Come Home to Montana, Wanderin’ Steve Bullock, There’s Work to Do

Photograph Source: Gage Skidmore – CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s not unusual for politicians in one elected office to seek higher office and that’s just what Montana’s Gov. Steve Bullock has been doing for much of the last few months. But reality has a way of chiming in on political ambition and given that Bullock will not make the next Democratic debate due to his lack of widespread — or even marginal — support, it’s time for him to come home to Montana, where there is plenty of challenging work to do.

Bullock certainly deserves credit for his fight against dark money in politics and it’s good that he took the opportunities afforded him on the campaign trail to repeatedly raise the issue. But the Supreme Court decided in the Citizens United case that money equals speech and hence is constitutionally protected and can’t be limited. The only way to overturn that decision in the foreseeable future is via a constitutional amendment to clarify that corporations aren’t people and money does not equal speech. And while that would be a worthwhile fight, it’s not one Bullock, even as president, would have the power to change.

The work Bullock was elected and is paid to do is governing Montana and taking care of its citizens. Given the Trump administration’s full-scale attack on the environment, public lands, national forests, and threatened and endangered species, we need a strong voice at the top of Montana’s elected officialdom to speak up forcibly to protect Montanans from Trump’s outrageous actions. And make no mistake, there will be serious consequences from the health and environmental effects of Trump’s non-congressionally approved rampage.

Just last week Trump announced he was rolling back the Obama-era rules to limit methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is considerably more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Moreover, methane causes serious health problems for humans. Considering Montana has entire communities in “fracking country,” their citizens deserve to protection from the health threats associated with industrial activities.

Then there are the new rules for the U.S. Forest Service emanating from the White House that will allow enormous clearcuts and road-building in the currently roadless lands without environmental analysis or public review. Bullock supported and nominated 5 million acres of Montana’s national forest for “treatment” under Obama, but Trump’s policy is exponentially more damaging to our publicly owned forests. The Amazon rain forest is burning and people all over the planet are worried about the “lungs of the world,” and it makes sense to the protect our forests and their vital function of pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Given that Montana still has virtually all of the native species that existed here when Lewis and Clark came through two centuries ago, it is incumbent upon Bullock to stand up and fight like hell against Trump’s efforts to trash the Endangered Species Act. The choice is clear —  preserve the diversity of species for future generations or sacrifice them for short-term economic activities to boost Trump’s re-election chances. That shouldn’t be a tough call for a Democratic governor.

Finally, if national attention is what Bullock craves, he may actually get far more of that by fighting Trump’s policies here at home than continuing to pursue his obviously doomed bid to become the Democratic Party candidate to face Trump in 2020. The nation desperately needs heroes to take on Trump’s increasingly unpopular and unwise policies — and that’s something Steve Bullock can do more effectively from the Montana governor’s office than at state fairs in Iowa and New Hampshire.

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