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Montana Politics

Some Final Thoughts on the NCCS Event

Having attended the National Center for Constitutional Studies event this fine Saturday, it turns out that I was less offended by its crass commercialization of the Capitol and the event’s nakedly partisan viewpoint than by the fact that it was, perhaps, the most eye-closingly boring event I have chosen to attend in the past decade or so.

The presentation style was like something from a classroom in a John Hughes movie. Each attendee was armed (probably not the wrong word) with a workbook that contained blanks to be filled in as the speaker painfully worked his way through his dry, historically questionable material. I’m not making this up. 30+ Republican legislators sat through a 2 1/2 hour presentation while a speaker made remarks like “your answer to question 13 is Constitution.”

Sure, there were some moments that made me nervous, like when a member of the crowd suggested (to murmurs of approval from the crowd) that we should fly the flag of Montana above the US flag and when the speaker told us that “when the federal government hits that wall, it will be amazing how quickly the states will bounce back and the STATES WILL RISE UP AND TAKE CONTROL,” but for the most part, the presentation was 40% sleep-inducing, 40% wrong, and only 20% deranged.

That being said, there were a few highlights from the event that I thought were worth mentioning:

  • There was not one single delegate at the Const. Convention who agreed with slavery.
  • The idea that the 3/5 Compromise was based on racism or race  is “totally unfounded.”
  • A sheriff has the right to protect his citizens against federal law enforcement and he can refuse federal law enforcement.
  • The American Constitution was based on the Bible and the government of Anglo-Saxons, not the Greeks and Romans.
  • Thomas Jefferson might have been a deist, but we define it differently than he did. (This part was especially delightful, as he selectively quoted a letter by Jefferson to make his point.)
  • “The Democrats want communism in health care, the Republicans want fascism.”
  • Taxation is a form of slavery.
  • There is no such thing as “obscene profit.”
  • It’s not radical to suggest repealing the 16th and 17th Amendments to the Constitution.
  • There is no authority in the Constitution to “tax or regulate citizens because it is a compact of states.”
  • There is no constitutional basis for the courts to evaluate the constitutionality of laws.
  • Official state churches (as long as they are not federal) would be constitutional.
  • Communism and Fascism are “almost identical.”
  • There should be no safety net. It “takes the living out of living.”

It would be unfair to suggest that every member of the audience agreed with these remarks, since half were probably asleep, but there certainly wasn’t any disagreement offered. If anything, the crowd seemed quite supportive. I think it would be fair for an enterprising member of the media to ask some of the attendees if they agreed with the more radical remarks made.

Somehow, I suspect no one will ask.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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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  • Abelman's pretty good reading, once you get past the procedural mumbo jumbo. And over sympathy for what the Wisconsin judges were trying to do.

  • And really Justice Strong completely obliterated SB 114 and this other foolishness in Tennessee v. Davis, decided in 1880:

    As was said in Martin v. Hunter, 1 Wheat. 363, "The general government must cease to exist whenever it loses the power of protecting itself in the exercise of its constitutional powers." It can act only through its officers and agents, and they must act within the states. If, when thus acting and within the scope of their authority, those officers can be arrested and brought to trial in a state court for an alleged offense against the law of the state, yet warranted by the federal authority they possess, and if the general government is powerless to interfere at once for their protection — if their protection must be left to the action of the state court — the operations of the general government may at any time be arrested at the will of one of its members. The legislation of a state may be unfriendly. It may affix penalties to acts done under the immediate direction of the national government and in obedience to its laws. It may deny the authority conferred by those laws. The state court may administer not only the laws of the state, but equally federal law, in such a manner as to paralyze the operations of the government. And even if, after trial and final judgment in the state court, the case can be brought into the United States court for review, the officer is withdrawn from the discharge of his duty during the pendency of the prosecution and the exercise of acknowledged federal power arrested.

    We do not think such an element of weakness is to be found in the Constitution. The United States is a government with authority extending over the whole territory of the Union, acting upon the states and upon the people of the states. While it is limited in the number of its powers, so far as its sovereignty extends, it is supreme. No state government can exclude it from the exercise of any authority conferred upon it by the Constitution, obstruct its authorized officers against its will, or withhold from it for a moment the cognizance of any subject which that instrument has committed to it.

    This is the compact Montana joined in 1889.

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