Representative Zinke’s Dog Whistle Battle Against TYRANNY!

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The Republicans are going to stop the tyrannical rule of President Obama, they tell us. And Ryan Zinke wants us to know that he’s with them, signing off on yet another sound and fury signifying nothing effort to rein in the President.

Never mind that President Obama has issued fewer executive orders than did Presidents Bush or Reagan. Never mind that under the leadership of the former, Congress gave the executive branch’s intelligence services so little oversight that hundreds of millions of Americans were being listened to by their government without a warrant, without even the illusion of probable cause.

Ignore that Congressman Zinke has endorsed a candidate for President who has approvingly cited the example of Saddam Hussein as a means of combating terrorists. Ignore that Congressman Zinke has joked about his immoral and horrifying use of torture in the military. Ignore even that Congressman Zinke is loudly attacking the President for his effort to dismantle one of the worst symbols of our collective acceptance of authoritarian government beyond the rule of law in Guantanamo.

We’ve moved past a world in which facts or even the appearance of basic logical consistency matter here.

Let’s pretend instead that Congressman Zinke actually believes that President Obama is acting like a tyrant, like a king. What has he done? Has he introduced articles of impeachment? No, although he hinted he might before his election. Has he called for meaningful investigation into these alleged acts of the king? No, although he has certainly spent enough time grandstanding about it in conservative media outlets.

Instead, he’s signed off on another wasteful Republicans Congressional effort to battle tyranny with overheated rhetoric, posting his support on Facebook this week for yet another Republican show bill:

I’m fed up with the President abusing his authority and trampling on the Constitution. He is not the king. BLAH BLAH BLAH

Zinke’s suggestion that President Obama is some sort of tyrant is hardly new. It’s the foundation of his national career.

Maybe it’s just me, but another piece of symbolic legislation is a pretty chicken shit way to respond to a President acting like a king. If Zinke and Congress believed what they were saying, if it were somehow true, it’s hard to imagine the history books looking back with much favor on a Congress responding to TYRANNY with a piece of show legislation in the last few months of the Obama presidency.

But of course they and Zinke don’t believe that President Obama is a tyrant, or acting like a king.

We’re in the land of dog whistle rhetoric for the increasingly unhinged and unmoored right wing who are still so angry that the United States elected a moderate African-American President that they vilify him at every turn. Instead of leading, instead of suggesting that the rhetoric is harmful, Republican leaders like Congressman Zinke are fanning the flames and giving credence to the paranoid fantasies of the worst of the conservative movement. Like televangelists bilking little old ladies, Zinke and his crew feed the anti-Obama sentiment with incendiary rhetoric, knowing that it will pay off in campaign donations and time on Fox News.

It’s become something of a mantra among conservatives that during the Obama Administration, we’ve become more divided as a nation. They intone this repeatedly, as if they bear no responsibility for the division. Repeatedly intimating, if not outright saying, that the first African-American president is alien to “American” values, disloyal to the country, a Muslim sympathizer, and a tyrant didn’t cause the division, if you ask these patriots. Instead, they argue, the roots of our division are that same President acknowledging that racism is still real in our communities and having the temerity to suggest that we have more to overcome if we are ever to achieve the dream of a society not riven by race and class.

They (with ideologues like Zinke at the front) piously suggest that we must become united while ignoring the lingering segregation of our communities and the state abuse of people of color.

Evidence of President Obama’s tyranny? That he’s attempting to govern a nation while a gerrymander-created, Republican-dominated Congress refuses to act on any issue of substance, preferring instead to wail about Benghazi and gnash their teeth about the fascistic idea that everyone in the richest country in the world should be able to seek medical care without becoming bankrupt.

Congressman Zinke once positioned himself as a moderate, and for years, I believed his pivot to the right was the act, the show he needed to win over skeptical Republican primary electorate in Montana. It’s clear I was wrong. Moderate Zinke was the act, and the real person is the clownish buffoon who rails against the abuses of President Obama while holding private meetings with those who have called for a coup and endorsing nativist hate groups.

Montanans might be a conservative people, but we’re not fools. We’re not filled with irrational hatred for this, or any President. Shouldn’t our representative in Congress be more interested protecting the interests of our state and nation than in appealing to an increasingly angry, increasingly marginalized fringe group of conspiracy nuts and Obama truthers?

It’s time to hold Congressman Zinke accountable for his words. It’s time to elect someone who embodies the best of our state’s hopes, not the worst of its fears.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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