Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Ted Washburn (or Clint Regenold) for HD 69

In the past, Montana Headlines has asked liberals to define "wingnut" and other names they call conservatives here in Montana.

While most of the time such labels are loosely and unfairly applied, perhaps this is a good definition of wingnut mentality, if there ever was one.

We're all for principles, and for principled stands taken by politicians who go against the grain and are willing to stand alone. Every legislator ultimately has to vote his conscience, and occasionally that will clash with someone else's idea of practicality.

But Rep. Roger Koopman crossed a line when he created what amounts to an "enemies list" made up of his fellow legislators. It would be one thing if Koopman could rationally believe that conservative Republicans of his defined level of ideological purity could win a majority in the Montana House and Senate. But he knows good and well that they can't. Either that, or he is delusional.

This delusion was doubtless born of the Ron Paul performance in the recent limited Montana GOP caucus. Paul came in second, and a great number of his followers honestly (and incredibly) believe that Paul would have won in an open primary election. Given that Paul's best performance in a primary (as opposed to a caucus) rarely broke into double digits, this kind of self-delusion is truly breathtaking.

Proof of Ron Paul involvement in this project is the involvement of Dave Hart, Ron Paul's state director. During the caucus campaign, Hart and other Ron Paul supporters indicated that they were wanting to work within the party constructively.

If this is what they meant by working constructively within the party, then we'd like to see what they might mean by by destructive.

What really set the blood to boiling around Montana Headlines was the inclusion of Rep. Elsie Arnzten of Billings. We're not as familiar with the other Republicans on Koopman's list, but with all due disrespect to Rep. Koopman, he doesn't have to run in Arnzten's district, which leans heavily Democratic. Let's just say that Koopman would go down to spectacular defeat in this district where Arnzten wins handily.

And Koopman has the nerve to call the legislators on his list "socialists." This, after the Republican caucus in the House held together for one 51-49 party line vote after another throughout the last legislative session. Rest assured, given the fact that the more conservative wing of the Republican caucus narrowly won the leadership elections and set the agenda, the more moderate members of the caucus were undoubtedly the ones taking the biggest political risks in those votes of party loyalty -- not the Roger Koopmans in the House.

Koopman has called for "real conservatives" to challenge the legislators on his list. Of course, if any are fool-hardy enough to try, they will likely be trounced.

We, on the other hand, would like to see Rep. Koopman be successfully challenged by a "real Republican" -- i.e. one who understands what Ronald Reagan meant by the 11th commandment: Thou shalt speak no ill of a fellow Republican.

Now we're just taking a wild stab here, and we in general don't like things that start with "What Ronald Reagan would do is...." But we imagine that Reagan would say that Koopman was most certainly "speaking ill" by calling his fellow conservative Republicans "socialists," just because they don't meet his standard of ideological purity. It is a disgrace even to allow Koopman to claim the mantle of "conservative." We're not sure what to call his kind of extreme approach, but it is anything but conservative.

One last thing -- we've seen things on blogs and comments that say that Koopman is speaking for or representative of "the Montana Republican Party."

The truth is that Koopman is speaking for a distinct minority of the Republican Party. Maybe 10% at most -- albeit a very vocal 10%. It isn't that we don't accept that 10% in the Montana GOP. We do and should, and we value the most right-leaning members of the party, and we should value anything truly conservative and Constitutional that they bring to the table. They are a part of the "big tent" every bit as much as moderate to liberal Republicans are.

But the real voice of the overwhelming majority of Montana Republicans is reflected not by Koopman, but rather by GOP Chairman Erik Iverson's comments:

Asked if he agreed with Koopman’s labeling of the 14 targeted Republicans as “socialist incumbent ‘Republicans,’ ” Iverson said, “I refer to them as Republicans. We’re a big-tent party. We’ve got room for all Republicans of all types of ideologies.”

Good for Iverson -- we couldn't agree more. Don't get us wrong -- we are fine with having Roger Koopmans in the party and in the legislature if they can get elected and represent their constituencies. That's not why we are endorsing his opponents. It is not right to purge people of Koopman's ideology or voting record any more than it is right to purge moderates from the party.

But it is perfectly fine with us if the voters in HD 69 rid us of a Republican who isn't willing to work within the Republican coalition, but who seems bent on destroying it in favor of a permanent Republican minority. We know nothing about Washburn or Regenold -- but let's hope that one of them emerges as a consensus candidate of sane Republicanism in that district, and at the very least gives Koopman a taste of what he is advocating for the legislators on his enemies list.


Anonymous said...

Agree with your analysis. Koopman is making himself look goofy. And he's not helping the party either.

The Helena paper had an editorial today expressing the same sort of sentiment. No surprise there.

It is interesting that the Montana press takes opportunities like this to criticize Republicans. Some papers also took a shot at the party over the Bohlinger/caucus thing.

And yet, I can't even think of the last time I've seen one of the big Montana papers write an editorial critical of Democrats or a Democratic official.

Democrats basically control most of the major offices in Montana, but the newpspaers are watchdogging Republicans, who don't run much of anything. I seem to remember that, back when MT papers were being so critical of Martz and Burns, they said it wasn't because they were partisan, it was just because they were filling their role as watchdogs and that they would do the same when Democrats came to power.

I guess the press got housebroken and poodlelized since that time.

Montana Headlines said...

Yes, the rest of us keep waiting for Baucus and the governor to get the aggressive "watchdog" treatment, too.

Don't hold your breath.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about this some more and thought that, to be fair, I should note taht a writer, I think Mike Dennison, wrote an article recently where he said Democrats should not be blaming Republicans for their inability to increase spending even more to Montana schools. So there's that.

But that's sort of the exception that proves the rule.

But it was a column, and I still can't think of any editorials in recent years that were critical of the governor, Baucus, Tester, etc. There must of been some but, even if there were, they were so mild that they were forgettable pieces.

The papers also tend to go easy on the news coverage. I noticed a story the other day on how that Norman Hsu (sp?), the Democratic fundraiser who had steered some money to John Tester had appeared in court back east to enter a plea on the charges he was giving illegal contributions to Democrats. I didn't see anything in the MT press. Can you imagine the MT papers not carrying the tiniest bit of news related to Jack Abramoff?

And today there was the long story about Tester getting retired judge John Sheehy to do an "audit" of his senate office. The story discussed the audit at length as a serious matter, tho it did note Sheehy had been a Democratic legislator. (and everyone knows hes a strong Democrat) It will be interesting to see if any MT newspapers comment on it. Would they praise Tester for doing this "audit" and give it some window dressing, or would if they ask why he didn't get an independent person so it would have some credibility? (would that really have been so hard?) Guess we know what the odds favor...

Anonymous said...

I agree with Iverson--R's are a big tent party. For example, there is room for Senator Larry Craig.

Montana Headlines said...

Sure, there's room for Craig in the GOP. Just like there's room for Spitzer in the Democratic Party.