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Trump on the Stump

If the rumors are true, Donald Trump will be coming to Montana this week to stump for Matt Rosendale, the Republican challenger to incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. Given his past behavior, we can expect the usual insults, name-calling and chest-thumping that are the trademark of a president who has no experience in government and sees public policy not as a give-and-take of differences of opinion between reasonable people, but as a stage upon which he can strut while sowing division among the citizens of our state, nation, and world.

But in Montana, which is a long way from Washington, D.C., trying to make Montanans hate each other over public policy differences should never be tolerated nor rewarded.

There’s a lot Trump doesn’t understand about the Constitution, the court system and Montana. Given that he has admitted he rarely reads and gets most of his information from Fox News and other televised media outlets, his blundering like a bull in the china shop of public policy is somewhat understandable, if incredibly embarrassing.

The reality, whether Trump likes it or not, is that there’s nothing even remotely simple about making law and governing — not drafting the language, debating it, somehow passing it through legislative chambers divided by political party, funding it and implementing the policies mandated by those laws. Furthermore, Trump doesn’t understand that laws are subservient to the Constitution, whose guarantees of various freedoms and rights he regularly disparages.

Freedom of the press would be a good place to start. In Trump world, that means freedom to praise him. But if that same freedom is used to criticize him, it’s dubbed “fake news” from “failing” sources. He displays the same misunderstanding of freedom of speech. Praise Trump and it’s great; criticize him or his administration and you’re “an extraordinarily low IQ person” or worse. And if you do it at a Trump rally, there’s a good chance he’ll incite violence against you, maybe even claim he personally wants to “punch you in the face.”

When it comes to the court system, Trump’s lack of understanding is equally abhorrent. He doesn’t get it that we have three separate but equal branches of government by design to ensure checks and balances should any one branch of government abuse its powers. Having already disparaged any number of judges who disagreed with him or upheld the Constitution, he sees the judicial branch as there to defend him and even attacked his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for failing to simply dispose of any legal challenges or investigations into Trump’s own lies, dubious deals and abuses.

Closer to home, Trump doesn’t understand that in Montana we don’t ask what political party you belong to before helping fellow citizens who are stuck in a snowbank or on a muddy road, or rendering assistance in any number of instances. Here, the reality is that we live in an often harsh environment that may entail floods, snow, ice and wildfire. We live close to Nature and understand that misfortune may befall any of us at almost any time. So we help, not hate, each other for mutual benefit.

Despite his long and ugly record of threats and insults as divider-in-chief, it would be good for the nation if Trump could at least try to understand the wisdom of Chief Tecumseh, who said, “a single twig breaks, but the bundle of sticks is strong.” And regardless of his overwhelming narcissism, perhaps he might come to finally realize the reality that as a state and nation “united we stand, divided we fall.”

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George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

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