Conservative Contradictions Stacking Up

When Republicans run for office one of the most common themes is a pledge, as conservatives, to limit government in size, scope, and intrusion. For many, that’s an attractive promise, especially in a state known for its “rugged individualism.” But in truth, as is more evident every day, the Republican-dominated Montana legislature is doing just the opposite.

The silver lining for this black policy cloud is that Montanans are not as dumb as some legislators think — and they’re catching on to the contradictions between conservatives’ campaign promises and their highly intrusive legislation. And as the conservatives try to tell us what to read, how to think (or not think), what we can and can’t do, they seem to believe our constitution is like their campaign promises — something which can simply be ignored once they’re elected.

Take, for instance, the bill to force someone or group seeking an injunction to halt some project to post a $50,000 bond because it might interfere with Montanans’ constitutional right to hunt and fish! Yep, this is the legislature telling the Judiciary what it’s going to do — despite the fact, as clearly spelled out in the Constitution, the Judiciary is a separate but equal branch of government.

The bond, says the bill’s sponsor, is to cover any loss of our constitutional right to hunt and fish. But how’s about we flip that one and say anyone who plans on doing anything that might contradict Montanans’ other clearly enumerated constitutional rights has to post a similar bond?

So, let’s say some polluting industry wants a discharge permit or irrigators intentionally dewater our rivers. The pollution clearly contradicts Montanans’ “inalienable right to a clean and healthy environment.” And dewatering rivers and killing trout ignores the mandate that: “The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations.”

Considering how many Montanans will be deprived of those constitutional rights, the bond to cover such losses would be in the millions. And obviously society as we know it would be shut down.

Or how about the right to privacy? That, too, is being stomped on by the “conservatives” who not only want to tell you what you can or can’t do with your own body and reproductive decisions, but now want to ban theatrical shows by drag performers — from publicly-funded schools and libraries because they might “excite lustful thoughts” so vehemently opposed by these bible-thumpers who want to dictate their moral boundaries for everyone else.

And again, had these self-labeled conservatives actually read the Montana Constitution they would see “Individual Dignity” defined in the Declaration of Rights as being “inviolable” and that: “No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws. Neither the state nor any person, firm, corporation, or institution shall discriminate against any person in the exercise of his civil or political rights on account of race, color, sex, culture, social origin or condition, or political or religious ideas.” Add to that the constitution’s mandate that “no law shall be passed impairing the freedom of speech or expression” and it’s pretty clear these arrogant legislators could care less what the constitution guarantees.

The examples go on and on and are mounting, not diminishing. At this rate, the 2023 Legislature will easily surpass the last legislature’s shameful record of passing laws that were immediately found to be unconstitutional.

“Conservatives”? No, they’re not conservatives. They’re radicals — as they so often label those who actually believe in and uphold Montana’s constitutional rights. They’re running rampant — but Montanans are increasingly concerned as the true extremism of these so-called conservatives is revealed.

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