The Times They are a-Changin’

You can bet plenty of eyebrows shot up in Republican Party headquarters and campaign offices when Bob Brown’s outstanding column announcing his “independence from the Republican Party” hit the Missoulian last week.

A lifelong Republican with an absolutely outstanding record of achievement and public service, Brown’s repudiation of what the Republican Party has become — and its two top-tier candidates in Montana — were rock solid and indicative of President Trump’s rapidly declining approval across the nation. It’s an old and well-worn line, but there’s little doubt when Republicans like Brown renounce their party affiliation that “the times they are a’changing.”

Bob Brown has been a much-valued personal friend for 35 years, but for those who don’t know him, here’s a run-down of his credentials. Born and raised in Whitefish, Montana, Bob is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, holds degrees in history, art and education and taught high school in Kalispell, Big Fork and Whitefish.

At the age of 24 he was elected to the Montana House of Representatives in 1971 where he served until 1974. He was elected to the Senate for the next 23 years, becoming its longest-serving member and became Senate president in 1995. In 2001 he was elected as Montana’s Secretary of State. When Gov. Judy Martz declined to run for re-election in 2004 the Republican Party nominated Bob, hoping to retain the Governor’s Office they had held since 1993. In a rare electoral defeat, he lost that race to Democrat Brian Schweitzer.

Brown’s record of achievement in the Montana Legislature was likewise significant, where he didn’t just show up and vote, but was the chairman of the education, taxation and judicial committees as well as the committee on committees, which appoints Senate members to their respective roles.

Brown was a well-respected legislator and leader whose erudition and always-open door was much appreciated by all who worked with him for decades, doing the hard work of pounding out the laws and budgets of the Big Sky State.

Brown’s Republican credentials are simply beyond reproach. But the Republican Party changed with the election of Donald Trump, leaving many Republicans wondering just what happened to the Grand Old Party they loved and supported for so long.

In the “old days” Republicans ran for election on fiscal conservatism, but Trump brags that he is the “King of Debt.” And indeed, our nation under Trump has racked up unbelievable debts that will plague future generations for decades to come.

During Brown’s legislative tenure most critical debates revolved around fiscal, social, legal and scientific facts. Now, with a president who has lied tens of thousands of times since taking office, facts not only don’t matter, those that don’t serve the purposes of the president and his grifter-filled administration are simply discarded or labeled as “fake news” by the Republican Party’s highest officeholders. One need look no further than the idiocy of Trump’s needless politicization of the common-sense precautionary health measure of wearing face masks in public to understand just how far afield from “the facts” the Republican Party has strayed.

As the old saying goes: “You can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” It’s obvious Brown has had it with the Republican Party’s “fooling” and finally had to write: “But after watching Trump’s consistently ignorant and irresponsible leadership, I’ve concluded that in good conscience, I can’t remain a member of the party he has taken over.” Good on ya, Bobby old pal.

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