Rodney Garcia Epitomizes Trump’s Brand of Political Intolerance

Montana didn’t need the very negative worldwide press it got last week when Billings Republican legislator Rodney Garcia decided to inform us that according to the U.S. Constitution, it’s OK to “shoot socialists.” For those who doubt the dangerous effects of President Trump’s unhinged rants against “socialism,” Garcia’s acceptance of personal violence against those with whom he disagrees on public policy should be a blaring warning sign — and one Montanans should universally reject.

Those who have long familiarity with Montana’s politics may recall that Garcia was not always a Republican. In 1985, he was a Democrat member of the House of Representatives — a seat he held for exactly one term. Even then, Garcia exhibited exceptionally bad judgment on a host of issues, including joining a handful of Democrats who voted for then-Gov. Ted Schwinden’s foolish move to slash Montana’s coal severance tax in half to, according to Schwinden, make Montana more competitive with Wyoming coal.

Of course slashing the severance tax on a non-renewable resource like coal didn’t magically reduce the transportation costs by moving Montana’s coal closer to markets. And transportation costs to markets were the main advantage Wyoming had over Montana. What it did do, however, was cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue, which it continues to do not only in the lower tax rate, but also in the loss of interest income from the Permanent Coal Severance Trust Fund established in Article IX, Sec. 4 of the Montana Constitution.

One can, however, be sure old Rodney didn’t figure out way back then that chopping severances taxes in half on a publicly held natural resource like coal to benefit one corporation, the now-defunct Montana Power Company, was a classic case of the very “socialism” he now professes to despise to the point of violence. Were Garcia to look for it, he would find rampant “socialism” in the vast expenditures by the federal government to subsidize the entire fossil fuel industry.

Or hey, if that’s too tough, maybe he can explain what exactly they call the billions in federal taxpayer dollars Trump is joyfully doling out to farmers and ranchers — and big ag corporations — to ameliorate the fiscal impacts of his trade wars. If that’s not socialism, what is? It’s certainly not the so-called “free market” Republicans supposedly love but repeatedly manipulate.

Of course Garcia couldn’t cite the section of the Constitution where it says it’s O.K. to shoot socialists because it doesn’t exist. That didn’t stop him, however, from explaining that America’s system of government is a “Republic Constitution” — which also doesn’t exist, but apparently in Garcia’s mind allows one to shoot those with differing political affiliations.

To its credit, the Montana Republican Party did chastise Garcia. But they didn’t throw him out of the GOP, as Donald Trump Jr. demands be done to Utah’s Republican Sen. Mitt Romney for voting to impeach his corrupt father. What’s hypocritically good for the Trump goose is apparently not good for the gobbling Garcia gander.

Montanans have a long and proud history of respecting each other’s individuality — including in public policy debates. Garcia’s sentiments have no place in the conduct of the Montana Legislature and he should not be returned to public office.

But make no mistake; as witnessed by Garcia’s outrageous statements, Trump’s endorsement of hatred and violence against his political opponents has now surfaced in the Big Sky State. But here in Montana, where we gladly help fellow citizens in need without regard to political affiliation, those violent sentiments should find no home.

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