The problem with democracy is that people never just shut up and give you what you want. Take American democracy, for example. You would think that after Republicans won control of all three branches of government—at no small cost to their principles, I might add—people would accept their robust agenda of cutting taxes and reversing the flow of time. But no. Everyone has to get their pantaloons in a buncherino over who’s going to die, what sexual orientations deserve legal rights, which countries colluded with the president’s campaign, et cetera. By “everyone,” I mean Republicans. Today is Friday, and even the conspirators are too divided to act. Won’t you vent your frustration with me?
Last week, Montana’s sole delegate to the US House, Republican Ryan Zinke, voted to make transfers of federal lands to the states “budget neutral” for accounting purposes. This came as something of a surprise. Zinke has opposed land transfers throughout his career, going so far as to resign his position as a delegate to the Republican convention this summer in protest of support for transfers in the platform. Then, last week, he votes for item numero uno on the land transfer agenda. What gives?
Commander Zinke isn’t telling. He declined requests for interviews from the Indy, Montana Public Radio, and host of other outlets. Instead, his office released a six-word statement: “Ryan Zinke’s position has not changed.” I can think of two possible explanations:
- They actually said “Ryan Zinke’s position is UNCHAINED!” and the reporter hung up before she could hear the cheers and dance music as the congressman pounded a bottle of Goldschlager.
- They meant Zinke’s position in the federal government.
Right now, as I write this, he’s Representative Zinke. But five days from now, the Senate will likely confirm him as Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. At that moment, his position will change substantially. He will move from the legislative branch to the executive, slipping the surly bonds of an electorate that holds land transfers in low regard. Zinke’s position has not yet changed, but in another week or so, he will be in a place where the regards of Montanans matter less. He will be in federal government, which this year will focus on dismantling federal government and selling its assets, cheap.
You can read all about it in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. I’m going to miss Commander Zinke and his tireless portrayal of himself. Unless my man EG-4 shocks the world, Montana’s next representative in Congress will not be such a strong persona. Probably, he or she will not have killed even one person, much less many people in a war. They won’t appear on Fox News as often, if at all. And say what you like about Ryan Zinke’s policies, he doesn’t.
Readers of the Missoulian’s opinion pages know the paper has a strict policy of publishing only those opinions submitted in writing. Back in March, they published a letter to the editor from a woman who is not prejudiced, arguing that the Bible commands us to keep separate from Muslims. But that’s just an LTE, and the Missoulian’s stated policy is to publish all letters that “meet our guidelines.” Presumably they curate their guest columns a little more carefully, but you know what happens when we presume: our local newspaper publishes an editorial arguing that people without jobs should not be allowed to vote.
Ed Butcher is a former state senator and self-described historian/teacher of history, although his last teaching position—as a lecturer in American studies at Great Falls University—ended forty years ago. He appears to be retired, but don’t worry about him running afoul of his own proposal, because he owns a ranch. Like many retired landowners, he has a keen eye for who isn’t working. Quote:
Thousands of people are marching in highly organized mass protests across America. They obviously are not working for a living; so who is feeding, clothing and housing these radicals who are railing against the society supporting their “lifestyle?”
Butcher goes on to trace the decline of “the founding fathers’ republic” to the extension of the vote to men without property, a process that occurred during the 1820s. Now that’s conservative. His remedy is to require proof of employment to vote. You can read my full-throated defense of this idea in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. Mister Butcher—Ed—if you’re reading this, reasonable people can disagree. But you are not a reasonable person, so I am forced to agree with you wholeheartedly.
It’s hard to read about anything other than fascism lately, but if you care to take a moment for something lighter, Snoop Dogg is coming to Missoula as part of the Puff Puff Pass Tour Part 2. Let’s all take a moment to wonder what the fudge that might look like, and whether our girlfriend made good on her threat to buy tickets. Once that’s done, check out my meditation on the uncharted path of the middle-aged rapper, also in this week’s Indy. If you had told me, when this song came out and I was a young dummy in Brooklyn, that I would write about Snoop Dogg for a Montana newspaper in 2016, I would have been confused. Once you told me Donald Trump would be president, though, I would have known exactly what kind of person I was talking to.
Democracy does not measure what everybody wants. It measures what voters want, and convincing people to vote a certain way is not so hard as convincing them to vote at all. Yesterday, the village of Whitesboro, New York voted to keep its official seal, which depicts the village founder throwing an Indian to the ground. It was a victory for residents who knew their history. The seal does not symbolize white supremacy over Indians; it merely depicts the symbolic turning point in the village’s founding, which happened when the unfortunately named Hugh White defeated an Oneida Indian in a wrestling match. I admit it’s counterintuitive, but the Whitesboro residents who voted to keep the seal know their history—all 157 of them. The final vote was 157 to 55. That’s a turnout of 5.7% of the total Whitesboro population.
Remember on Friday when we declared American politics too selfishly broken to address the basic management of the United States? It turns out we were wrong, because the President and congressional leaders reached a deal on the national debt ceiling last night. The package still needs the support of both houses—including several notoriously intransigent members—but tentatively, maybe even presumably, the lights are going to stay on. “Sausage making is not pretty,” Diane Feinstein told the Times. “But the sausage we have, I think, is a very different sausage from when we started.” And in the end, isn’t that what we all what from our food? Different?