The Problems of One-Party Rule

When the Republicans swept every statewide office in the last election they were understandably and justifiably dancing on a pony keg. But with their great victory came the onus of one-party rule, in which you can’t dodge the responsibility for the conditions and problems because you and only you are in charge. With another election just around the corner, it’s very tough for the Republicans to use the old “blame Democrats” line for the problems now facing the state — and there’s no shortage of those.

As reported late last week the state prison at Deerlodge announced it “will suspend visitation indefinitely at the end of the month, another workaround necessitated by the hollowed-out workforce at the facility outside Deer Lodge.” Of course that brings tremendous hardship to those who may have a family member incarcerated, but it also severely undermines the Republican promises to “run the state like a business” when they can’t even keep the prison staffed.

Likewise, it surely must be an embarrassment for Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen to have to re-issue the Voter Information Pamphlets due to mistakes because a judge tossed out the unconstitutional laws passed by the Republican-dominated legislature “creating stricter requirements for voter ID at the polls and outlawing paid ballot collection by third parties” and “moving to an earlier deadline for voters to register.”

Of course the Legislature was just playing its part in the Trump “stolen election” farce by enacting the voter restrictions – despite the fact their party won all the statewide races under the existing voting laws. And again, you can’t dodge the responsibility when you control the entire process from the state house to the ballot box.

Then there’s the debacle at Fish, Wildlife & Parks over the “favor wealthy landowners and outfitters” new elk regulations which have raised the hackles of Montana’s hunters, regardless of political affiliation. The agency has already been sued and had to re-do issuing free landowner permits this spring thanks to “errors” that “eliminated 2,500 hunters” from the process due to a “technical error.

Nor can responsibility be dodged by Republican Congressman Matt Rosendale, who likewise drew the wrath of hunters and anglers by co-sponsoring a bill to gut the long-standing conservation benefits of the Pittman-Robertson funds derived from the federal excise tax on hunting gear. Why would he do such a thing when no one was complaining about it? Because he wanted to grandstand on the non-issue that the feds were “taxing our Second Amendment right to bear arms.” Again, a total farce.

Or how about Governor Gianforte’s supposed business acumen? Homes are now so expensive in Montana that our kids can’t afford to stay here – just the opposite of his “come back home” schtick that was supposed to draw former residents back to the state. Let’s see, are the Democrats to blame? Maybe Biden, ehh?

In the meantime, the areas in our much-loved state that haven’t yet traded locals for yokels are disappearing every day. And the “pro-development, anti-regulation” Republicans are having a tough time with that line when the Forest Service decided it should “categorically exclude” analysis on a new proposal to turn Holland Lake into the next socio-environmental disaster like Big Sky. Maybe some regulations are necessary, ehh?

Of course all this plays into the upcoming election. Montana’s future is not a red vs blue game, nor a stage for cheap political theater. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by restoring a little balance – and the opportunity to actually debate public policy —  to our rather arrogant and error-prone one-party governance.

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