Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) visits a Special Forces parade in Helena.
Last week, increasingly real thing that happened Donald Trump tapped Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) to be his Secretary of the Interior. Assuming the Senate confirms him when it reconvenes in January, Montana will need to select a new representative to the US House. But whom? State law calls for a special election within 85 to 100 days of the seat being vacated. It also authorizes the governor to appoint an interim representative, but Montana Republican Party Chairman Jeff Essman said that was probably unconstitutional. Even though her party holds the governorship and the law is on her side side, Democratic Executive Director Nancy Keenana agreed with him. They’re not even going to make the Republicans file some kind of lawsuit. There will be no interim rep, as state Democrats have decided to give up a seat in Congress in the interest of…comity, I guess. I’m sure Republicans will repay the favor later.
It’s razor-sharp political instincts like these that have led some Democrats to suggest Denise Juneau as their candidate in the special election. I like Juneau, but she did lose a statewide campaign for the same office six weeks ago. Is there no one else? In this week’s column for the Missoula Independent, we examine the field—including Richard Spencer, who persists despite increasingly widespread allegations that his father is a broken tube of a chicken semen. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!
The whole state of Montana until Tuesday
You can’t hear it, but someone is lazily picking a banjo. The buffalo no longer roam, having decided one place is as good as another. The deer and the antelope play video games. Montana politics is sleepy, so sleepy. But then look what happens: a federal judge rules unconstitutional several elements of our campaign finance law. Suddenly, the dog sits up. As of Tuesday afternoon—three weeks before the primaries—political parties can contribute unlimited amounts to individual candidates. Judge Charles Lovell’s ruling seems to indicate that limits on donations from individuals and corporations are lifted as well, but Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl believes he must only revert to the limits in place before the ones Lovell struck down, in 1994.
Anyway, the last time this law was briefly overturned—for nine days in 2012—Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill accepted a $500,000 donation. Our easy slumber may have just been broken. I, for one, welcome the impending rush of cash into Montana politics. The 2016 campaign needs a shot of adrenaline. Why, just this week in the Missoula Independent, I wrote about how Bullock versus Gianforte has been a clash of tepid negatives. But the potential for political action committees of all kinds to
spend unlimited amounts of money say unlimited amounts of speech ensures a vigorous exchange of ideas. So pander to me, boys. I’m all napped up.
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R–MT) grabs a gun constitutionally.
You don’t need to print the American flag on an AR-15. If you’re holding one—indoors, with your finger on the trigger, as former Navy SEAL and current representative from Montana Ryan Zinke is well trained to do above—people will know you’re American. Guns are an essential part of the American experiment. They’re what separated us from Britain in the 18th century, and they’re what separates a new generation of Americans from their faces in the 21st. The Second Amendment guarantees that we all get as many as we want. And despite juridical and popular disagreement over what the authors of the Constitution meant by “well-regulated militia,” I think we can agree it’s unconstitutional to regulate guns at all.
Come back to me, Edward, and sleep forever.
Perhaps this was massive, world-interrupting news yesterday and I slept/vomited through it, but a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction against broad federal collection of cell phone data, saying that the program “surely” infringes on the Fourth Amendment. Blanket domestic surveillance from the NSA is by no means over, but it seems likely to suffer a serious blow in the next six months. DC District Court Judge Richard Leon stayed his injunction to allow the federal government time to appeal—something it almost certainly will do, so business as
usual recently revealed by a dude who has to hide in Russia. But Leon also called the programs “almost Orwellian” and said James Madison would be “aghast” if he knew about it. He meant to say “a ghost.”
South Carolina State Rep. Mike Pitts accepts a Freedom Award from the SC Gun Owners' Association. Not pictured: Men's Wearhouse
Say you’re a certain political party that, for reasons totally beyond your control, suffered an electoral defeat in 2008 so humiliating that it seemed to dictate a wholesale reevaluation of your priorities. Everyone predicted that you would founder for decades, but then—miraculously—your politics experienced a sudden resurgence. According to the national news media, at least, thousands across the country rallied not just around your principles, but around a crazy, exaggerated version of your principles—one so dedicated and extreme that it took even you by surprise. Of course, you jumped on this public groundswell with both feet, chanting along and adopting the rhetoric of your most wild-eyed supporters. It seemed great for a while, but now you’ve got a problem. The engine is losing steam; you’ve gone as far down the track as rhetoric can take you, and it’s only given you a better look at how far you have left to go. Crazy talk has been great for getting you on the news and misinforming the public, but the time for crazy talk is over. Now is the time for crazy action.