On Saturday, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R–MT) took the bravest stand of his political career. He resigned his position as a delegate to the Republican National Convention, citing his objection to a plank in the party platform that called for federal lands to be returned to the states. Commander Zinke feels strongly about federal land management, as befits an admirer of Teddy Roosevelt. It’s understandable that he kept his commitment to address the convention on Monday night, because pulling out 48 hours beforehand would be a dick move. Too bad the evening’s program turned out to be a parade of dicks, rubbing against each other until everyone was too sore and sticky to stand up any more, with Zinke coming in to mop up.
That’s an unpleasant metaphor, but it was a lot nicer than Monday night’s prime-time show. Zinke was scheduled to speak at 8:45pm EDT but didn’t take the stage until after 11:30. His openers included Rudolph Giuliani and the sheriff of Milwaukee County arguing that Black Lives Matter is racist, plus five different people whose relatives had been killed by illegal immigrants. The theme of the evening was “Make America safe again,” but the message was “black and brown people make America dangerous.” After his openers emptied the hall with hours of what Charles Pierce called weaponized grief, Zinke got up and did his SEAL schtick for six minutes, tacitly endorsing the craziness that came before.
It was disappointing to watch him do that after his courageous gesture last weekend. Why did Zinke stand on principle re: land management but not re: xenophobia, police brutality, or torture? That’s the question under inquiry in this week’s column in the Missoula Independent, which is a real criticism sandwich. I praise Zinke for taking a stand on our national parks. I praise him for being one of the few new Republicans with the biography to stand up to terror paranoia. But I criticize him for buying in, however passively. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links.