Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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A winning issue is a winning issue whether it can be addressed or not

by JIM ELLIOTT
| May 22, 2024 12:00 AM

POLITICS…AS USUAL

The furor over immigration is an issue that won’t go away—can’t go away-- because once it does it will no longer provide political ammunition for Republicans to use against the Democratic Party. 

The easiest way for Republicans to win politically on that issue is to propose solutions that –at least to Democrats--defy logic and are unrealistic. Why? Because Democrats are suckers for logic and reject solutions that don’t make sense “logically”. Years of failure by Democrats to deal with their myopia have not even begun to teach them that logic is their enemy. Take, for instance, their insistence that American workers are voting against their own self-interests. Speaking logically, of course they are! Doesn’t bother them a bit, but the argument is insulting to working people and is counterproductive for Democrats hoping to win workers’ trust 

In taking a political position it is important to not let the other party seize the day. In early 2024 the U.S. Senate killed a landmark bi-partisan immigration bill negotiated by conservative Senator James Lankford, R-Oklahoma. After years of inaction on immigration policy, this bill contained everything the Republicans wanted, which was one reason it was DOA, and another was because it was bi-partisan. But the main reason it died was because it would have removed immigration as a 2024 Presidential campaign issue. You cannot beat up on the opposition when they do what you want to do.

Fortunately, for Montana Republicans, a migrant family from Venezuela allegedly walked into the Flathead County Sheriff’s office around the first of May 2024 looking for a place to stay. Details are sketchy, which is the best way they can be because that leaves plenty of room for speculation. These hapless hypothetical refugees became the embodiment of a dark-skinned invasion, funded by a “dark money” non-profit according to Congressman Ryan Zinke, who apparently has some intimate familiarity with such groups. The story was jumped on by every statewide and local Republican important person. (The dark money group was Valley Neighbors of the Flathead which does all this clandestine work on an annual income, according to their IRS Form 990 disclosure in 2022 of $61,686. Pikers, in other words.)

So, now there will be an attempt to call for a special session of the Legislature to “secure our borders” which is fine with me as long as it includes our borders with Idaho, Wyoming, and the Dakotas, and another pressing and unsolvable issue is kept alive. Unsolvable because once solved it will then cease to be an issue for winning campaigns.

Another issue of crushing importance is that of addressing the partisanship of judicial candidates. It seems that not including a candidate’s political party affiliation on the ballot is a trick on the electorate and fools voters into thinking that the candidates are even-handed. In reality, the political argument for making judicial elections partisan is because non-partisan judges haven’t rubberstamped laws passed by the partisan Legislature and the Legislative leadership figures that they can get judges elected who will agree with them if they have to declare a Party allegiance. My suggestion is to leave the names of the candidate entirely off the ballot and substitute “Republican Candidate”, “Democratic Candidate” followed by “Vote for one.”

The judicial branch is not supposed to agree with the Legislative branch any more than it should agree with governors. The judicial branch is a check on the powers of the other two branches of government, just as those branches are checks on excesses of the judicial branch. The entire purpose of making judges run on party affiliation would be to make things run more smoothly for the majority party. But American government is not supposed to work smoothly. It was designed to work in mutual antagonism among the branches so that there would be second opinions and second thoughts and that minority viewpoints would be represented and protected.

We are told to think of the scales of Justice as always in balance, always equally applied. That is the still picture, as a friend of mine once put it, taken at a particular moment when the balance trays are at the same level. The motion picture, he said, would show the balance trays constantly moving in their attempts to find true balance.

As they should.


Montana Viewpoint has appeared in weekly and online newspapers across Montana for over 25 years. Jim Elliott served sixteen years in the Montana Legislature as a state representative and state senator. He lives on his ranch in Trout Creek.