and opportunity, dealing with climate change, standing up to a dangerously defective president, and adhering to some semblance of objective truth. Instead, it remains the party of authoritarian right-wing nationalism that is blindly allegiant to a racist demagogue. It has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. The only thing it offers is a brew of meanness, propaganda, science denial, corruption and racism.

Participation in the political process requires certain core values, including a fidelity to the rule of law; devotion to the separation of powers; and recognition that the U.S. is defined not by race, gender or religion, but by our creed of equal justice for all under the law. To gain admission to the political playing field, a party must buy into the constitutional system of government and reflect basic human decency. Trumpism and those who are advocates of it like Steve Daines, Greg Gianforte, and Matt Rosendale have proved utterly unwilling to do that. The core value of Trumpism — to the extent there is one — is a brand of populism that is antithetical to a pluralistic democracy.

Since a political party is the sum-total of its elected officials and supporters, Republicans are undeserving of the public’s trust and should be disqualified from holding office as long as they remain tainted by their support for Trump and unwilling to repudiate Trumpism. Neither Daines, Gianforte, or Rosendale meet that requirement.

Voters have the choice this November of choosing candidates on either the left or right fork of the road. But informed voters know that those on the dysfunctional right fork are duplicitous pitchmen that hide their intentions, conceal the truth about their allegiance to donors, and represent the interests of only the wealthy and big business. In contrast, the Democratic candidates are running to represent all Montanans; with a desire to make government work effectively; with a passion for public policy; and with a burning aspiration to improve society and the lives of all Americans. This is what we should all expect and vote for in a representative democracy. The call by the chair of Montana’s GOP to vote only for candidates on the right prophetic fork in the road in the upcoming election should be ignored.

Jerry Elwood, Kalispell